Sunday, January 22, 2023

When Geraldine Brooks writes about Tim Winton, you can hear the axes grind

 Much of the pleasure of this superb essay springs from the way Geraldine Brooks brings her own life experience to bear on Tim Winton’s work, whether it be her gratitude for the familiarity of “the unglamourous people of the sunbaked suburbs” or her historical novelist’s fascination with faith of all kinds:

 “the thousands of years of human consciousness in frantic search for meaning.” For Brooks, Winton’s religious sensibility is all-pervasive – in his tenderness for his broken characters, in the precise poetry with which he conjures up the natural world, in his advocacy for the environment. 

How his fiction has infused her life is graphically captured in the framing story about getting stuck in a rip and being rescued by a lackadaisical young surfer. Brooks knew she was drowning because “Tim Winton had told me all about it. And then he sent Loonie to save me.”

When Geraldine Brooks writes about Tim Winton, you can hear the axes grind

Geraldine Brooks has a formidable reputation as an author of historical fiction, and has a truckload of awards too. Her latest book Geraldine Brooks on Tim Winton is a cute little hardcover with a dustjacket, the perfect gift for your favourite bibliophile. What’s not to love?

Well, the sharp axe features more than I expected. Brooks has been grinding hers for a while, by the sound of things. She opens up a few heads in the petite chapters in this book, venting some long-held grudges against critics and unnamed academics.

Time is like a river, fluid