Twitter By Simon Longstaff
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Public service review can spur much-needed modernisation
Peter Shergold: "The government's review can help transform the Australian Public Service to reinvigorate its traditional virtues in a manner suited to the 2020s." (AFR)
Reinvigorated Gina put me onto some dangerous ideas inside Gerard Murnane's the Plains
I'm not really a fair dinkum writer. I've stopped short of writing everything I could have written
The Brotherhood of the Endless Plain devoted themselves to an elaborate scheme for transforming Australia into a Union of States whose seat of government was far inland and whose culture welled up from its plains and spilled outwards. The coastal districts would then be seen as a mere borderland where truly Australian customs were debased by contact with the Old World. The League of Heartlanders wanted nothing less than a separate Republic of the Plains with manned frontier-posts on every road and railway line that crossed the Great Dividing Range.
The Truth About Lies: The Plains - Jim Murdoch
Gerald Murnane: one of Australia's greatest writers you may never have heard of
Murnane has pulled the interior out of a greater whole. The filmmaker writes: ‘I had sometimes thought of The Interior as a few scenes from a much longer film that could only be seen from a vantage point that I knew nothing of.’
"What might not follow, they ask themselves, if there should be nothing more substantial in all our experience than those discoveries that seem too slight to signify anything apart from their own brief occurrence? How might a man reorder his conduct if he could be assured that the worth of a perception, a memory, a supposition, was enhanced rather than diminished by its being inexplicable to others? And what could a man not accomplish, freed from any obligation to search for so-called truths apart from those demonstrated by his search for a truth peculiar to him?" (pp.110/1)Which is probably a good place to note that any attempt to decipher Murnane's work is probably doomed to failure. As he said in his talk at the Melbourne Writers Festival, nobody could ever come close to understanding what he wants to say through his work and what his novels mean to him...
The quiet, ever-changing library, and the odd sense of time passing and yet standing still, definitely has shades of Borges, albeit a much more relaxed Borges, but the sheer futility of much of what happens reminds me unmistakably of Kafka. We mustn't forget that this is Australia, though. While Kafka's protagonists race around, shouting, blustering, hoping to force their way into seeing the right people, Murnane's creation is very much a man of his people. He's happy to take his time - his appointment is in a pub, not a cramped office - and while he's waiting he may as well have a beer or five, as do his interviewers when he finally gets to join them...
Still, despite being indecipherable (and virtually plotless), The Plains is a great read, a soothing piece of writing which leaves you vaguely glimpsing a concealed philosophy, but unable to quite discern its contours - and yet you're not really that bothered (this is Australia, after all...). I'm definitely keen to read more of Murnane's work, especially his first book, Tamarisk Row, and his latest, A Million Windows, as they were the ones discussed most in his talk. Outwardly, Murnane and his novels are very Australian, but there's definitely something else waiting to be discovered at the core of his work - if you're just patient enough to wait for it to reveal itself...
Oh, while you're waiting, why not get yourself a cold one? ;)