Monday, September 10, 2012


I've always loved the rhythm of the spoken word translated into prose. Drunk, meandering, overblown, timid. Novelists like James Kelman, especially in a work of raw majesty like 'How Late It Was, How Late' and Cormac McCarthy - in so many of his border works that haunt the silence between the frontier mix of Spanish and English - turn regional specificities of speech into their own unique poetry. I think that part of what appeals to me about Tim Winton's 'The Turning' is that this book, more than any other of his, makes a starkly poetic prose of the matter of fact speech of regional Anglo-Australia. It makes the language alive in a way that few Australian novelists, hung up either on the Queen's English or a desire to romanticise the dulled down language of working class Australia, truly achieve. Every spoken language, no matter how deadened or disconnected or depressed the culture (as is so often the case with Anglo-Australia culture), finds its way to sing. So, I really value this description from Winton (in conversation with Andrew Denton), of how he came to be tweaked onto the language he uses in 'The Turning'.
I can remember, you know, being a little kid bored out of my wits at, you know, a kind of Sunday lunch. And I'd climb or sort of slide off the chair lie on the floor under the table, look up me aunties' dresses, tie know, tie people's shoelaces and look at people's varicose veins. And then once I got through the sort of procedure of all that you'd lie back in a kind of a fugue state of...of boredom and ecstasy, I suppose. And I would hear the voices, you know, the way that people were talking. And that for me was kind of musical. I liked the way that people would tell the stories, but in the way... The way that they TOLD it was great, you know, the musicality of it and the kind of old language that they were using, you know, before the war and... That was nice. And I guess what I appreciate about storytelling in families is it's... it's elemental. It's like saying, "I was here," in the same way that someone in a cave somewhere once scratched a picture or...or a symbol that said, "I was here. This happened to me," or, you know, "Beware of those guys over the hill. They're a bit feral."

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