Gerald Murnane is an author I don’t really know anything about. He’s close to 80, Australian, and is more or less seen as the Australia’s Great Hope for another Nobel Prize winner (step aside Peter Carey).
I want to say I know more about him after reading this novel, which feels like it could be a roman a clef. But I get the distinct sense, that while Murnane and his unnamed narrator do share some similarities, these connections cannot be relied upon.
If there’s a story here, it’s a set of reminiscences and musings on an older man’s formative years, his education, his early faith, and a lifelong love of reading.
I didn’t find this to be either a particularly nostalgic or wistful book. Instead, it feels relatively muted on the clear emotional rendering of the past.
The books listed in this book do represent anything that are surprising or all that profound. They are mostly white, British, male and canonical. Thomas Hardy, DH Lawrence, George Gissing, and Virgil among other, but what is definitely interesting and fetching about them is the love for them and the formative effect of them. And it’s true in my experience that when we think back on the books important to us, so many people would simply list their school books. In my own schooling, though mostly American novels, I can’t think of anything any more “untraditional” or interesting than say John Irving or Archibald MacLeish, neither of which is profoundly obscure either.
So the total effect of this book is interesting and thoughtful, but it won’t stick with me.