Tarcutta Wake by Josephine Rowe. UQP 2012
There will be many far more informed reviews of this book than mine. Josephine is currently the darling young thing of the Australian Literary scene – something which must be good to experience in the first blush of flirtation with the literati, but can carry a sting in the tail if one doesn’t follow through and fulfil one’s young promise. I take note of my housemate’s initial response sometimes. She declared: “I noticed it on your couch and picked it up and started reading but was quickly bored. It didn’t hold my attention.”
So, to a certain extent, she (Josephine) reminds me of the poet Michael Dransfield in my own younger days. Michael had a lyrical gift and became a cult figure in Australia when he died, but that left him at the mercy of more boring lives who lived longer to write more and they punished him and his writing for the hype being larger than the eventual worth of the writing.
So let me go out on a limb and say that in many ways this offering from Josephine is a slight book. It reminds me of practice paragraphs at the writing workshop. They’re good for refining craft but I would not be rushing them into publication. If you go to a writing workshop in the US and make some connections then you are bound to get published in some local mags in the US. This causes reverence in cringy little Australia sometime. However…in my opinion, if her editors really loved her they would have waited for more substantial or coherent material.
For me this looks like “practicing for the novel” – but that does mean that I and many other of the 5,000 literature reading Australians are waiting for the novel. And the much praise coming to this little book will prepare the way for a good acceptance of the novel. The risk of course – it better be good – or that loving adulation could turn as sour as all get out as rapidly as milk in the sun. In the end it is like swept up notes from the floor of a writer. They are better than the average scribble but they are certainly not substantial. Keep in mind, this is only one opinion in the face of many at the moment.
– Lyndon Walker
Lyndon Walker Is a Psychologist, Psychotherapist, Educator, Writer and Poet living in Melbourne. He has five published books of poetry and was awarded the Pablo Neruda Prize for poetry in 1996. He is currently working on two novels.
Tarcutta Wake is available from UQP http://www.uqp.uq.edu.au/book.aspx/1206/Tarcutta%20Wake