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About Gerald Murnane
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Stories from a mind-bending Australian master, “a genius on the level of Beckett” (Teju Cole)
Never before available to readers in this hemisphere, these stories—originally published from 1985 to 2012—offer an irresistible compendium of the work of one of contemporary fiction’s greatest magicians.
While the Australian master Gerald Murnane’s reputation rests largely on his longer works of fiction, his short stories stand among the most brilliant and idiosyncratic uses of the form since Borges, Beckett, and Nabokov. Brutal, comic, obscene, and crystalline, Stream System runs from the haunting “Land Deal,” which imagines the colonization of Australia and the ultimate vengeance of its indigenous people as a series of nested dreams; to “Finger Web,” which tells a quietly terrifying, fractal tale of the scars of war and the roots of misogyny; to “The Interior of Gaaldine,” which finds its anxious protagonist stranded beyond the limits of fiction itself.
No one else writes like Murnane, and there are few other authors alive still capable of changing how—and why—we read.
Clement Killeaton transforms his father's obsession with gambling, his mother's piety, the cruelty of his fellow pupils and the mysterious but forbidden attractions of sex, into an imagined world centred on horse-racing, played in the dusty backyard of his home, across the landscapes of the district, and the continent of Australia.
Out of the child's boredom and fear and fascination, Murnane's lyrical prose opens perspectives charged with yearning and illumination, offering in the process a truly original view of mid-twentieth-century Australia.
This is the story of the families of the plains—obsessed with their land and history, their culture and mythology—and of the man who ventured into their world.
First published in 1982, The Plains is a mesmerising work of startling originality.
This handsome new hardback edition is introduced by Ben Lerner, author of the internationally acclaimed novels Leaving the Atocha Station and 10:04, and a work of criticism, The Hatred of Poetry.
Gerald Murnane was born in Melbourne in 1939. He has been a primary teacher, an editor and a university lecturer. His debut novel, Tamarisk Row (1974), was followed by ten other works of fiction, including The Plains and most recently Border Districts. In 1999 Murnane won the Patrick White Award and in 2009 he won the Melbourne Prize for Literature. He lives in western Victoria.'A distinguished, distinctive, unforgettable novel.' Shirley Hazzard
‘… a piece of imaginative writing so remarkably sustained that it is a subject for meditation rather than a mere reading … In the depths and surfaces of this extraordinary fable you will see your inner self eerily reflected again and again.’ Sydney Morning Herald
‘The Plains has that peculiar singularity that can make literature great.’ Ed Wright, Australian, Best Books of 2015
‘Murnane touches on foibles and philosophy, plays with the makings of a fable or allegory, and all the while toys with tone, moving easily from earnest to deadpan to lightly ironic, a meld of Buster Keaton, the Kafka of the short stories, and Swift in A Modest Proposal.…A provocative, delightful, diverting must-reread.’ STARRED Review, Kirkus Reviews
‘Known for its sharp yet defamiliarizing take on the landscape and an aesthetic of purity historically associated with it, The Plains is uniformly described as a masterpiece of Australian literature. Look closer, though, and it's a haunting nineteenth-century novel of colonial violence captured inside the machine's test-pattern image—a distant, unassuming house on the plains.’ BOMB
In the spirit of Italo Calvino and Georges Perec, Barley Patch is like no other fiction being written today.
What he had been searching for was not the perfect religious order but the perfect landscape…From that moment on he was a poet in search of his ideal landscape.
Lost to the world for more than four decades, A Season on Earth is the essential link between two acknowledged masterpieces by Gerald Murnane: the lyrical account of boyhood in his debut novel, Tamarisk Row, and the revolutionary prose of The Plains.
A Season on Earth is Murnane’s second novel as it was intended to be, bringing together all of its four sections—the first two of which were published as A Lifetime on Clouds in 1976 and the last two of which have never been in print.
A hilarious tale of a lustful teenager in 1950s Melbourne, A Lifetime on Clouds has been considered an outlier in Murnane’s fiction. That is because, as Murnane writes in his foreword, it is ‘only half a book and Adrian Sherd only half a character’.
Here, at last, is sixteen-year-old Adrian’s journey in full, from fantasies about orgies with American film stars and idealised visions of suburban marital bliss to his struggles as a Catholic novice, and finally a burgeoning sense of the boundless imaginative possibilities to be found in literature and landscapes.
Adrian Sherd is one of the great comic creations in Australian writing, and A Season on Earth is a revelatory portrait of the artist as a young man.
Gerald Murnane was born in Melbourne in 1939. He is the author of thirteen works of fiction, including the internationally acclaimed novel The Plains and most recently A Season on Earth, as well as a memoir, a collection of essays and a volume of poetry. He has won the Patrick White Award, the Melbourne Prize for Literature, an Adelaide Festival Award, a Victorian Premier’s Literary Award and, for Border Districts, a Prime Minister’s Literary Award. Murnane lives in Goroke, in western Victoria.
‘Gerald Murnane seems to be winning the wider regard his devotees have always known he deserved…A Season on Earth is more like other novels, or more like a novel, than the fictions to come, but Murnane is already determined to make his own forms…[It is] not simply an idiosyncratic take on the Australian Catholic upbringing, but a portrait of an artist as a young man, in which one false vocation has to die so that a true vocation can take its place.’ Age‘A Season on Earth recalls us to the truth that Murnane’s avant-gardism emerges out of a resolutely conventional soul…Now that [the novel’s] excised half has been returned, we’re granted a fuller sense of Murnane’s original aims…The comedy here is no less wicked in deployment, but the edge is sharpened…Ludicrous and hectic as [Adrian] Sherd’s casting around for some stable sense of self may be, there is something moving in the efforts he makes…We see an artist inventing himself from scratch…[By the end] Sherd has not yet pinpointed those regions his mature art would explore. What he has learned is that they lie somewhere in the inland empire of his imagination.’ Monthly
‘Murnane’s early writing, as shown here, is accessible and often humorous in his own dry way…A Season on Earth could be recommended as an ideal jumping-off point for readers new to Murnane and his particular way of looking at the world.
A bittersweet farewell to the world and the word by the Australian master
“The mind is a place best viewed from borderlands . . .”
Border Districts, purportedly the Australian master Gerald Murnane’s final work of fiction, is a hypnotic, precise, and self-lacerating “report” on a life led as an avid reader, fumbling lover, “student of mental imagery,” and devout believer—but a believer not in the commonplaces of religion, but rather in the luminescence of memory and its handmaiden, literature.
In Border Districts, a man moves from a capital city to a remote town in the border country, where he intends to spend the last years of his life. It is time, he thinks, to review the spoils of a lifetime of seeing, a lifetime of reading. Which sights, which people, which books, fictional characters, turns of phrase, and lines of verse will survive into the twilight? A dark-haired woman with a wistful expression? An ancestral house in the grasslands? The colors in translucent panes of glass, in marbles and goldfish and racing silks? Feeling an increasing urgency to put his mental landscape in order, the man sets to work cataloging this treasure, little knowing where his “report” will lead and what secrets will be brought to light.
Border Districts is a jewel of a farewell from one of the greatest living writers of English prose.
Five of the six loosely connected stories also trace a journey through the suburbs of Melbourne in the 1960s, as the writer negotiates the conflicting demands of Catholicism and sex, self-consciousness and intimacy, alcohol and literature. The sixth story, ‘The Battle of Acosta Nu’, is remarkable for its depth of emotion, as it imagines a Paraguayan man imagining a country called Australia, while his son sickens and dies before his eyes.
Adrian Sherd is a teenage boy in Melbourne of the 1950s, the last years before television and the family car changed suburbia forever.
Earnest and isolated, tormented by his hormones and his religious devotion, Adrian dreams of elaborate orgies with American film stars, and of marrying his sweetheart and fathering eleven children by her. He even dreams a history of the world as a chronicle of sexual frustration.
A Lifetime on Clouds is funny, honest and sweetly told: a less ribald, Catholic Australian Portnoy's Complaint.
Gerald Murnane was born in Melbourne in 1939. His first novel, Tamarisk Row, was published in 1974. It was followed by A Lifetime on Clouds, The Plains and five other works of fiction, the most recent of which is A History of Books. In 1999 he won the Patrick White Award. Ten years later he won the Melbourne Prize for Literature.
'Unquestionably one of the most original writers working in Australia today.' Australian
'A Lifetime on Clouds delighted me: I was particularly admiring of the author's unfailing ability to say just enough and no more.' Les Murray, Sydney Morning Herald
'Murnane draws out a great deal of comedy from the distance between what his hero does and what he dreams.' Guardian
'If you only ever read one Gerald Murnane novel in your life, I urge you to make it this one.' Andy Griffiths, in his introduction
Winner, Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction, 2016
As a boy, Gerald Murnane became obsessed with horse racing. He had never ridden a horse, nor seen a race. Yet he was fascinated by photos of horse races in the Sporting Globe, and by the incantation of horses' names in radio broadcasts of races. Murnane discovered in these races more than he could find in religion or philosophy: they were the gateway to a world of imagination.
Gerald Murnane is like no other writer, and Something for the Pain is like no other Murnane book. In this unique and spellbinding memoir, he tells the story of his life through the lens of horse racing. It is candid, droll and moving—a treat for lovers of literature and of the turf.
Gerald Murnane was born in Melbourne in 1939. He has been a primary teacher, an editor and a university lecturer. His debut novel, Tamarisk Row (1974), was followed by nine other works of fiction, including The Plains now available as a Text Classic, and most recently A Million Windows. In 1999 Murnane won the Patrick White Award and in 2009 he won the Melbourne Prize for Literature. He lives in western Victoria.
‘Murnane, a genius, is a worthy heir to Beckett.’ Teju Cole
‘Murnane is a careful stylist and a slyly comic writer with large ideas.’ Robyn Cresswell, Paris Review
‘Murnane is quite simply one of the finest writers we have produced.’ Peter Craven
‘Unquestionably one of the most original writers working in Australia today.’ Australian
‘Something for the Pain is Gerald Murnane at his best. His meticulous exploration of his lifelong obsession with horse racing is by turns hilarious, moving and profound. If Australian writing were a horse race, Murnane would be the winner by three and a half lengths.’ Andy Griffiths
‘A marvellous book about horse racing, one of the best this country has produced. It is full of fast and loose stories and colourful characters…and lots of laughs.’ Stephen Romei, Australian
‘Something for the Pain bears testament to a lifelong obsession and further illustrates the breadth and depth of meaningfulness that Murnane can draw from a seemingly straightforward spectacle.’ Australian Book Review
‘Murnane is a writer of the greatest skill and tonal control. Reading his description of the death of a racehorse in the arms of its owner-trainer at Flemington racecourse, tears rolled down my cheeks: “The man put his arms around the horse’s neck and pressed his face against the horse’s head. The man went on lying there. The light rain went on falling.”’ Financial Times
‘An absolute gem. It's literary, lucid, full of love for horses and racing and full of the strange highly-ordered madness of Murnane, full of a selfless disclosure. It’s marvellous. Funny, moving, beautiful. A brilliant book.’ Jonathan Green, Radio National Books and Arts
‘Murnane recounts his life through his abiding obsession with horse racing. But you don’t have to care about horse racing—it’s the quality of the obsessed mind that matters.’ Ben Lerner, New Yorker
‘Yes, this is about Murnane’s lifelong obsession with horseracing, but it’s so much more than that. It’s a memoir that illuminates his deliberately unusual life and his exquisite fiction.
I esteem / above all poems or passages of prose / those that put a lump in my throat. — Gerald Murnane, ‘The Darkling Thrush’
Gerald Murnane, now in his eightieth year, began his writing career as a poet. After many years as a writer of fiction, he only returned to poetry a few years ago when he moved to Goroke, in the Western Districts of Victoria, after the death of his wife. The forty-five poems collected here are in a strikingly different mode to his fiction — without framing or digressions, and with very few images, they speak openly to the reader of the author’s memories, beliefs and experiences. They are for this reason an important addition to his internationally recognised body of fiction, most recently Border Districts and Collected Short Fiction, published by Giramondo.
The poems include tributes to his mother and father and to his family, and to places that have played a formative role in his life, like Gippsland, Bendigo, Warrnambool, the Western Districts, and of course Goroke. Especially moving are his poems dedicated to authors who have influenced him — Lesbia Harford and Thomas Hardy, William Carlos Williams, Henry Handel Richardson, Marcel Proust, and with particular force, the eighteenth-century poet John Clare, who gives the collection its title, revered ‘not only for his writings / but for his losing his reason when / he was forced from the district he had wanted as his for life.’
Praise for Gerald Murnane:
‘A strong case could be made for Murnane…as the greatest living English-language writer most people have never heard of.’ — New York Times
‘No living Australian writer, not even Les Murray, has higher claims to permanence or a richer sense of distinction.’ — Sydney Morning Herald