The biggest failure of public administration since the formation of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1900. – Australian Tax Office insider The result of having the wrong system where taxes are too …
Dorothy Porter (1954-2008) published seven collections of poetry, two novels for young adults, two librettos for operas performed in Sydney, Melbourne and London, and four verse-novels. She received a number of awards for her work, including The Age Book of the Year Award and the National Book Council Award (Poetry) for ‘The Monkey’s Mask’, and the FAW Christopher Brennan Award for Poetry in 2001.
‘Driving Too Fast’ was published in 1989, and is the first of her collections of poetry I have read. I will remedy this. Reading poetry is very much mood-related for me, and I need the time to read and reflect, time to follow the poet’s words in order to visualise and analyse the images. Between 1975 and 2009 life was usually too busy to take the time to enjoy poetry. It certainly wasn’t a time for me to discover and appreciate new poets, although I continued to enjoy poems by Mark O’Connor, Judith Wright, T S Eliot, Emily Brontë and (some) Thomas Hardy.
So, when I picked up ‘Driving Too Fast’, I had no idea what to expect. There are three sections in this, the fourth of Ms Porter’s poetry collections. The first section (In Extremis) includes poems about Carmen, about Trucanini:
‘I’m trying to hear the Black Drive of 1830;
but hear instead the rattle of pneumonia
and the bedside voice of white Christianity’
and about the Antarctic explorers Oates:
‘We dug up Christopher’s head
and it was rotten –‘
‘Cri de coeur
strength of character
whimpering to itself on sea-ice
that is yielding
to the spine
of a killer whale – ‘
The second section (‘A Girl Mad as Birds) moves from others towards the more personal: lorikeets flash with colour, kookaburras cackle. And I smile at ‘The Lazy Poem’:
is for the indolent.’
The third section (‘Amulet’) is personal. These are ‘I‘ poems: about desire, dreams and love.
I need to read more of Dorothy Porter’s poetry. While not all of these poems appeal to me, many of the images become real. Consider the opening of the poem ‘Hawkesbury River’:
‘The light over the Hawkesbury River
Has been clawed at –
it’s a dismal warder of a river
its sandstone cells
its mangrove pits
like grey hair – ‘
I just wish I’d discovered Dorothy Porter earlier!
I really enjoy this series!
‘The 1934 Melbourne International Motor Show was in its final day.’
Rowland Sinclair, Clyde Watson Jones and Milton Isaacs are at the show. Edna Higgins, who prefers not to see ‘grown men reduced to simpering lovesick boys by shiny machines’ has not accompanied them to Melbourne. Rowly has purchased a new car: a Chrysler Airflow. The plan is to pick up Edna at Albury on their way to a house party in Yackandandah. What could possibly go wrong?
Ms Gentill weaves her fiction around facts, and quite a lot was happening in Australia and in Europe in 1934. A visit by Egon Kisch, an internationally renowned peace advocate is planned. It is possible that the government might refuse him entry, or delay his entry so that he cannot speak at the All Australian Congress of the Movement Against War and Fascism to be held at the Port Melbourne Town Hall, Melbourne between the 10th and 12th of November 1934. Rowly volunteers to fly to Perth to bring Kisch to Melbourne. Additionally, Rowly Sinclair is approached by the Communist Party of Australia, which was quite active then, to observe proceedings at the Australian Parliament in Canberra. Rowly refuses: he may be broadly in sympathy with the party, but he’s not a member. Milton Isaacs is, though, and the four friends decide to travel together to Canberra.
Against a backdrop of the struggle between Australian fascists and communists, the MacRobertson Air Race (part of Melbourne’s centenary celebrations), the mystery of the ‘Pyjama Girl ‘ murder, life for Rowly Sinclair and his friends becomes complicated.
There’s a murder in Canberra, on the steps of Parliament House. There’s a woman from Rowly’s past, and a trip to Perth to try to get Egon Kisch into Melbourne before he is banned.
It would be possible to read this novel without reading the earlier books, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Ms Gentill has developed such richly three-dimensional characters that knowledge of their backstories is important as is immersion in the history of the 1930s. At this distance, it may be difficult to understand the struggle between the communists and the fascists within Australia before World War II. And, if you’ve never heard of Egon Kisch and the infamous dictation test, then you might be interested in looking up the Immigration Restriction Act 1901.
‘A Dangerous Language’ is the eighth novel in Ms Gentill’s award winning Rowland Sinclair mystery series, and is set in Australia in 1934. I’d recommend these novels to anyone interested in a mystery series set in the 1930s which uses historical fact as its background.
Note: My thanks to NetGalley and Pantera Press for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes.
The controversy about confederate monuments in the southern states erupted in May this year while I was in the United States. I was impressed by the extent and the vigour of the debate. In the back…
Will the revived march of the Kurds for an independent homeland be the time when the Sykes-Picot agreement, which amidst the chaos of the First World War divided the Arab world between British and …
It’s cooler than yesterday, and still very windy. I enjoyed my walk, conscious that we are now in the season of unpredictable weather and storms.
Not much clear blue sky so far today, and some interesting clouds to observe. Each day is different: I may walk the same 10 km return trip along the Yaouk Road, but there’s always something different to observe each time.