Ocean Roads, Midnite and Merry-go-Rounds
I’m bone-tired. The week has been action packed and so, though I’ve wistfully thought of posting blogs, I haven’t even attempted to write an update. On Wednesday, after a full day of Youth Literature Day workshops at the Fremantle Children’s Literature Centre, I flew from Perth to Geraldton. This evening, I was on the plane yet again heading back to Fremantle to wind up my residency by spending tomorrow working with teachers, librarians and writers in a full day of writing and editing activities.
On Wednesday night, Glynn Parry, author of the lyrical novel Ocean Road, picked Lesley and me up from the airport in Geraldton and drove us to our accommodation. Glynn was there for us again first thing Thursday morning to drive us to Geraldton Secondary College for a full day of working with students enrolled in the Youth Lit Program. I love the regional tours. The kids’ are so animated and excited about the workshops and it’s fascinating to observe their different perspectives on the world that are influenced by local landscapes and varying regional cultures. When you live in a big city it’s easy to assume that Australia has a homogenous, uniform, largely urban culture but there are many facets to the way people in this country interpret their place in the wide brown land. The kids in Geraldton have a distinctively different voice to the kids of the south, the city, or the Eastern states.
Randolph Stow, the brilliant Australian novelist who died last month in Britain, was born in Geraldton. When I was a kid, I loved his novel Midnite. I remember being strangely excited by Midnite. There was something in the humour and the magic that made me feel quietly thrilled to be Australian. There weren’t many books that had that sort of impact on me. I haven’t been able to find a copy of the cover art of the version that I read. It was white with a finely drawn black ink sketch on the cover. I remember loving the simply aesthetic pleasure the book gave me and understanding, on some deep level, that Midnite wasn’t a conventional children’s book. There was something darkly comic about it, a sense of embedded irony, a depth in the writing that I even felt a little suspicious of at the time. I haven’t reread it as an adult but being in Geraldton made me think of Stow, the melancholy voice of his adult novels and the strange trajectory of his life.
Down on the recently remodelled foreshore, the ‘Merry Go Round by the Sea‘ that he wrote of in his novel of the same name is still there, though not in quite the same condition as it was in Stow’s childhood. It does make you wonder what aspect of the town will be captured by the young writers living there now, what vistas and moods will find their way into their stories