My earliest memories of enjoying Aussie scribbling would be a collection of works of Henry Lawsons poems which I discovered in Grade 4 as a student in Innisfail State School. Actually, now that I think about it, what sort of freak kid likes to read poetry? Me I suppose…
Like most kids I loved short stories, comic books, and tales of adventure, and when the wonderful librarian at my school pointed me towards Oz writers, it was Colin Thiele who stood out. There is a generation of us who can’t look at a pelican without thinking, “Mr Percival!” Around this time I can also remember chuckling away at the adventures of Captain Midnite (the outbacks’ worst bushranger) by Randolph Stow.
But for the most part, my reading was made up mostly of English writers, with a smattering of American titles (Minibike Hero springs to mind). But it was the story, Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson which stood out above the pack.
At 13 I discovered Tolkien. I think I read The Hobbit twice in one weekend, only taking time out to eat and sleep, sparingly 🙂 Imagine my delight at discovering that our hero’s story continued in The Lord of the Rings !
A host of other authors followed, but recently I decided to start adding the works of some of the more popular Australian writers to my list of books conquered. I grabbed a list from my local library and dug in.
Let me just say, that I really, really wanted to like these books, but if you haven’t got my attention, piqued my interest, or hooked me by page 150, then I’m not going to make it to the end of the yarn. So, in no particular order, here are a list of books I won’t be reading again:
Nick Earls Zig Zag Street.
Tim Winton: Cloudstreet & Open Swimmer. I’d heard nothing but rave reviews for Cloudstreet, and for the writings of Tim Winton. Radio National announcers love his work, and aren’t afraid of letting you know about it either, but, here in Central Qld, one reader was a tad disappointed to discover that he was bored witless by page 50, and ended up speed reading it to the inevitable dismal conclusion. I gave Open Swimmer a whirl, and somewhere about a third of the way through the book I put it down with a weary sigh and closed the cover.
Peter Carey: The Tax Inspector. I did finish this one, and was sorry I did. It was disjointed, and the ending seemed tacked on. The next title The Illywhacker I opened in the aisle of the library, read the first chapter and put it back on the shelf. My hand hovered over The True History of the Kelly Gang, but I gave it a miss. My father gave it the thumbs up, so I may make the effort one day.
I started to read two of Di Morrissey’s books, The Bay and The Reef, but failed to connect with the characters. Ok, I’m probably not in Di’s target readership, but I prefer the works of other female authors… some of them write for Mills and Boon (don’t ask me how I know this).
Bryce Courtenay: The Potato Factory and Tommo and Hawk. Didn’t finish either of them, and wouldn’t even if someone paid me.
For the Term of His Natural Life by Marcus Clarke. The ‘prison misery’ genre is not one I particularly enjoy. Papillon and The Shawshank Redemption are undoubtedly fine movies, but I’m not going to back up and watch them again either. I did get to the end of this one, but it was not a particularly enjoyable experience.
And that is the key. I like fun, hope, adventure, and escapism. The books above appeal to many other readers, and they have legions of fans who gush over the titles, unfortunately they just don’t do ‘it’ for me.
But it’s a good thing that there are others out there who do! Stay tuned folks to see which Oz writers press my buttons 🙂