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"Tamarisk Row", first published in 1974 and Gerald Murnane's first book, is an
extraordinary work. It tells the story of Clement, a small boy in a small town in
1940s Australia. Clement sees his world through various prisms and the
backyard in which he spends most of his time contains an ever-expanding world of its
own, centred around an imaginery racecourse. Alongside Clement's world is that of his
father, a semi-professional gambler, always waiting for his horse to draw clear in the home straight and make his fortune.
Murnane writes in the 2007 foreward to this book: "The text of "Tamarisk Row" may seem to a hasty reader to be an account of so-called actual events on the surface of a well-known planet, but my hope was always..that an appreciative reader of my book would seem to be viewing fictional scenes and personages as though through coloured glass." And indeed this a book in which scales and perspectives seem out of kilter and throughout I felt I was being offered only a glimpse of Murnane's unique way of seeing the world. The wooziness of a world seen through coloured glass is reinforced by the language of the novel. Sentences are long and recursive containing numerous clauses and subclauses requiring frequent rereading and giving the impression of a kaleidoscope expanding and contracting.
This is the first of several of Murnane's books which And Other Stories are republishing. I am excited to read more of his work.
This is an orginal novel telling the story of a small family through the eyes of the only son. Dad has a single minded belief that owning and backing a winning horse will one day make his fortune. The boy follows his fathers interest in his own fantasy play. All in a backdrop of a family with little money and a precarious but respectable lifestyle guided by a mother with high standards and an atmosphere of warmth and love across this unusual little family group. You do not need an interest in horses or betting syndicates to enjoy this book . Just an interest in child and adolescent thought and development and family strength and survival.
Before purchasing the novel Tamarisk Row, by Australian & Victorian author Gerald Murnane, I was compelled to do so after reading an edited version of a talk he gave as part of the 'Gerald Murnane Research Seminar' held at the University of Newcastle 20-21 Sept.2001, which was published in the text HEAT 3 New Series I Never wore sunglasses - editor Ivor Indyk (pub. The Giramondo Publishing Company) under the title "The Breathing Author" - This article needs to be read along with the novel Tamarisk Row, to fully grasp Murnane's intention as an author to write from very personal, soul like images. It is also inspirational for those who are such writers, prepared to stick with the style that reflects one's very core reasons to do what some think the unthinkable - write as the messages from within unfold and not be overly influences by current writing trends- the article is an inspirational reflection on the completed novel, which was for decades held in unfavourably review due to the Australian literary critics of his early days. Horse racing historically remains a Melbournean past time that has maintained its own love affair with the race track and the envy of the world the first Tuesday in the month of November every year for a century and just as certainly does Murnane write from his heart's images about a child's understanding of that passion. This in my reader response but be prepared to accept what the novel demands of you: you will understand once you turn to the first page and close on the last. Different, challenging in its intensity for reader stamina, as surely as any horse breaking the barrier and heading off around the race track for home.
Ok this one has some depth into off track betting, catechism, and the musings of an boy with a very active imagination. I'll grant that it opens the door to understanding life in the late 1940s in Victoria. Next...