12 Edmondstone Street
by David Malouf
The Australasian Publishing Company, $19.95, 134 pp, 0 7011 39706
The opening word of this collection of stylish essays in autobiography by David Malouf is ‘memory’; it is a word that recurs regularly throughout the text and a faculty that is central to most of Malouf’s work. Malouf is a writer perpetually in exile, forever dispossessed and these essays, like most of his fiction, are an attempt to recapture and retain a sense of the past; they repeat and reformulate themes that run through his creative writing. In particular, his most recent book, the collection of short stories Antipodes, can be seen to throw a good deal of light on this memoir. The author’s intimate relationship with his grandfather rather than his parents, the tension between the Old World and the New, the powers of language and narrative and the relationship between art and experience, the notion of, as one character puts it, ‘pushing ourselves to the limits of our young courage in outrageous dares’, and finally the paradoxically nostalgic rejection of the Brisbane of his boyhood to which he returns so often in his fiction – all these themes recur from the previous book and are elaborated on.