Penguin, $12.99 pb, 294 pp
From this I shall evolve a man.
This is his essence: the old fantoche
Hanging his shawl upon the wind,
Like something on the stage, puffed out,
His strutting studied through the centuries.
At last, in spite of his manner, his eye
A-cock at the cross-piece on a pole
Supporting heavy cables, slung
Through Oxidia, banal suburb …
Professor Eucalyptus responds to the host.
If the proof of the pudding is in the eating, then Helen Daniel came up with a wonderful recipe indeed. Invite thirty-odd prominent Australian fiction writers to respond to Jeffrey Smart’s 1962 oil-on-plywood painting, Cahill Expressway, hung in the National Gallery of Victoria. Some declined, but twenty-nine accepted, and Helen Daniel can take great pride and satisfaction in regarding herself as a ‘privileged host’ indeed. This is truly a magic pudding of a book.