David McCooey reviews 'The Twelfth of Never: A memoir' by Louis Nowra

David McCooey reviews 'The Twelfth of Never: A memoir' by Louis Nowra

The Twelfth of Never: A memoir

by Louis Nowra

Picador, $25 pb, 377 pp, 0330361872

Louis Nowra was born in 1950 and is – as he presents himself in this memoir – that very mid­-century thing, an outsider. An outsider in terms of class, mental constitution, and sexuality (for a time), Nowra suffers a worse, and originary, alienation from his mother. Being born on the fifth anniversary of his mother’s shooting of her father, Nowra’s existence is caught between dysfunctional expressions of daughterhood and motherhood: ‘I was born a memory of my mother killing her father.’

Such is the dramatic opening chapter of The Twelfth of Never, a tableau worthy of this skilled playwright and screenwriter. But what follows is more leisured, less self­conscious about effect and pacing. Memoirs, we often feel, should not be too self-consciously literary. They should allow for any amount of digression, rocking of hobby-horses, and grinding of at least one axe. The discovery of character should be through indirection, and surprises most effectively come from wide vistas of otherwise-conventional selfhood.

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Published in April 2000, no. 219
David McCooey

David McCooey

David McCooey is a prize-winning poet and critic. His latest collection of poems, Outside (2011), was shortlisted for the Queensland Literary Awards, and was a finalist for the 2012 Melbourne Prize for Literature's 'Best Writing Award'. His first collection, Blister Pack (2005), won the Mary Gilmore Award and was shortlisted for four major national literary awards. McCooey is the deputy general editor of the prize-winning Macquarie PEN Anthology of Australian Literature (2009). His album of 'poetry soundtracks', Outside Broadcast, was released in 2013 as a digital download. He is a professor of literature and writing at Deakin University in Geelong, where he lives. His forthcoming poetry collection, Star Struck, will be published in late 2016 by UWA Publishing. His website is: www.davidmccooey.com

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