MJ Hyland

How the Light Gets In by M.J. Hyland & Tristessa And Lucido by Miriam Zolin

September 2003, no. 254

One of Frank Moorhouse’s stories in his collection The Americans, Baby (1972) vividly describes two people’s tentative steps across a divide. It is a sexual overture, but also one that defies the constraints of national stereotypes. Carl, an Australian university student, bristles at an American man’s advances. Uneasy about his new sexual identity, he is unable to shake the sense that he is consorting with the enemy, at a time of mass protests against the Vietnam War. At the story’s end, the two men lie together in bed holding hands. The American urges his Australian lover to wipe his tears, then comments obliquely: ‘I guess this is the way it is with us.’

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Early in M.J. Hyland’s new novel, This Is How, Patrick Oxtoby joins his landlady, Bridget, in the lounge room. They watch a game show, and Patrick feigns interest in the contestants’ fortunes. It is an awkward scenario he wishes Bridget would talk more and he prattles on, making a faux pas. ‘You’re in a strange mood,’ Bridget says, eyes on the television. Bewildered, Patrick excuses himself. ‘You all want me to talk more,’ he silently complains, ‘and when I do this is what happens. I can’t keep up with life.’

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