David McCooey reviews 'Hoi Polloi' by Craig Sherborne

David McCooey reviews 'Hoi Polloi' by Craig Sherborne

Hoi Polloi

by Craig Sherborne

Black Inc., $27.95 pb, 197 pp, 1863952217

A laughing man, according to Flaubert, is stronger than a suffering one. But as Craig Sherborne’s extraordinary new memoir of childhood and youth shows, the distinction isn’t that simple. There is much to laugh at in Hoi Polloi, but this is also a book suffused with pain and suffering. Sherborne is both a powerful satirist and a poet of vulnerability. The poems by Sherborne included in The Best Australian Poems 2003 show something comparable. Those tightly controlled and acidic poems explored similar ground to that covered in Hoi Polloi. But this prose account of childhood is even more attuned to the doubleness of life, to its mix of farce and tragedy.

Hoi Polloi opens with the narrator and his parents living in New Zealand in the late 1960s. The family hotel (not a ‘pub’, according to the narrator’s mother) is the setting for the narrator’s early experiences. The memoir opens: ‘The first time I see drunks beat up my father I’m six and standing at the bend in the stairs.’ What follows sets the tone for the rest of the work: prose that illustrates an unsettling, almost clinical, ability to describe painful events, matched with a capacity to evoke an empathetic pain in the reader.

Read the rest of this article by subscribing to ABR Online for as little as $10 a month.

We offer a range of subscription options, including print, which can be found by clicking here. If you are already a subscriber, enter your username and password in the ‘Log In’ section in the top right-hand corner of the screen.

If you require assistance, contact us or consult the Frequently Asked Questions page.

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

More in this issue

Leave a comment

Please note that all comments must be approved by ABR and comply with our Terms & Conditions.

NB: If you are an ABR Online subscriber or contributor, you will need to login to ABR Online in order to post a comment. If you have forgotten your login details, or if you receive an error message when trying to submit your comment, please email your comment (and the name of the article to which it relates) to comments@australianbookreview.com.au. We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.