Mind the Country: Tim Winton's fiction
UWA Press, $39.95 pb, 287 pp
University of Western Australia Press should be commended for recognising a significant gap in Australian literary scholarship: a book-length study on the work of Tim Winton. Aside from Tim Winton: A Celebration (1999; not a critical work), and Michael McGirr’s Tim Winton: The Writer and His Work (1999), written for young readers, there have been no major studies of his work and little critical commentary. Is Peter Craven’s response to Dirt Music (2001) – which he called a ‘profoundly vulgar book’ that ‘bellyflops into a sort of inflated populism’ – widely shared? Is Winton on the nose because he is popular? Certainly, there is nothing sexy about Winton’s work; it embodies wholesome and worthy values, without shying away from stories where these values are absent. But he is a damn good writer – a difficult thing to measure, I know. His work resonates for many people. Whether they adore it or hate it (think Cloudstreet ), people who have read Winton have an opinion on him. Winton’s work, particularly The Turning (2004), prompts interesting questions about contemporary Australian life.