Black Inc., $27.95 pb, 195 pp
Singing is easy. It is exaggerated talking. I try to do it under my breath which keeps the melody vibrating in my throat, around my teeth, cheekbones, gums, rather than be emptied straight out of me by singing loudly. It used to be my secret, this singing, but the very act of singing lets the secret out. Someone overhears you. Feet overhears you and then you might as well shout.
If the central, not-made-much-of miracle in Craig Sherborne’s remarkable memoir Hoi Polloi (2005) is the disappearance of the narrator’s childhood stutter after a blow to the head, then the equivalent motif in Muck, Hoi Polloi’s equally fine sequel, is his voice.
It is the late 1970s, and the narrator is about sixteen. In between bouts of schooling in Sydney, he is now living in Taonga, New Zealand, where his father has bought a farm: 300 acres with 500 milking cows, two brood mares, two yearlings and two foals. The liquor store in Sydney has been sold because it is time to invest in land to pass on to an only son, time to make a man of him, the next in line. The gadabout gambler and racehorse owner, always referred to as Winks by the narrator in Hoi Polloi, is now The Duke, lord of the manor – even if he tucks his shirt tails inside the elastic of his underpants to keep out the cold.