Tale of the turf
by Christopher Kremmer
Picador, $32.99 pb, 400 pp, 9781405039932
Australians are suckers for a day at the races, and may be suckers for novels and poems about a day at the races. Consider Gerald Murnane’s metaphysics of racing, Peter Temple’s grim Melbourne in which stresses are relieved by a bottle of Bolly or some such beverage after a successful day at the track. The term ‘Turf’ is granted three-and-a-half columns in the 1985 edition of the Oxford Companion to Australian Literature. Frank Hardy and Dal Stivens, ‘Banjo’ Paterson and Vincent Buckley, are cited as having ambivalent relations with the ‘sport of kings’. Adam Lindsay Gordon was a champion steeplechase jockey, and, ‘despite the attacks of A.D. Hope and others, including Joseph Furphy, Henry Lawson, and Patrick White, many Australian writers have had a personal commitment to the turf’. The Australian Jockey Club has returned the compliment: at its annual Expressway Stakes meeting, minor races are named after Australian poets, including Dorothea Mackellar and Mary Gilmore.