Text Publishing, $29.99 hb, 208 pp
Murray Bail’s fiction has often been interpreted in light of its explicit rejection of a prevailing tradition of Australian realism that someone once described as ‘dun-coloured’. This rejection has manifested itself in his willingness to appropriate some of Australian literature’s hoariest tropes – the harsh beauty of the landscape, the issue of national identity, the inherited cultural anxieties of the New World – and subject them to the ironising pressures of fictional constructs that wear their conceptualisation on their sleeve. The result is fiction that occupies the shifting ground between the formal rigours of modernism and the reflexive playfulness and generic self-consciousness associated with postmodernism. Bail’s later novels, in particular, beginning with his best-known book, Eucalyptus (1998), are concise, concentrated affairs that organise themselves around the kinds of overt structuring oppositions whose apparent simplicity seems to invite allegorical readings.