Late in his first collection of anecdotal short stories, Luke Carman’s narrator, also named Luke Carman, realises that the magic in a book he loves, Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, cannot be replicated in his own life. He is stuck in Australia, and ‘Australia is not the place for ecstatic truth.’ Stuck, to be precise, in Sydney’s western suburbs, depicted as an uncultured wasteland of ‘high-rises, methadone clinics and car yards’. A complicated patchwork of ethnicities blankets this terrain: ‘Fairfield is full of Latinos’, ‘Cabra’s all about Asians’, ‘Penrith is just scumbag Aussies’, etc. It is more melting pot than multiculturalism, as Carman shows the youth leading dismal lives of depressing homogeneity. On ‘bone-grey streets spare and grim’, they drift about, squawking broken, racist language at one another, the ennui lifting only when the war cry is bawled: ‘you wanna punch on?’
An Elegant Young Man
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Alex Cothren is a PhD candidate in Creative Writing at Flinders University. A previous winner of the Carmel Bird Award for Short Fiction, he has published in Overland, The Molotov Cocktail, The Conversation and Australian Book Review, and he co-edited Westerly’s South Australia Special Issue in 2018.
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