Luke Slattery reviews 'Being There' by David Malouf

Luke Slattery reviews 'Being There' by David Malouf

Being There: Book 3

by David Malouf

Knopf, $29.99 hb, 353 pp, 9780857987211

In ‘Birthday Poem at Thirty’, a young David Malouf considers his place in the scheme of things as dawn breaks over an unnamed and unlovely ‘northern town’. The poet, who seems dislodged from home, regards himself with a dry eye – ‘no visible scars / no medals’ – and wonders where he will go from here, and how far. ‘Far indeed’, is the answer life offers fifty years later. The scars are a private matter but there are literary medals enough for this eighty-one-year-old ‘smiling public man’. The most elusive prize of all – a Nobel laurel – perhaps awaits Malouf. He would not be undeserving.

The Brisbane-born writer has continued to write poetry, but it is the novels that have brought him international renown. The core Australian tales – among them Johnno, Conversations at Curlow Creek, Fly Away Peter, Harland’s Half Acre, Remembering Babylon – may even have helped to forge, after Joyce’s injunction, ‘the uncreated conscience’ of his race, or at least the male portion of it. Malouf’s abiding theme – the refractions of nature and culture through the conundrum of masculine identity – is one of the great Australian stories.

Random House has of late been hoovering up his ephemeral non-fiction for more permanent life between hard covers. Being There, third in the series, is focused on art, music, and architecture. Its first section includes short studies, addresses, and meditations, while the second pulls together two libretti, Voss and Mer de Glace, and a version of Hippolytus by Euripides.

Read the rest of this article by purchasing a subscription to ABR Online, or subscribe to the print edition to receive access to ABR Online free of charge.

If you are a single issue subscriber you will need to upgrade your subscription to view back issues.

If you are already subscribed, click here to log in.

Published in May 2015, no. 371

Leave a comment

Please note that all comments must be approved by ABR and comply with our Terms & Conditions.

NB: If you are an ABR Online subscriber or contributor, you will need to login to ABR Online in order to post a comment. If you have forgotten your login details, or if you receive an error message when trying to submit your comment, please email your comment (and the name of the article to which it relates) to comments@australianbookreview.com.au. We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.