Gillian Dooley reviews 'The Poets' Stairwell' by Alan Gould

Gillian Dooley reviews 'The Poets' Stairwell' by Alan Gould

The Poets' Stairwell: A picaresque novel

by Alan Gould

Black Pepper, $27.99 pb, 326 pp, 9781876044800

Gillian Dooley

Gillian Dooley

Gillian Dooley is an Honorary Senior Research Fellow in English at Flinders University, and a Visiting Fellow in the Music Department


In 1977 the aspiring poet Alan Gould travelled through Europe with his friend Kevin Hart. Just such a tour forms the narrative thread for Gould’s latest novel, The Poets’ Stairwell. This is a roman à clef and those in the know will enjoy the identification game.

More interesting, though, is the intellectual journey; Gould’s virginal twenty-seven-year-old hero, Claude Boon, slowly defining his own poetic self against the austere and particular mode of his strikingly talented younger friend, Henry Luck. A vagabond he might be for these few months, but Boon is no picaro. Adventurous and willing to abet the occasional rogue, he is decidedly not one himself. Though well into adulthood, Boon undergoes a steady process of maturing and self-understanding during his journey. The subtitle of The Poets’ Stairwell could as well be ‘A Bildungsroman’.

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