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

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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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 at Southampton University. Her publications include an edited book of interviews with Iris Murdoch (2003), V.S. Naipaul, Man and Writer (2006), J.M. Coetzee and the Power of Narrative (2010), and journal articles on a range of literary topics including music in the life and work of Jane Austen. In 2005 she co-edited Matthew Flinders’ Private Journal and in 2014 she published an edition of the correspondence between Iris Murdoch and the Australian radical philosopher Brian Medlin. She has been a regular reviewer for ABR since 2002. She is founding editor of the online journals Transnational Literature and Writers in Conversation.

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