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The Last Days of Ava Langdon by Mark O’Flynn

August 2016, no. 383

The Last Days of Ava Langdon by Mark O’Flynn

University of Queensland Press $29.95 pb, 224 pp, 9780702254154

The Last Days of Ava Langdon by Mark O’Flynn

August 2016, no. 383

Poet and novelist Mark O'Flynn lives in the same street in the Blue Mountains in which Eve Langley's derelict shack still stands. Perhaps her ghost drifts along the well-worn path from Leura to the Katoomba post office that she regularly traversed, in men's attire, pith helmet on head, machete in hand, to post off her latest manuscript to her bemused editor at Angus & Robertson, the poet Douglas Stewart.

Suzanne Falkiner reviews 'The Last Days of Ava Langdon' by Mark O'Flynn

The Last Days of Ava Langdon

by Mark O’Flynn

University of Queensland Press $29.95 pb, 224 pp, 9780702254154

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Comment (1)

  • I've been wondering if those manuscripts in the Mitchell library are as unpublishable as people claim. I've not looked at them, but several things occur to me.
    They were seen as unpublishable at the time because they didn't fit the paradigm of what a novel is, then, or now. Editors tend to like things that flow, that have some conventional narrative structure, and in editing they tend to smooth things out and make them more palatable for the general reader. ( I've had some experience of this).
    In 'Wilde Eve' Lucy Frost condensed the manuscripts down to 300 pages and a narrative of Langley's life in New Zealand up to the time when it all unravelled for her. Very admirable and readable, but there is a big 'but' in my mind.
    What if Langley"s writing has been smoothed out too much, and what are we missing of her flights of fancy.?Joy Thwaites' biography portrayed Langley though the prism of her madness, and everyone has seemed to do this. Perhaps she was just ahead of her time. I believe she is too good a writer to let her manuscripts continue to languish. Many of her contemporaries now seem dated and dull to me, but her words and ideas are still potent.
    I think the publication of one of her manuscripts, with all its oddities would be an enlightening and enjoyable addition to our literary heritage. Would it gain enough readers to make it viable? People who read Kerouac and James Joyce might not find it too taxing.
    Incidentally, while I enjoyed the book by O'Flynn, I thought it didn't do Langley justice. Some parts seemed quite slapstick(Langley running through the corridors of Katoomba Hospital) . Someone ought to have cautioned him about the tone at times. And Australia could still stand a decent biography of her.
    Posted by Joanne Horniman
    17 November 2017

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