The Boy Behind the Curtain by Tim Winton

Reviewed by
December 2016, no. 387
Peter Craven reviews 'The Boy Behind the Curtain' by Tim Winton

The Boy Behind the Curtain

by Tim Winton

Hamish Hamilton, $45 hb, 299 pp, 9781926428765

The Boy Behind the Curtain by Tim Winton

Reviewed by
December 2016, no. 387

Everybody thinks they know about Tim Winton: the working-class hero from the West; the whale of a man who’s been writing since he was a boy; the master of one of those big Australian prose styles that is muscular and magnetic and sometimes just a bit too self-delighting; someone who straddles the literary and the popular like a colossus.

Peter Craven reviews 'The Boy Behind the Curtain' by Tim Winton

The Boy Behind the Curtain

by Tim Winton

Hamish Hamilton, $45 hb, 299 pp, 9781926428765

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comment (1)

  • I'm pleased for you that you found so much to enjoy, Peter. Winton always writes good prose--you can count on him for that--although somewhat deliberate, even mannered prose, without the natural ease that comes with a great prose writer. But in my view his work has become a kind of sacred cow in this country: no one seems willing to write a critical, professional review of it. Your review is a case in point, fawning to a fault. There are some good things about the book, as you say; but there are problematic areas, too, and you are reluctant to identify or mention any of them. Here is one: this is a memoir, and so you expect it to be about himself. But it is, to my reading, far too often an emotionally indulgent memoir: Winton, in this book and in others, wallows. Even his political commitments reach little further than his own outrage and sadness. Of course emotional intelligence is valuable, and Winton has that, but it needs to be connected to other kinds of intelligence and to seek deeply informed insight beyond the borders of his personal feelings --with which Winton is, it is not to much to say, obsessed. For example, he presents very little of the complexities of contemporary Aboriginal issues and seems to have made even less effort to educate himself about them. The same is true of environmental issues. It's a pity he didn't take more seriously the work of Peter Matthiessen, who really did write in this integrated, deeply informed way, and write beautifully. Here it is all navigated from inside the Winton universe of feeling, which he seems to feel is all that needs to be consulted for comprehensive credibility, and more than enough for the reader. It's not, for this reader. It's all very comfortable, in the end: it requires little engagement from the reader beyond tissues on the sofa. Perhaps that's why readers in this country love him. Perhaps we don't do well, as a people, when we have to think and question and learn.
    Posted by Geoffrey Wells
    Friday, 02 December 2016 17:48

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