Gillian Dooley reviews 'The Pacific Room' by Michael Fitzgerald

Gillian Dooley reviews 'The Pacific Room' by Michael Fitzgerald

The Pacific Room

by Michael Fitzgerald

Transit Lounge, $29.95 pb, 240 pp, 9780995359550

Simile haunts The Pacific Room. So many sentences begin ‘It’s as if ...’ that the phrase seems like an incantation.

Michael Fitzgerald writes that he agrees with Robert Louis Stevenson that ‘every book is, in an intimate sense, a circular letter to the friends of him who writes it. They alone take his meaning.’ For the reviewer coming from outside the circle, this book does not so much erect screens as exist within a lush, enticing forest of signs which seems indifferent to one’s presence. As Teuila, the Samoan fa‘afafine, confidently climbs to the summit of Mount Vaea in the dark, we are told, ‘For an outsider there is no hint of what lies ahead, so inscrutable is the dense foliage.’ One is aware that given time and multiple readings, the forest might become as familiar as it is to Teuila. On a first reading, the best option is to let the strangeness of the book seep into one’s consciousness and resist the temptation to seek clarification at every twist in the path.

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Published in December 2017, no. 397
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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