Gregory Day reviews 'Incredible Floridas' by Stephen Orr

Gregory Day reviews 'Incredible Floridas' by Stephen Orr

Incredible Floridas

by Stephen Orr

Wakefield Press, $32.95 pb, 335 pp, 9781743055076

Despite the detailed excavatory art of the finest biographies, sometimes it takes the alchemical power of fiction to approximate the emotional geography of a single human and his or her milieu. Stephen Orr’s seventh novel, a compelling and at times distressing portrait of a twentieth-century Australian painter and his family, is one such book. Roland Griffin’s resemblance to that of Russell Drysdale is clear from early on, not only through Orr’s descriptions of the type of creator Griffin is – a painter of ‘small towns, deserted pubs ... it was all he knew’ – but also through the portrait of the artist’s troubled son (Drysdale’s only son suicided at the age of twenty-one). Drysdale’s family story obviously worked as a catalyst for Incredible Floridas but rather than chronicling that story itself, Orr employs his own creative divinations to construct a breathing and tactile fictional amalgam from its outlines and contours.

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Gregory Day

Gregory Day

Gregory Day is a writer, poet, and musician whose debut novel The Patron Saint Of Eels won the prestigious Australian Literature Society Gold Medal in 2006 and was also shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize for a first novel. Two novels since, Ron McCoy’s Sea of Diamonds, which was shortlisted for the NSW Premiers Prize, and The Grand Hotel, are also set in the southwest Victorian landscape of Mangowak.

Published in April 2018, no. 400

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