The Miegunyah Press, $30 pb, 144 pp
Emmett Stinson’s brief critical survey centres on Gerald Murnane’s four major ‘late fictions’, beginning with Barley Patch (Giramondo, 2009) and ending with Border Districts (Giramondo, 2017). It is a timely and illuminating companion to Murnane’s recent fiction and works well as an extension of the first monograph on his work, Imre Salusinszky’s Gerald Murnane (Oxford University Press, 1993). Although the two books have different points of focus, they are slim yet substantial studies, each dealing with a distinct period of Murnane’s literary career, and both are eminently readable.
As Stinson notes, Murnane’s late fictions were not influenced by the kind of editorial interventions and publisher’s whims that marked his earlier work and limited his capacity to control his own writerly output. Nor did Murnane have to worry about appealing to a wide readership. Giramondo gave their author almost total control over the finished products, whereas Murnane’s previous writing life was uncertain and chaotic.
Stinson argues that the late fictions – written in these new circumstances – retrospectively reshape and recontextualise the early work and serve ‘to complete, belatedly, his oeuvre and impose some final order on the more contingent and disordered conditions in which his early works were published’. Stinson deals with each book, in four separate chapters, where he subtly extends his central theme, culminating with the concept of ‘retrospective intention’.