Watsonia: A writing life
by Don Watson
Black Inc., $34.95 pb, 272 pp
In the frantic days after the recent US presidential election, Donald Trump’s team – led by his attorney Rudy Giuliani – held a media conference in a suburban Philadelphia carpark. The establishment that formed the backdrop to this unusual performance is called Four Seasons Total Landscaping. Neighbouring businesses included a crematorium and an adult entertainment store (soon translated on social media into a ‘dildo shop’). At the time of writing, the explanation for how this had happened is still not forthcoming, but most commentators assumed a mix-up with one of the city’s major hotels, also called Four Seasons.
It is just the kind of scene that would delight Don Watson, bringing together several of his favourite themes: political theatre, grifting, ‘down home’ life, gardening, the absurd, and the Americans. I take it that Watson has no special interest in crematoria or porn, but the rest are well represented in this large and entertaining volume of his writing. It took Watson twenty years, he told the Australian Society of Authors in 2013, ‘to find the gall to say, “I’m a writer”, when people ask me what I do’. And it is not least among this book’s virtues that it draws the contours of what an Australian writing life might look like.