The Ash Burner
University of Queensland Press, $29.95 pb, 229 pp, 9780702253423
Midway through Kári Gíslason’s début novel, The Ash Burner, Ted, his dreamy, curious narrator, watches Anthony paint Claire. As she strikes angular poses for him, Ted reflects on how he would paint her: ‘I would have waited for the moments when she relaxed that pose and when her outline, the shape of her waist, was allowed to stand uncorrected by art or design.’
Ted casts himself as the romantic to Anthony’s modernist. Although he is not always a reliable judge of either character or aesthetics, he is certainly a young man who will wait for the shape of events to emerge rather than moulding them to suit his own desires. He is a careful observer, always attentive to the efforts that people around him make to present chosen versions of themselves to the world, and earnestly self-aware – to the point of paralysis – of the poses he too must adopt in life.