The plane tree is a colonial import to Australia, often found lining city and inner-suburban streets in Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide. Shaded avenues often lined on both sides, forming a ceiling of brilliant fluorescent green in spring and summer that becomes somewhat stark and barren in winter. Most controversially, perhaps, aside from being a non-native tree, they can also be an allergy and respiratory menace in spring, when the trees shed their spiny hairs and seeds, especially on windy days. It is, of course, all a matter of perspective and subjectivity, but also of timing and repetition—as marked by the passing of the seasons.
In Lynette Washington’s Plane Tree Drive, somewhere between a short story collection and a novel-in-stories, we see a number of perspectives on the plane trees throughout the book. On the opening page, Maurice reflects that his soon-to-be ex-wife Jacqui “used to look up at the branches, reaching over the road towards each other, and mutter under her breath, ‘monstrous’ or, ‘it’ll be the death of me’. She said the trees made her feel like she was in prison. She was convinced the street was shadowy, secretive. Something about the gnarled fingers of the branches especially made her skin crawl.” Later, Jennifer, who paints as an escape from her life as a wife and mother, and who dreams of her unrequited first love, Alexander, sees “trees with crooked fingers leaning over each other, grasping and locking themselves together.” For Coralie, driving down Plane Tree Drive with her vents closed, the pollen is “like yellow puffs of fairy floss”.
Hang him when he is not there is the first release by Brisbane-based independent publisher, Savage Motif, who provided a copy of the book for this review.
Hang him when he is not there, Nicholas John Turner’s debut fiction collection (Savage Motif 2016), challenges and intrigues the reader from its very opening, ‘Prologue’. Is this a prologue to the collection as a whole, a story titled ‘Prologue’, a bit of both, or something else entirely? The conversational tone, a first-person direct address to the second-person reader, exemplifies much of the writing that is to follow, while also hinting at some of the themes the collection explores as a whole—most particularly old age, death, and the transitory places where we are cared for as we wait to die. That ‘last room’, as the prologue’s narrator describes it.
But of course the very idea of “the second-person reader” is a simplification that masks the smart and playful voyage we’ve begun, since the narrative ‘you’ actually implies multiple readers—a fictional addressee in addition to our readerly self—and the question of whether these are intended to be distinct. Later in the book, in the final story ‘All That Remains’, this mode of address returns in a series of passages that are signed-off as letters, and questions of perspective and identity are posed and investigated more directly, which for me brought to mind another literary collection released in 2016, Michelle Cahill’s wonderful Letter to Pessoa.
I reviewed Paul Mitchell’s We. Are. Family. for Rochford Street Review, so you can read it there.
Everyone needs a list. And nobody cares about mine. But here it is (in no particular order because that is just dumb):
- Bill Callahan — Dream River
- My Bloody Valentine — m b v
- Dick Diver — Calendar Days
- Boards of Canada — Tomorrow’s Harvest
- The Drones — I See Seaweed
- Kurt Vile — Wakin On A Pretty Daze
- Oneohtrix Point Never — R Plus Seven
- Day Ravies — Tussle
What have I missed?