Tourmaline, by Randolph Stow

At times, in the early morning, you would call this a gentle country. The new light softens it, tones flow a little, away from the stark forms. It is at dawn that the sons of Tourmaline feel for their heritage. Grey of dead wood, grey-green of leaves, set off a soil bright and tender, the tint of blood in water. Those are the colours of Tourmaline. There is a fourth, to the far west, the deep blue of hills barely climbing the horizon. But that is the colour of distance, and no part of Tourmaline, belonging more to the sky.

It is not the same country at five in the afternoon. That is the hardest time, when all the heat of the day rises, and every pebble glares, wounding the eyes, shortening the breath; the time when the practice of living is hardest to defend, and nothing seems easier than to cease, to become a stone, hot and still. At five in the afternoon there is one colour only, and that is brick-red, burning. After sunset, the blue dusk, and later the stars. The sky is the garden of Tourmaline.

‘Landscape With Freckled Woman’, from Landscape with Landscape, by Gerald Murnane

The young man believed he might draw a map of a city beyond the reach of normal perception and only faintly recalling the city where he had lived his early life. The suburbs and districts in the new city would be sized and spaced according to the intensity of the poetic feeling he had once felt in this or that part of another Melbourne. Thus, a huge glowing core of what he called vivid imagery—with its centre where Fitzroy might have been—would spread outwards and drive to the farthest margins the shrivelled remains of places where a young man had once tried and failed to feel what was expected of him.

Review of ‘Hang him when he is not there’, by Nicholas John Turner

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.

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