Monday, May 31, 2010

Randolph Stow, 1935-2010

From the FaceBook page of Nicholas Pounder, legendary Sydney book dealer and self-described 'mild-mannered antiquarian', I've just learned of the death of Australian novelist Randolph Stow. (Link via Geordie Williamson.)

Not known for conviviality and for many years an expatriate, Stow is one of Australian literature's most overlooked and underrated writers, at least these days. I first encountered him when we 'did' The Merry-Go-Round in the Sea at school, and along with the rest of my generation got some early inklings from this book of the beauty and isolation and general weirdness of Western Australia and its coastline, and of the power of poetry to sustain life, and of what might have happened to some of the Australians who fought in the Second World War.

Under his sandals, leaves and nuts fallen from the Moreton Bay figtrees crunched and popped. Beyond the merry-go-round was the sea. The colour of the sea should have astounded, but the boy was seldom astounded. It was simply the sea, dark and glowing blue, bisected by seagull-grey timbers of the rotting jetty, which dwindled away in the distance until it seemed to come to an end in the flat-topped hills to the north. He did not think about the sea, or about the purple bougainvillea that glowed against it, propped on a sagging shed. These existed only as the familiar backdrop of the merry-go-round. Nevertheless, the colours had entered into him, printing a brilliant memory.

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