Monday, December 10, 2007

Dirt Music

Dirt Music by Tim Winton was originally published in 2001 and is 407 pages long. This was my first novel by Winton, an acclaimed Australian author. Initially I had to overcome Winton's style of writing (no quotation marks; sparse, stream of consciousness writing) and my lack of knowledge of Australian slang. Both interfered slightly with some of my enjoyment reading Dirt Music. I almost set this book aside after the first 90 pages or so, when the two protagonists, Georgie and Lu meet. For me it was a weak, contrived beginning. After that point, when they went their separate ways, the story actually became stronger. Their inner turmoil made more sense. I may need to reserve my judgement on Winton until I read another one of his books.

Arguably one of the finest of all Australian novelists, Tim Winton shows that he remains in top form with Dirt Music, a wistful, charged, ardent novel of female loss and amatory redemption. The setting is Winton's favorite: the thorn-bushed, sheep-farmed, sun-punished boondocks of Western Australia. The cast is limited but spirited: the two chief protagonists are Georgie Jutland, a fortysomething adoptive mother with a vodka problem, and Luther Fox, a brooding, feral, bushwhacking poacher.

The plot is something else altogether: an elegantly wearied, cleverly finessed mutual odyssey that opts to follow the sometimes intertwining, sometimes diverging lives of poor Georgie and Luther as they try to deal with the odd alliance they comprise, as well as the complex and fractured lives they want to leave behind. The way Georgie deals with her unwitting inheritance of two dissatisfied adopted kids is particularly touching, poignant, and well written.

Best of all, though, is the prose. Somehow it manages to be simultaneously juicy and dry, like a desert cactus. This is especially true when Winton touches on the scented harshness of the Down Under outback: "the music is jagged and pushy and he for one just doesn't want to bloody hear it, but the outbursts of strings and piano are as austere and unconsoling as the pindan plain out there with its spindly acacia and red soil." This is a wise and accomplished novel. --Sean Thomas,


"When Georgie sat down before the [computer] terminal she was gone in her seat, like a pensioner at the pokies, gone for all the money. Into that welter of useless information night after night to confront people and notions she could do without. She didn't know why she bothered except that it ate time."

"Here on the midwest coast the wind might not be your friend but it was sure as hell your constant neighbour."

"She had never understood the grip that places had over people. That sort of nostalgia made her impatient. It was awful; seeing people beholden to their memories, staying on in houses or towns out of some perverted homage."

"I did think about goin north, he said. Just wanted to leave everythin and bolt. You know, disappear. I already felt like a ghost...But then I thought, I'm gone already. Why not disappear without leavin?"

No comments: