Title: Contemporary Australian Writers – Murnane
Author: Emmett Stinson
Publisher: The Miegunyah Press/MUP, 2023; RRP: $30
Emmett Stinson is a lecturer in Literary Cultures and Head of English at the University of Tasmania. A man of words, a literary academic, and a skilled professional with several career milestones, awards, and publications to his credit.
Melbourne-born Gerald Murnane is regarded as a serious author of literary fiction, “highbrow material”, some suggest experimental, though in literary circles it is material that warrants deep and meaningful discussion.
Stinson gives us a solid and professional introduction to Murnane and his writing. Making it an excellent companion for anyone deciding to read the works of Murnane. Stinson’s book is informative, written in a way that makes it accessible to a broad range of readers. There are frequent references to other literary critics and comparisons to other notable works and authors. The proviso is, one needs to have read widely or at least be motivated to read more; there is a bibliography included.
Murnane is clearly an interesting character, eccentric, and prolific. His writing is…well, in Stinson’s words, “Murnane’s writing hybridises fiction, essay and memoir in ways that anticipate contemporary autofiction.” Stinson’s unpacking of Murnane’s themes and style is a worthwhile guide to Murnane’s works.
It seems Murnane finds literary criticism unsatisfactory, in some ways distasteful. His relationship to the literary academic world of Stinson could be described as challenging and is sufficiently interesting for Stinson to incorporate this aspect of Murnane into his book. Including an amusing anecdote of Murnane serving behind the bar at the Goroke Golf Club during a literary conference held at the club to discuss the works of Gerald Murnane.
The book begins with an introductory chapter on Murnane the author. I found this to be the most interesting part of the book, giving context and life to an author and their work. I was immediately intrigued and went out to find copies of Murnane’s work; I had not previously heard of Murnane.
There are separate chapters dealing with four of Murnane’s major “late fictions”. These chapters are followed by a conclusion discussing Murnane’s style. The last chapter looks at the late recognition of Murnane’s writing by the literary world, at least the Australian part of the world, noting the attitudes of various critics, and providing insights from an interview with Murnane.
Stinson admits to being a Murnane devotee. However, I felt he was objective in portraying Murnane’s work. This book is one for the anyone interested in writing as a creative form of expression.
Reviewed by: Frank Thompson
Ballarat Writers Inc. Book Review Group
Review copy provided by the publisher