Unfinished books 3

This is the third post in a series.

Another book I salvaged from my parents’ collection is Australia Felix, the first volume of Henry Handel Richardson’s trilogy, The Fortunes of Richard Mahony, in an edition published as a Penguin Modern Classic in 1971.  My copy is a 1977 reprint.

Obviously “HHR” finished it;  I couldn’t.

Part of my problem was that it is a story which, from the outset, one knows will not end well.  I always have difficulty with these: King Lear, Otello. are two examples which spring to mind.  Yet I am happy to go to operas, where, God knows, a tragic ending is often enough a given, so that cannot really be the problem.

Another is that first-half-of-the-twentieth century realism is not, for me, a high point of literary history.  Even the discovery of a new word within the first three lines – “uprights and tailors” – a word which I have been unable to find in a dictionary but which presumably refers to tailed timber cross-struts – was no consolation.  As far as I got, it all seemed so dreary.

Yet I suppose I could overcome that.

Meanwhile, squatting over my reception of the work is a xxviii page introduction by Leonie Kramer.  Kramer’s work on the sources of The Fortunes of Richard Mahony was, if truth be told, her only substantive academic work.  The rest was energy and politics which are not congenial to me.

To her protégées, and they were many, Kramer was an inspiration; to my crowd when I was a student in the English department at Sydney University she was an unloved and unwelcome reactionary.  Just one of the counts against her was that she had complained when Dennis Altman was invited to speak about homosexuality to medical undergraduates at UNSW, including one of her children.

I still cannot work out how a Professor of Australian Literature thought it right that she become a member of the board of Western Mining; let’s not get started on her role in the push for demutualization of the NRMA.  Though she disdained feminism, she was a useful conservative female figurehead.

Enough.  The woman is dead now.  I should try to get over her, but it may take a bit more time.

I’ll hold on to my copy of Australia Felix a little longer in case the cloud lifts.

 

 

One Response to “Unfinished books 3”

  1. wanderer Says:

    Keep it up. I’m looking for inspiration.

    I was compelled to google the Professor, the doctor’s mother.

    “Dame Leonie could be lively company and enjoyed her position in Sydney society, although she also found it provincial”. (SMH obit.)

    Her patent belief in her own superiority was what really riled me.

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