peteg's blog

After Hours

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Murray Bail: The Pages

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Fairly poor narrative, even by Bail's low standards. Of course one is reading him for the details, the closely-observed mannerisms, the sparse arid landscape and occasionally slippery punctuation. Characters are somewhat weaker than before, too, and the plot devices, the rising romantic tension, flimsier. A feeling of emptiness (or perhaps an awareness of vacuity) arises on completion. The shadowy central character makes the elementary error of imagining he will find philosophy in the old cities, where the climate is suited to it, little realising that one can only philosophise about what one is born into, it seems to me. Let us quietly ignore the psychoanalytic white elephants.

Reviews were myriad, for Bail is somehow famous despite his laconic output. (Ten years since Eucalyptus? Was anyone holding their breath?) I am glad I read it, but would have preferred a series of short stories, perhaps even meditations, on these themes.

The Smage interviewed him around the time of the book's release.