peteg's blog - noise - books - 2009 09 16 McIntosh BeatenByABlow

Dennis McIntosh: Beaten by a Blow: A Shearer's Story

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A somewhat dreary memoir, reminiscent of the Victorian weather, but a page turner nevertheless. The episodic structure wears a bit thin as variety dries up: escape to a shearing shed, so-and-so shore so many sheep per unit time, hit the booze, wake up and wonder about the (future) wife and kids.

The hook is the entirely Australian and now entirely alien life of the shearer, addicted to increasing productivity, always needing to be faster. The sketch of the industrial relations history is somewhat interesting as it covers the time immediately preceding the disintegration of unionism in Australia; the key issue in the early 1980s was the use of the wide comb.

I reiterate the general complaint that the ending is too sudden; we start with a car crash and end with a whimper. Apparently he got a Masters in English literature in the not-too-distant past, and the story of getting from the shed to there might've been worth wiring in. Drawing a parallel with Henry Lawson is a long bow, for this bloke is not pretending to be a poet.

Coincidentally the author is currently reading the book on Radio National's First Person.