peteg's blog - noise - books - 2021 05 15 RobynDavidson Tracks

Robyn Davidson: Tracks.

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Kindle. You've watched the movie now read the book. Unsurprisingly the book is far better than the movie.

So much of it seems to be about her not knowing what she's doing, why she's doing it or what the consequences might be. For instance she is quick to tell us that the desert is vast and mostly unvariegated, which is to my mind why you don't go there! Or much beyond its frontiers. The (at times self-admittedly unhinged) animal abuse is hard to take, and oftentimes it seemed the camels had the right idea of just wanting to go home. Though she did grow along the way she never resolved her desire for both privacy and publicity, the latter of which she disavows too strenuously; why get on a plane to NYC a mere four days after completing the trek? That she is in these very remote places but often not particularly isolated struck a chord.

It is quintessentially Australian in being substantially ahistorical; there's not much backstory here (hers or the country's). For instance Xavier Herbert observed that "ranch" came into use in northern Australia due to the American influence during World War II; previously these were "stations", which a recent Conversation on the ABC claims came from the Army terminology for the bases they constructed as they moved through. It seems likely she hadn't read Herbert's work despite it being published to much fanfare around the time she conceived of her trip, and them both having strong ties to Queensland.

She experienced a neutered Aboriginal culture; for instance she decides not to cut up a kangaroo based on an elder's assertion that she should never do this, but has her doubts about whether this admonition was only for his land/country or for always, for all women or just for her. Did he assign her a totem, and if so how? This general inaccessibility of the underlying theory results in whitefellas being stuck with dogma, or indeed the pointier end of the law (such as the spearings at the tail end of Poor Fellow My Country), and goes unremarked by Davidson.

A diversity of opinions at Goodreads. Sophie Cunningham reviews Richard Cooke's book that tries to unpack Robyn Davidson as a writer.