On Writers

Just Relations

By Rodney Hall
Penguin Aust. 1982.

A walk along the dusty road at Whitey’s Fall would show you one streetlamp, a shop, a hotel old enough to remember the German Bands, two silent churches, a barren school, a smithy’s which has moved with the times enough to become a welder’s, and a hall which is no longer of much encouragement to the arts.

Inside the shop, the Brinsmeads can put their hands on any needed item without looking, for Felicia is seventy-three and her brother eighty-two, and the secrets in that shop are as many as it has cans on the shelves.

Floating buoyantly in a cattle dam, Bertha McAloon, who has had many of the men who have ever lived in the town, secretly conjures others. The welder, Rupert Ping, so despises his golden body and flawless face that he will fix them up one night in secret. And there is hidden, in some dark room, a small boy so secret that no hint of him reaches the street, although he scribbles notes to strangers: I love you, do you love me?

Not all the characters are human. They include the mountain, each of the buildings, separately, and many folk whose remains can be found under tombstones. I can’t, with any assurance, so cohesive is the town with its ancestry, and I have the absurd conviction that, should I somehow decide to enter the novel at its last sentence, and proceed seriatim toward the beginning, I might find I’ve merely entered this perfectly explicable township from the other end of the street.

For The Good Reading Guide
McPhee gribble 1989.