BOOKS ✭ Bodysurfers Author Robert Drewe – Turboville.co.uk

Bodysurfers 10 November 2015 minor edits and I have added a quote I had noted earlier my notes are on bits of paper everywhere, and I keep finding them, later Hrumfph.This collection started off with a thrill but gradually became repetitious and surprisingly distasteful The stories are linked thematically in two ways, perhaps three First and most obviously they are set on the coast, by the sea, and quite often in the sea That s fine, it s Australia, the most urbanised country of any size on the planet and most of us live on the coast At one stage one of the characters says of Australians fleeing capture or wishing to lose themselves, that they head for the coast, whereas Americans might head inland Don t know whether it s true but it rings true There is a poignant story Shark Logic about a headmaster who flees to a small coastal town to run away from the financial ruin he has created and wrestles with getting in touch with his wife and family How could you leave your children The second thematic link is the Lang family quite a number of the stories feature different members of the family through different generations in different places and different circumstances.At first I thought this was a terrific idea, but then found it an annoying distraction, trying to work out how the relations fitted together Then I realised that it did not actually This was a bit unexpected as I had not realised that this is short story collection I know there has been a tv series so I was a bit surprised as most of these stories have little to connect them apart from the beach setting they share I m assuming that the tv series is only loosely based on the book.The blurb says the stories follow a family through thre This is really only a review for the title story of the book, as it s one of a list of short stories that I was given to choose from to read for school I ve not read the rest yet, though likely I will once I get the time.Of the four that I chose this one, Closer by David Malouf, Postcards from Surfers by Helen Garner and, for a bit of something different, The Landlady by Roald Dahl this is the one that I have the most conflicted feelings about The story seems to be attempting a lot of things Whether or not it succeeds I m really not sure, because it is bizarre and kind of weirdly sexist to the point of distraction.It begins by telling us about a macabre murder that took place near the beach shack where the main character, David, his girlfriend and his children are going for the weekend, a couple of days beforehand This murder is referenced a few times later on, as it has understandably affected David quite a bit Then we have some character interactions, which are interesting enough, and the family heads down to the beach.Now, from the other reviews, I gather that this book does deal quite consistently with sexuality and perversity I don t have a prob I might ve rated this lower immediately after reading, but the collection has continued to resonate I picked up the Pocket Book edition on a whim during a layover in Sydney It s cultural treasure trove Drewe s portrayals of unattainable masculinity in Some short story collections work really well when the stories are linked and in Western Australian literature there s a few examples most notably Tim Winton collections, particularly The Turning, in which he does a brilliant job of creating stories with their own impetus that still gain something from being part of a larger mesh of meaning While Drewe is a contemporary of Winton, his stories don t have the same strength, his style is not quite as fluid Winton seems to be able to breathe underwater, whereas Drewe is always wearing a snorkel.The order of the stories within the collection is one of the two issues with Drewe s work In fact it s the first two stories being placed next to each other that blow the whole thing up They give you the sense of some immediate chronology and set your expectations so that on the third story it takes half the story to realise it s not the deceased mum from the first two in some cross dressing role but a completely different character.The other major issue with this collection is Drewe s inability to examine the unconscious mind and the motivations that drive people beyond the surface veneer of their daily routine There are glimpses of his awareness of deeper motivations of behaviour most notably in The Bodysurfers where he tells in depth a character s Short stories, well executed, are like little intrusions into a life Wonderful stuff. The Bodysurfers is a collection of interlinking short stories that predominantly follow the generational fortunes of the Lang family Most of the stories are set on either the west or east coast of Australia, with one set on the west coast of America It is not an exaggeration to claim that Australians have a strong connection with the ocean, with nearly all of the major cities lying along our coastlines Sun, surf and sand is part of our national identity and stands in strong contrast to the unforgiving outback that has a long tradition in the arts as being a signifier for a darkness at the heart of the Australian psyche The Bodysurfers begins with the story The Manageress and the Mirage Almost immediately Drewe s thematic premise is established with a simple mirage metaphor The Lang children lunch with their father on a hot Christmas day in a hotel overlooking the Indian Ocean Looking out to sea they witness Rottnest Island split into three by a mirage The notion that surface appearances can be deceiving is a theme that is repeated throughout The Bodysurfers coupled with the use of the ocean as an analogue for the characters various psychological circumstances These themes are quickly expanded upon in the next story, The Silver Medallist, which features a forme These Stories Breathe Taut Yet Teeming With Life, They Are Shot Through With Gritty Phrases That Catch At One S Throat Sydney Morning HeraldSet Among The Surf And Sandhills Of The Australian Beach And The Tidal Changes Of Three Generations Of The Lang Family This Bestselling Collection Of Short Stories Is An Australian Classic The Bodysurfers Vividly Evokes The Beach, With The Scent Of The Suntan Oil, The Sting Of The Sun And A Lazy Sensuality, All The While Hinting At A Deep Undercurrent Of Suburban Malaise.From First Publication, These Poignant And Seductive Stories Marked A Major Change In Australian Literature From Penguin.com.au And so continues Antipodean season Good I can see why this feels noteworthy here s the mostly Aussie beach a place we associate with joy and hedonism so in Australia than almost anywhere else, bar California where a couple of the stories are set Yet here it s a place of relationship breakdown, sleaze incest, even , deceit and emotional numbness The sea is always the backdrop, and it s generally not doing what it s supposed to be doing for us Which I found really quite refreshing As noted, several of the stories revisit characters from the same family and their cuckolds , giving us a rewarding alternative take on earlier events and pairings My favourites were th A book of short stories Yeah, it was okay But I found myself drifting away from these slightly older man stories themed loosely around the ocean To be honest, I chose it because I had run out of Winton and I wanted Winton Which isn t a fair way to


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