Monday, January 28, 2008


Here today in the sunny land of OZ it is the long weekend holiday of the Australia Day celebrations. I am, I must confess, a tad underwhelmed by it all. The truth of it is I do not feel particularly Australian as such; I do not get a warming golden glow when ever I think of kangaroos and Sydney Opera house, of broad Australian accents and gum trees. I feel no more affinity for a fellow Aussie than I do with any other person I meet - commonality of language is a great connector for me rather than nationality.

Is it terrible of me to admit this?

Maybe it simply reflects that I have not been out and about enough - too much sitting in darkened rooms inventing words, perhaps...

In fact the whole invention of the Half-Continent was and remains a way for me to collect all that I love about the environments and vibes of this country whilst divorcing it from what is commonly known here as "Australiana" - boomerangs, Eyre's Rock, "Coo-ee cobber!" and all that. There is this idea of Australian Fiction somehow being all about red dust and "out-back" living, yet I have been a city kid all my life and have a kind of European graft in all this waltzing of Matilda. My experience is never-the-less Australian and the Half-Continent is birthed from this, a kind of reconciling of my British heritage with my Australian environment.

So I posit that MBT is Australian Fiction, too, set in a place that in my soul is all about growing up in this broad brown land and as Australian in its depths as Man From Snowy River or Tim Winton.


Going off-topic now, my wife has been doing a short term intensive course in what is called ... at a bible college nearby and, my word! it is challenging stuff. I have learnt - as just one of many examples - that you can solve 70% of health issues in most poverty stricken areas by just ensuring a somewhat abundant source of somewhat clean water. That this sounds easy but that political/cultural issues make helping others far more complex - perhaps even more complex than they need to be. In helping my wife study I become familiar with five basic constants in improving a people's lot: sanitation, immunisation, education, access to water, family planning (also known as child spacing).

How much I take for granted!

I suppose most of all, as a not-quite-by-stander, I have been challenged that my life of middle class self-absorption might not be enough, that the quite introspective way of an author might need to expand beyond just me and mine.

Heavy heavy heavy - why is it that taking other people's pain seriously is so distruptive and troublesome?


Femina said...

What's the course your wife has been doing?

I found I didn't particularly identify myself as Australian until I spent 5 weeks in North America, with a group made up largely of Brits, so I was getting a couple of cultures at once. I kept doing and/or saying things that OTHER people found "Australian"... or just weird, but to me they were perfectly 'normal' cultural things. I found myself behaving more 'Aussie' as a result... but it wore off. Strange though - when I'm chatting online with an American friend we spend a lot of time comparing cultural ideas.

Perhaps you have been blessed with the life of an introspective author because it will give you the means to provide assistance to the people you're learning more about now.

Anonymous said...

I feel similarly about being Australian, but perhaps this will change if I have an experience like Femina's. Hm...

Anonymous said...

Australians are a diverse people, and it's hardly surprising that not all identify with the "throi anothah shreemp on the baah-beee" demographic.

I found my connection with home mostly unchanged after my time in Japan. Waitangi Day was still just a three-day weekend and I still couldn't do the haka. After five years in Australia I still love NZ, and my visits home seem to end far too quickly but my experience is outside the stereotype. I also don't bond with other Kiwi ex-pats just because we share an accent. Am I any less a NZer for that? I like to think not. No more than you're un-Australian because your experience with Australia isn't dusty and red.

I suspect Tasmanians would argue they're Australians but there's precious little outback there.

Femina said...

Heh - I'd also be in tears within 2 minutes if forced to live in the outback, so hopefully that's not what defines a 'true' Aussie. I'm definitely a city girl!

Anonymous said...

I'm from the U.S., so I can't say I really identify with the conversation as is, but I do love the fact that I can share thoughts with people from other countries online.

I like the idea of MBT being an Australian fiction, because Australia is never where I would have pictured it taking place. I only really have stereotypes to work with, as far as Australian culture goes. Hopefully, I'll glean something new about it from reading MBT, and break those sterotypes down.

Your wife is really taking an interesting course! I have a sister who's interested in entering the Peace Corp, and I'm sure she'll be learning about that at some point, too. I'll have to point this entry out to her.

D.M. Cornish said...

The name of her course, femina, is International Health and Development.

As to Australian stereotypes, Master Oddwyn, you may cheerfully keep all those ocker Auusie notions as far from your mind as possible. In MBT you have one Australian at least saying: "We're not all like that!"

The connections I have with this country, especailly the low-key landscape of South Australia is subtler and more deeply felt than a "anothah shreemp on the baah-beee" (brilliant, Kate).

A similar comparision might be expecting someone from New England to fit into the "yeeha!" Wild West vibe... well, maybe... might be going a bit too far out on a limb here.

Nate said...

it's the same in the US. the whole yeeha wild west thing isn't even real, its all built on stereotypes. Most people I know don't get all patriotic on Independence Day or anything like that. We just like fireworks. In fact, most Americans I know are quite unhappy with the way our country is right now.
And for the record, all the Australians I've ever met were nothing like Steve Irwin (my childhood idea of what australians were like).
Stereotypes are almost alway bogus.

Anonymous said...

Gday mate,

Has your wife heard the story of Ryan Hreljac. He was only 6 years old when he begged his parents for money to help support African children in need of water.

They didn't give him the money but asked him to do chores for it. When he learned how much it would cost to build a well ($2000) he hitched up his britches and got stuck into doing more work.

His one-mindedness to the task has lead to many off-shoot programs and other people doing similar things.

The key was that just giving money to the underprivileged wasn't enough. People need to take action, and provide fundamental support to those that need it. Grain, clean water, education, employment, fertile land. These are all more important than money.

Cheers and good luck to your wife.


Lawrence said...

Interesting comments about heath/sanitation. My wife works in Public Heath and, yes, it's amazing what simple measures can make a really big difference. Even in New Zealand, so many heath problems in poorer areas could just be solved by giving people a bit more space.

Looking forward to MBT bk II ... hope all's well in 'Stralia.


Larysa said...

D.M. Cornish said: Heavy heavy heavy - why is it that taking other people's pain seriously is so distruptive and troublesome?

I say, it's because we've all been trained to be codependent. And so we do not know how to detach ourselves from someone else's pain and misery when it has nothing to do with us, and we cannot do anything about it.

Anonymous said...

Agreed, Master Cornish! Like coz says, the Wild West was more stereotype than anything, and only really existed in movies. In fact, almost the entire Wild West mythos was fabricated in Hollywood. I took a film course once and the instructor was very clear on that point.

Movies. They have the potential to be amazing works of art, but some of them do contribute to stereotypes.

Speaking of which, any chance there might be a Half-continent movie? In general, it seems that movies dealing with monsters or fae creatures have been very popular recently. Especially in the U.S., what with Harry Potter, Bridge to Terabithia, and the Spiderwick Chronicles.

Great discussion, and I'm very much excited about the next book!

jamiew1288 said...

JUST found this blog. I adore it, and I adore the book as well.

I'm from Florida, a Southern state where the redneck stereotype exists. I personally don't think I have a southern accent, but people from the north laugh at me when I say "ya'll".

Although I do say that, I don't think I'm southern at all. I mean, I always wear shoes, I don't practice incest, and I don't own a pair of overalls. Stereotypes are wrong.

D.M. Cornish said...

Thank you Jamie, glad blog and book are serving you well.

I hear what folks are saying - I rarely drink beer, do NOT own a cork hat nor a boomerang, nor do I speak with a strong 'Strine accent. When abroad folks ask my wife if she is English even though she was born in country South Australia where you would expect Australiana through and through - not so.

Ain't real people so much cooler that stereotype's. (I think this is what might be termed an aphorism..?)

Snooze said...

i think it is very funny how paul hogan (i think thats him !?!?!?!?) says "chuck another shrip on the barbie..." or whateva when mostly we eat steak, not shrimp (well at least I dont - cuz i cant afford shrimp, and usually id buy prawns not shrimp - even though they are practically the same)
anyway... sre very dumb things, although in movies there has to be a way to recognise a person from where they are, and i think that is why they use beer, and bbq's (even though i think everyone uses a bbq - and if they dont they should cuz they rock), and whateva else is australian...
but i don't believe in the outback australia thing, when the majority of australians live on the east coast, witch is mainly small towns and cities...
althouh lots of people are in farming communities (like myself... damn evil cities and constant and i s'pose would follow similily to that stereotypical image.

and no offense to people from SA, but I find everyone there tends to somehow become more britith rather than australian (just my point of view!!!!) cuz I had a friend come from there and she reminded me very much of a brithish perswon.

as for the course ur wife is doing - it sounds cool. I often attend the global leadership convention (sounds really important is actually rather a smallish thing). But it's done by world vsion, and the 40-hour famine, and they target a special area each year and a reprisentitive will come from that country and speak, and we will do activities related to it.
For instance this year we spent nearly two hours making matchboxes because children in India are forced to do things like make match boxes, grind stones, bead sari's etc.. all day just to gain maybe 5 cents so that they can pay off their parents debt (wich is equal to about $44 ) it's so crazy that kids are forced to do this don't you agree?

BTW - if you read this before August, would you like to make an online donation (in fact anyone who reads this?). Cause I'm doing the 40-hour famine (sept without furniture and technology - not precious food lol) and I'm trying to raise at least $200.. and It'ss not gonna be easy...
if you do just comment here, and I should be able to read it... then tell you how...

I can't believe I just said that :S I get weird when I ask people ffor money... lol...
I'll shut upp now cause I think my post is long enough... lol