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?