"On all fours passing, tintinnabulation": Murray Bail's creative case against the imperial word

Ackland, Michael (2013) "On all fours passing, tintinnabulation": Murray Bail's creative case against the imperial word. In: Natale, Antonella Riem, Dolce, Maria Renata, Mercanti, Stefano, and Colomba, Caterina, (eds.) The Tapestry of the Creative Word in Anglophone Literatures. Forum Editrice, Udine, Italy, pp. 231-240.

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Abstract

[Extract] As the labyrinth is to Borges' fiction, so division and classification are to Murray Bail's: a leitmotif that captures the human predicament and mankind's fumbling efforts to assert hegemony over creation. From his first known published story, I Spend My Days Slowly 1, which features a fire-spotter usually high in a tower, through Vern Hartnett, a meticulous proofreader and compulsive compiler of facts in Holden's Performance, to a father obsessed with exhaustively knowing and possessing every variety of the archetypal Australian tree in Eucalyptus, Bail has explored the commonsense, scientific and utilitarian heritages which, he maintains, deleteriously shaped his homeland, Australia 2. Born in Adelaide on 22 September 1941, Bail experienced his hometown as overwhelmingly reactionary, Protestant and fiercely defensive of time-honoured English standards. Life there was regimented, unimaginative and philistine 3. Nationally he characterized the first post-war decades as "a drought time of conservatism, conformity and censorship, the R.G. Menzies' era" 4. Dissecting this mindset and tracing its origins to transplanted empirical methodologies has featured prominently in his much-acclaimed novels 5; however, its episodic probing in his short fiction has received far less attention 6. At times realistic, at others disconcertingly surreal, these stories 7, as I hope to show, constitute not only a comprehensive critique of the founding imperial project in Australia and its contemporary ramifications, but draw attention to alternatives based on imaginative powers – that resonate in a word such as 'tintinnabulation' – in which Bail, decades later, placed his hopes for a much-improved local future.

Item ID: 38399
Item Type: Book Chapter (Research - B1)
Keywords: Murray Bail; Australian literature
ISBN: 978-88-8420-837-8
Date Deposited: 09 Jun 2015 05:29
FoR Codes: 19 STUDIES IN CREATIVE ARTS AND WRITING > 1999 Other Studies in Creative Arts and Writing > 199999 Studies in Creative Arts and Writing not elsewhere classified @ 100%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9505 Understanding Past Societies > 950503 Understanding Australias Past @ 100%
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