Thursday, 22 August 2013

The Following (3) "...a prominent Australian journalist threw out the challenge..."

A prominent Australian journalist (David Marr)  threw out the challenge, complaining, a few years ago, that Australian writers didn't write political novels. Taking this up in "The Following" I found I could only write a political novel by leaving out, so to speak, the politics, the sort anyway that gets thrashed out in party rooms or endlessly recycled in the press. I was unsure anyway if "political" (or any diminishing adjective, for that matter) belonged with the word "novel".  

I was left with politics as found in the inner attachments of the individual, something like the inner magnetic field that tends an individual one way or another from the starting point of family or social group. Attachment + connection = spirituality seems to work more validly and strongly in fiction than attachment + connection = politics. Or else, is political life something other than it seems? In novels, for anything to happen, a lot is other than it seems. The political party that many of the characters in "The Following" are attached to, unchangeably,  obviously has a name in real life,  but in the novel it goes without one in order to enhance a deeper reality than realism.

In Book One of "The Following" Marcus Friendly, future Australian prime minister, attains, as a boy, a vision of consolation from a violent, murky man. It feeds his gift for leadership and deal-making. A childhood friend, Luana Milburn, struck by revolutionary fervour, finds her beliefs so dangerous to her inner stability that she hides them like burying lightning in the ground. Marcus's lifetime friend, Tim Atkinson, marries her,  and through his own socialistic but somewhat materialistic tendency, invents political PR that is passed on to Max Petersen, the product of Marcus Friendly's own late-life love affair surviving, as a local MP, into the present day. Luana, meantime, white-haired stick of an old lady,  survives Tim into a new era, where a shamed secret looks more like a badge of heroic survival.

In Book Two I hived off from adherents of democratic socialism and anger-fueled extremism. Up rode a horseman, Kyle Morrison, son of Australia's most famous poet (to keep his identity fictionalised -The Bounder). Kyle is an un-self-examined rural conservative politically, a dismal failure in his father's eyes but personally touching. He, just like Marcus Friendly, leads his whole life subject to a revelatory vision. Meantime, at his elbow, his employee Ross Devlin, mainstay of the pathetically isolated  local party branch, is a Friendly follower. As a way out of an impasse, Book Two offers a portrait of two people, a man and a woman,  with entirely opposing political  beliefs, who fall in love. 

Book Three of "The Following" is set in the present day and no summary, I feel, of its feelings and content, characters and setting, could do justice to what I put into it and where it comes from in my own life, so I will let it do its work for readers of "The Following" if it can - and only add, that like the other two Books, it finishes with a movement towards somewhere else,  an other place altogether, in this case the sea.

No comments:

Post a Comment