‘Life, bottom heavy like a kangaroo’ – Anthony Burgess

This is the third excerpt presented here from Anthony Burgess’ masterpiece Earthly Powers. Octogenarian British writer Kenneth Toomey recalls with spectacular clarity (as he almost always does) his visit to Australia in 1930 or thereabouts. Australia is where I was born and lived 37 years of my life. I was awestruck how Burgess conveyed Toomey’s visit to Australia in such vivid detail. He nailed the strange and unique vibe of the Australian habitat, cultural lexicon and humour in the most remote parts. His interchanges with Australia’s Ted Collins is linguistically playful, funny, and entertaining.

I think what may frustrate readers of this book is that Burgess has such accurate recall and dazzling imagination of the various cultures in which Toomey inhabits that it might alienate people who are not familiar with the exact place. The same could be said with his retelling below of the Australian experience. I imagine many readers who aren’t acquainted with Australia especially its dialect, habitat and geography may not embrace or even understand the Australian experience as it is depicted here.

Earthly Powers is little read today, if it ever was, and serves as no modern model—hardly a negative attribute. Some recent interpretations say it’s too masculine and overbearing where it should be chucked at a wall quite quickly. But, I like his wordsmithery and how its full of contradictions and sometimes both pleasant and bothersome reflecting the nature of humanity to some extent. It’s by no means an easy read and there are parts where I feel too much is going on, but there are also sections stupendously engaging. The Australian experience below is one such example.

It’s a long excerpt, so I suggest if you up for a ripsnorter, go brew yaself a cuppa. If not then be onya bike and tell your story walkin’….

“The more I live, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I realize, the less I know.”- Michel Legrand

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