!READ KINDLE ♶ Carpentaria ♡ Hailed as a literary sensation by The New York Times Book Review, Carpentaria is the luminous awardwinning novel by Australian Aboriginal writer and activist Alexis WrightAlexis Wright employs mysticism, stark reality, and pointed imagination to recreate the land and the Aboriginal people of Carpentaria In the sparsely populated northern Queensland town of Desperance, loyalties run deep and battle lines have been drawn between the powerful Phantom family, leaders of the Westend Pricklebush people, and Joseph Midnight's renegade Eastend mob, and their disputes with the white officials of neighboring towns Steeped in myth and magical realism, Wright's hypnotic storytelling exposes the heartbreaking realities of Aboriginal life By turns operatic and everyday, surreal and sensational, the novel teems with extraordinary, largerthanlife characters From the outcast savior Elias Smith, religious zealot Mossie Fishman, and murderous mayor Bruiser to activist Will Phantom and Normal Phantom, ruler of the family, these unforgettable characters transcend their circumstances and challenge assumptions about the downtrodden other Trapped between politics and principle, past and present, the indigenous tribes fight to protect their natural resources, sacred sites, and above all, their people Already an international bestseller, Carpentaria has garnered praise from around the world
I can see why Carpentaria won a Miles Franklin Award It is a big book which tells an important story in a manner likely to be novel to many readers On its face, Carpentaria is the story of a town, Desperance, on the Gulf of Carpentaria, giving the reader an insight into tensions within the Aboriginal communities on the outskirts of the town and between them and the white people who live in the town itself Underneath that, and farimportantly, it is a story about family, Country and Culture.It was at first difficult for me to follow, as the first few chapters take an entirely nonlinear path and at times appear somewhat unrelated However, if the reader simply reads and accepts these chapters as separate stories, it soon becomes clear that they set the scene for the main events of the novel, as well as introducing many of the characters Nothing is there by accident and no reading is wasted The book is never entirely linear, but does become easier to follow, and the story easier to comprehend, as the reader learnsTo try to explainwould give too much away Let it suffice to say that Ms Wright's work is meticulous, and I suspect each word was placed with care The reader is in safe hands. I urge everybody to read this staggering book which is IMHO a work of immortal genius.Seriously, it’s huge When I think of authors whose books can barely contain the hugeness of what is inside them, I think of Dostoyevsky, Mishima and Ihimaera And now we in Australia have the precious gift of Alexis Wright.This is it Forget about Baz Luhrmann “Carpentaria” is the Great Australian Novel; the epic of our time It isn’t a small book, or an easy read You can’t get through it, for example, while a small child is holding a piece of popcorn an inch from your eye and asking if it lookslike a cloud or a flower, and that’s why it took me a couple of weeks to get through “Carpentaria” is not “When The Snake Bites The Sun” It is layered like bedrock and sharp as shark's teeth.Read this if you are Australian Read it if you like literary fiction Maybe even read it if you’re neither but enjoy weighty fantasy tomes While the journeys of some of Wright’s unforgettable characters could be seen as purely spiritual or allegorical, there’s a way to read it as supernatural, too, and such passages are as powerful and immersive as storytelling gets.Incredibly, it looks like I’m only the second of my Goodreads friends to have read “Carpentaria” (and Rivqa only just beat me to the punch!) This 2007 winner of the Miles Franklin Award is overwhelmingly worthy, and I know I won’t be able to set foot in the far north of this country again without the legendary Norm Phantom, Angel Day, Will Phantom, Joseph Midnight, Girlie, Bala and all the others leaping to life in my imagination. (view spoiler)[Bettie's BooksThe shelving, status update and star rating constitute how I felt about this book (hide spoiler)] “Carpentaria” is an incredible novel The second fictional work from Alexis Wright, it deals with sweeping issues such as the clash of cultures in Australia, the different goals and focuses of whites vs those of the native Aboriginals; and does so by looking at just one small imaginary town which the author calls Desperance which is located on the very real Gulf of Carpentaria in Queensland The relations between black and white Australia play out on the small stage of Desperance, often in a violent way The main characters in the novel are from the Phantom family, headed by Norm Phantom, though certainly his son Will is also a key character.The characters are vivid and believable, the events are at times a bit fantastic, though as the story moves between Dreamtime and reality with a bit of legend and biblical epic mixed in it is sometimes impossible to know just how real the events are supposed to be The story is epic in length at over 500 pages, and though takes place in such a remote and small location, it is epic also in the scope as it deals with society on many levels, including business, politics, religion, culture, and law It is also a book which begs to be read and reread over and over, as there is so much to take in one can hardly absorb everything it has to say in a single reading This book was awarded the Miles Franklin Award in 2007, which is Australia’s most prestigious award which is given to a “published novel or play which portrays Australian life in any of its phases.” Alexis Wright is only the second Aboriginal writer to receive the award Alexis Wright also received the Vance Palmer Prize for Fiction as a result of this novel That being said, some readers may find difficulty in reading this book It is not written in a traditional style as characters come and go and side stories seemingly take the reader on journeys which can sometimes leave the reader scratching their head For myself, I enjoyed this ride, and I believe it is done purposefully to help the reader not focus too much on any particular character, but the larger issues being represented in the story. I didn't understand much of what I read in this book so my 'two star' rating isn't really a judgment on the quality of the novel, but on how much I enjoyed it, and how much I, personally, could piece together I imagine if you're a literary sort, you could mine this deliciously for all kinds of repeated metaphor and thematics and meaning I mostly spent the read going, what is going on?In the largest terms, this is a book about the Aboriginal spirits of Australia being mightier than the workings of the interloper whites All that the whites have created on the northern coast in a town called Desperance segregation, poverty, racism, environmental damage will be destroyed piece by piece, the spirits of land and sea ultimately taking back what's theirs by rights Amid that are Aboriginal characters who act as witness, who sometimes have a hand in reading what the spirits are up to, and who occasionally act to help things along Mostly, however, they're onlookers, aware of a world that the whites aren't, exactly, and both grateful and fearful of it in turn.This is overwhelmingly a book about men It's white men who commit the worst crimes toward land and other people in the novel; it's Aboriginal men who protest, undermine, and survive what goes on Women are always problems they're unfaithful, a disappointment to their fathers, nags, and most of all, they're stupid, judged so by the central male protagonists, or by their rejection of Aboriginal wisdom, and truthfully, they're written so by the author too There are moments where the author suggests yes, these women are trapped by bad choices and economics and culture and waste, but overall there's less pentime spent even hinting at that than sketching the broad, obvious strokes of white men's fight against black Women are secondary characters, at best, and their existence is always meant to demonstrate something about a man's trials, a man's development, a man's fortune There are beautiful moments in the book, written with a clarity I didn't always find throughout the death of Gordie and the ensuing ramifications for three Aboriginal boys, the police chief, and the mayor of the town was one of my favorite parts of the book Still, my overall sense is that I just didn't get why some things were described at such length, or how and why things were included in the novel Again, I think that probably saysabout me than about Wright. One evening in the driest grasses in the world, a child who was no stranger to her people, asked if anyone could find hope The people of parable and prophecy pondered what was hopeless and finally declared they no longer knew what hope was The clocks, tickaty tock, looked as though they might run out of time Luckily, the ghosts in the memories of the old folk were listening, and said anyone can find hope in the stories: the big stories and the little ones in between.Carpentaria is a stunning novel in all senses of the word: astounding in the complexity and concentrated energy of its prose, and at times almost overwhelmingly challenging to read, given the originality of her prose style Wright is an Aboriginal Australian, a member of the Waanyi nation, and she draws on the history and the oral tradition of her people to create a novel which is an incredible evocation of their way of life and which is written almost defiantly outside of the conventions of the Western literary canon This tale of Normal Phantom and Joseph Midnight and their families is terrifying and sad and funny and surreal all at once, embracing everything from the Aboriginal conception of the world around them to the appalling effects of colonialism Wright's torrent of language demands a lot of the reader, but if you're willing to invest your time in Carpentaria, it's well worth the read. This book requires a lot of a reader, especially a nonindigenous reader Being able to understand time as something other than linear is an important example.I will say that I almost switched books after I wasn't really grabbed in the first two hundred or so pages I would find my mind wandering while reading, and when I came back I would discover myself in a scene which was either a flashback, a fever dream, a legend, or an actual current event it was hard to recognize which if you weren't paying attention to the signs And sometimes even then it was hard I think that's why I wouldn't categorize this as magical realism (a genre I adore) I think magical realism describes something unnatural superimposed on real time and place But once you delve deep into this story, you start to understand that everything, from psychic visions to helicopter raids to enchanted sea journeys, are all equally real And time and place are not just flat surfaces.I've read a little about Aboriginal worldviews, so I can perceive the sense here I don't think I've read anything that described Australia (past and present, white and black, desert and sea) as richly as this novel I'm so glad I stuck with it. This baffling, dreamlike epic rushes you up in a semiconscious swirl of language into the wild tropical north of Australia, where Queensland sweeps round to cradle an armful of the Pacific in the form of the Gulf of Carpentaria – a land of savannas and tropical cyclones, of eucalypts and estuary streams, melaleucas, songlines, unscrupulous mining corporations, and backcountry bogan settlements.The Gulf country is also the homeland of the Waanyi people, from whom Alexis Wright is descended on her mother's side, and what Carpentaria is most obviously and essentially is a hymn to her people and to her home It seems necessary to establish this, because it can be difficult to work out what else it might be Postcolonial epic? Magicrealist fantasy? Indigenous polemic?The book doesn't present itself as a simple proposition Atthan 500 pages, it feels, just from heaving the thing up in front of your face, like something that will require some work And the language is constantly wrongfooting you as a reader – like something that's been run through Google Translate and back twice, full of notquiteright constructions (‘for no good rhyme or reason’), redundancies (‘it fell down, descended down’), misused verbs (‘the thought abhorred him’), even apparent spelling mistakes (‘the mother load’) which might just be editorial slips but which nevertheless contribute to a general sense that language here is unstable, not always to be trusted.When you read Wright's sentences, you do it gingerly, feeling ahead with your toes, not wanting to put your full weight on a phrase until you're sure it will hold It reminded me a bit of reading Steve Aylett, though the tone couldn't bedifferent Here the method is a kind of Aboriginal English that dares you to think of it as ‘broken’, mixing myth, jokes, and natural history And then – every now and again – it will suddenly explode into some long, flawlessly poetic excursion positively drenched in the local landscape:Thousands of dry balls of lemoncoloured spinifex, uprooted by the storm, rolled into town and were swept out to sea From the termite mounds dotting the old country the dust storm gathered up untold swarms of flying ants dizzy with the smell of rain and sent them flying with the wind Dead birds flew past Animals racing in frightened droves were left behind in full flight, impaled on barbedwire spikes along the boundary fences In the sheddings of the earth's waste, plastic shopping bags from the rubbish dump rose up like ghosts into the troposphere of red skies to be taken for a ride, far away Way out above the ocean, the pollution of dust and windripped pieces of plastic gathered, then dropped with the salty humidity and sank in the waters far below, to become the unsightly decoration of a groper's highway deep in the sea.The nearest thing we have to a hero is the patriarch Normal Phantom, who lives in an indigenous settlement outside the town of Desperance Norm's community is in a longrunning feud with another Aboriginal group on the other side of the village; and between them are the whitefellas of Uptown, run by the violent Mayor Bruiser, policed by the corrupt Officer Truthful, and inhabited by a roster of colourful characters like Lloydie, who runs the pub and is in love with a mermaid trapped in the wood of his bar Meanwhile Norm's partner, Angel Day, has run off with the religious zealot Mozzie Fishman, who leads a convoy endlessly following the Dreaming tracks, while his son Will Phantom is mounting a violent resistance against the local mining corporation…These are figures that at times seem like characters in a joke (‘An Englishman, and Irishman and an Australian walked into a bar…’), and at other times assume the epic quality of mythic archetypes Their stories blur into one another, with narratives that follow multiple timelines simultaneously, or loop back on themselves without warning This is not a case of ‘magic realism’ (an unsatisfactory term), performed for metaphorical effect; rather, it deliberately reflects, I think, a completely different view of the world, one in which time and individuals are not especially important, and where the events of distant myth play an active role in current relationships and causalities.The language of the novel is richly localised, busy with snappy gums, spearwood, eskies, myalls, skerricks, whirlywinds, gibber stones, sooty grunters, min min lights, big bikkies and a host of other Australianisms that pushed my Australian National Dictionary to the limits Not to mention the many Aboriginal terms The last time the Waanyi language was surveyed, in the early 80s, researchers found ‘about ten’ native speakers, so it's doubtless extinct by now; Carpentaria is, in this as in other things, an act of preservation as well as of modernisation.I just don't know who to recommend it to After a hundred pages I didn't understand it at all After two hundred pages I thought I understood it, and didn't like it I might easily have ditched it there, but the Goodreads review hanging over my head induced me to carry on – fortunately After three hundred pages I was gripped, and by the time I finished I was deeply moved Since then it's only kept expanding in my head, so that I now feel it's one of the most extraordinary books I've read in a long time Lyrical, passionate, and seemingly detached from all the usual artistic traditions, it feels like you're hearing the genuine voice of a strange and distant land that has not been shown in literature before. wow.To start with, this book took me nearly two weeks to read, which is about four times longer than I expect to spend on a book So the thing is not a page turner In many places it has almost dream like, hypnotic flavour So many times I found myself paging back to try and work out if what I was reading was straightforward narrative, someone's imaginings, a dream perhaps? In as far as this is indicative of a problem, I think the problem was largely with me, habituated as I am to significantly less demanding reading But at least part of this was intentional, I'm sure, or at least a natural result of some particular choices by the author about how she has told her story As Ashley from ClimbtheStacks said in her review of the Color Purple recently, to tell a new type of story you need a new way of telling that story One of the structural particularities in the telling of this work is the way the passage of time is dealt with The events of some chapters follow directly on from the events of the chapter before, but in other cases months, years (or even decades?) have passed, with no mention of this fact Another, connected peculiarity is that many of the most significant events in the lives of the central characters happen 'off stage', often between chapters This is one of the choices by the author which give the work it's dreamlike nature These events, when they are eventually retold, are presented in an off hand manner, and with the inevitability of hindsight The story is told from the point of view of a presumably omniscient observer who looks down, sometimes from afar, other times from close up, on the doings of the small (fictional) town of Desperance, in Far North West Queensland, on the Gulf of Carpentaria The people of the town consist of the white folk of Uptown, and the fringedwelling Pricklebush mob The Pricklebush mob are further divided sharply into Westside and Eastside, and there is bad blood between the two groups The Eastside mob are headed up by Joseph Midnight, who broke away from the Westside people, reluctantly led by the quasihero of the book, Norm Phantom At different times in the story it seems the break was caused by the Eastsiders wanting to distance themselves from Norm's wife Angel Day (who, to be fair, is pretty much trouble on two legs), or possibly because Old Man Midnight was looking to (illegitimately ?) claim traditional owner status and the mining money which went along with this, or possibly the break is really a simple acknowledgement that the groups were historically distinct; Westside are seapeople who have always lived on the coast where Desperance has appeared, Eastside are largely people from further inland who had been displaced by various events, and had come to live around Desperance inrecent times A third group of aboriginal actors in the story is the pilgrim band led by Mozzie Fishman, who in a convoy of beaten up cars travel in a never ending sacred journey along certain song lines of the country, returning to Desperance every two years or so.The first half of the book chops and changes in its focus, as the players and setting of the story are introduced We even get chapters examining the doings of Uptown, which largely disappears from view as the story progresses The second half of the book is mainly taken up in the story of Norm Phantom and his now estranged son Will, and the fallout of Will's struggle against the Gurffurit mine The Phantom family are one of the most compelling and authentically described fictional families I have ever met Norm, the down to earth, and yet somewhat magical patriarch; Angel (who, seriously, what a piece of work is that woman!) the Queen of all she surveys; the two oldest boys, boofheads, brawlers, working down the mine; Kevin, at one time the bright hope of Desperance, an intellectual child prodigy who on his first day of work down the mine (the only significant employer in the region) is nearly killed, and left a damaged shell and an 'idiot'; Girlie, an angry young woman who is cursed by her beauty and the men she attracts; Girlie's two big sisters, with heads full of superstition, and a passel of kids each, running the Phantom household with hardly a kind word from anyone; and finally Will Will, so present even in his absence, who has broken with Norm twice over, by getting involved in land rights politics and direct action against the mine, and by taking up with Hope, Joseph Midnight's daughter.There is much humour in this book, though the events of the story are largely bleak: casual violence, arson, murders, deaths in custody, a devastating storm In the end there is hope for, though hardly a guarantee of, a brighter future This is an amazing book Hard work, but really worth it I am absolutely looking forward to reading Alexis Wright's subsequent novel, The Swan Book, but I think I am going to give myself a little time to recover from the experience of reading this one first.