Tour takes only a far view of Alice

Alice Springs

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books - Ashleigh Wil­son

By Eleanor Ho­gan NewSouth Books, 325pp, $29.99 (HB)

THIS book is the fifth stop in a na­tion­wide jour­ney of dis­cov­ery, cour­tesy of pub­lisher NewSouth, which has asked writ­ers to cap­ture cities in any way they choose. These have in­cluded Delia Fal­coner ( Sydney), Ker­ryn Goldswor­thy ( Ade­laide) and Matthew Con­don ( Bris­bane).

Now, be­fore hear­ing from Dar­win or Perth, we land in Alice Springs: the cap­i­tal of cen­tral Aus­tralia, a be­wil­der­ing, cap­ti­vat­ing, in­fu­ri­at­ing and de­press­ing town, and the caul­dron of so many of the na­tion’s myths.

With Eleanor Ho­gan as our guide, though, it’s an op­por­tu­nity missed. Ho­gan, a so­cial worker, lived in Alice Springs be­tween 2003 and 2010. Tired of Sydney’s in­su­lar­ity and se­duced by the re­mote land­scape, she ar­rives with a vague plan to write about ‘‘ life in the Cen­tre’’.

Then, like so many well-mean­ing out­siders, she en­coun­ters the re­al­ity of Abo­rig­i­nal dis­ad­van­tage. Wearily she comes to re­alise the lim­i­ta­tions of the ‘‘ ur­ban Left’’. She be­comes ex­as­per­ated by the ex­tremes and the re­minders of ‘‘ how ten­u­ous ex­is­tence could be’’.

‘‘ It was like liv­ing in a per­pet­ual news story you couldn’t turn off,’’ she writes.

The tone is set at the start, when Ho­gan meets a young Abo­rig­i­nal woman who is later as­saulted and left to die. It’s a shock­ing story,

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