Tour takes only a far view of Alice
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,