From Nu­gan Hand to men on the land: the

Pre­pare the Cabin for Land­ing Trav­el­ling through the Fam­ily

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books - Ge­off Page

By Alan Wearne Gi­ra­mondo Pub­lish­ing, 120pp, $24 By Bren­dan Ryan Hunter Pub­lish­ers, 110pp, $19.95

PRE­PARE the Cabin for Land­ing is the sec­ond full col­lec­tion from Alan Wearne since he put aside (tem­po­rar­ily?) his ca­reer-long pre­oc­cu­pa­tion with verse nov­els (most notably The Night­mar­kets and The Love­mak­ers).

Like its pre­de­ces­sor The Aus­tralian Pop­u­lar Song­book, this new work is packed with Wearne’s quirky satire and, of course, his tal­ent for nar­ra­tive.

In many ways, Wearne’s writ­ing is sui generis but it can also help to think of him as a rad­i­cally up­dated CJ Dennis, he of The Sen­ti­men­tal Bloke (1915) and The Glugs of Gosh (1917).

Both are ir­re­deemably Mel­bur­nian (though Wearne tech­ni­cally now lives in Wol­lon­gong and Perth); both are keen stu­dents of Aus­tralian slang and the va­garies of pop­u­lar cul­ture; and both seem more than half in love with the sub­jects they ridicule.

Although Pre­pare the Cabin for Land­ing has seven short po­ems that con­tinue Wearne’s The Aus­tralian Pop­u­lar Song­book project, it con­sists es­sen­tially of mid-length satires that send up the ex­cesses of Aus­tralian so­ci­ety (or sec­tions thereof) dur­ing suc­ces­sive decades from the 1960s to the present.

Be­gin­ning with the rel­a­tively mild A Por­trait of Three Young High School Teach­ers, Wearne pro­gresses to an un­re­lent­ing six-page de­mo­li­tion of an ‘‘ ex­em­plary cou­ple’’ from 60s Carl­ton. Writ­ten in ana­paes­tic tetram­e­ter, rig­or­ously rhymed abab through­out, Dys­func­tion, North Carl­ton Style or The Widow of Noosa traces the mar­i­tal (and ex­tra­mar­i­tal) ad­ven­tures of ‘‘ Rob and Ali’’, the former an ar­chi­tect who ‘‘ de­signed half of North Carl­ton’s ex­ten­sions’’ and the lat­ter a free-think­ing woman who ‘‘ lec­tured in ethics, out at La Trobe’’.

It’s best not to spoil the story, other than to re­veal that she has now ‘‘ turned into the Widow of Noosa / with her new and evolv­ing col­lec­tion of friends’’.

As with most satirists, the reader is in­clined to ask how the nar­ra­tor knows so much if he or she wasn’t in­volved per­son­ally? Wearne an­swers us partly when he has a char­ac­ter say at the end of Op­er­a­tion Hen­drick­son (of which more shortly), ‘‘ So three words fit, then four, five, six / and all is un­der­stood. ‘ Don’t like it? Don’t do it. / For Wear­ney, that’s what it’s all about.’ ’’

Of course, this is just one char­ac­ter’s view­point (and a du­bi­ous char­ac­ter at that) but it does re­in­force the ne­ces­sity for the satirist (or at least the Ju­ve­na­lian satirist) to cling to the high mo­ral ground. Such is cer­tainly the case in Wearne’s The God of Nope about the 70s Nu­gan Hand Bank, whose prin­ci­pals’ shal­low and ve­nal am­bi­tions are lam­pooned in strik­ing iambic pen­tame­ter tercets, rhyming AAA.

No less amus­ing is All Th­ese Young Aus­tralian­ists . . . , a dev­as­tat­ing cri­tique of young ‘‘ post­colo­nial’’ aca­demics tour­ing Europe.

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