Matthew Clay­field

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books -

Ibook go-to as well).

But as Nowra makes clear in this book, the pub, its reg­u­lars and the sub­urb they be­long to are far more im­por­tant to him than the pro­files suggest. This isn’t merely some­where he comes to meet his daily quota of four sau­vi­gnon blancs.

This is Nowra’s sec­ond bio of a Syd­ney sub­urb. Kings Cross: A Bi­og­ra­phy (2013) was more a eu­logy for the sub­urb than a celebration of it. But Wool­loomooloo is a heart­felt paean to the lit­tle sub­urb that could.

Founded as Wal­lam­ool­loo Farm in 1793 — the orig­i­nal Abo­rig­i­nal word has gone through “many per­mu­ta­tions be­cause no one could agree on a uni­form spell­ing” — the Loo, as Nowra refers to it, has been re­viled for much of its his­tory, its res­i­dents sub­jected to end­less moral­is­tic op­pro­brium when not sim­ply ig­nored and left to rot.

That it re­mains a com­mu­nity, a rarer thing in Syd­ney than is usu­ally ac­knowl­edged, is a credit to those who have made it their home and stamp­ing ground. Its con­tin­ued ex­is­tence, Nowra ar­gues, is less a blight on the city than a up­raised finger to those who would, and have tried to, crush it.

Like the sub­urb it­self, this book is a bit of a mon­grel, merg­ing his­tory, walk­ing guide and me­moir.

Or per­haps me­moir isn’t quite the right word. For while Nowra’s ex­pe­ri­ences fea­ture heav­ily, he isn’t ex­actly writ­ing about him­self. He’s rather sketch­ing his friends — the Old Fitzroy’s Mot­ley Crew — and count­less other Wool­loomooloo: A Bi­og­ra­phy By Louis Nowra NewSouth, 334pp, $34.99 lo­cal char­ac­ters he knows. Many of his clos­est drink­ing bud­dies are af­forded short chap­ters of their own, to the ex­tent that the book’s sub­ti­tle could well have been a plu­ral.

The other chap­ters os­cil­late be­tween more or less straight-up his­tory and street-by-street de­scrip­tions of the sub­urb. In the in­tro­duc­tion, Nowra frames these lat­ter pas­sages as mus­ings born of old-fash­ioned flanerie, which is a nice idea as far as it goes, though any­one un­fa­mil­iar with the area, and even some who know it well, may even­tu­ally be­gin to feel bogged down in these de­scrip­tions of the map.

But Nowra’s his­tor­i­cal pas­sages, and those sec­tions of his walk­ing tour that he leav­ens with his re­search, sing. For the most part, the songs in ques­tion are nasty lit­tle dit­ties so grisly that one won­ders what hor­rors the au­thor has left out. In­deed, for much of its length, Wool­loomooloo reads like an om­nibus of true-crime sto­ries that to­day’s lock­out wowsers could only imag­ine. The tale of poor Sarah Ogle, who was born to an abu­sive pub­li­can and his in­tel­lectu-

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.