Life choices on the line

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books -

its broad is­sues-driven so­cial real­ism punc­tu­ated by events re­layed by a mid­dle-class carousel of boomer char­ac­ters who are all (of­ten ob­nox­iously) given a chance to tell us their side of the story.

Lang’s novel tells of a small farm­ing district town that re­cently has been trans­formed by a flood of tree-chang­ers, retirees and wealthy de­vel­op­ers and is hav­ing to de­cide whether a pro­posed dam is go­ing to fix or ruin every­thing. The events are fairly clever in their con­struc­tion and in­ter­weave well, but are just stages on which the var­i­ous ro­man­tic and po­lit­i­cal dra­mas can play out: friends fight­ing, spouses cheat­ing and dy­ing, the works. This is a book of hu­man be­ings.

Hin­ter­land aims to in­ter­ro­gate hu­man­ity, or at least a small bub­ble in the swirls of hu­man­ity’s tor­rents and rapids, try­ing hard to cap­ture some­thing of our present mo­ment, na­tion­ally and glob­ally. It is man­i­festly “about” cap­i­tal­ism, en­vi­ron­men­tal­ism, po­lit­i­cal sys­tems and the in­evitable clashes of cul­ture that oc­cur be­tween Western peo­ple with too much money and time and not much mean­ing in their lives. As one of its many nar­ra­tor char­ac­ters pon­ders when vis­it­ing and ob­serv­ing an el­derly town res­i­dent, she is liv­ing “for who knows what rea-

WHEN ORR RE­ALLY NAILS IT, HIS WRIT­ING IS PIERC­ING, BRU­TAL, POW­ER­FUL

son. Al­though that could be said about most of us.”

Lang lives in Maleny, a pic­turesque back­coun­try town in Queens­land, much like the set­ting for his novel, the fic­tional Win­der­ran, and he has some in­sight into the bus­tle and pet­ti­fog­ging that can smog a small, newly cap­i­talised Aus­tralian burg.

His char­ac­ters bitch and moan, both openly and in­wardly, and we are present for the in­glo­ri­ous­ness. There’s a dis­tinct gen­der bi­nary present in the novel, in more ways than one: Lang’s men are rou­tinely aw­ful through­out, and his women not aw­ful in com­par­i­son but also not much of any­thing else, ex­cept def­i­nitely more cor­po­real (we are given much more in­for­ma­tion about their bod­ies and looks than we are the

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