5 APRIL 1963, Page 24

Broad and Bitter

A FEATURE of much recent Australian wtiti" has been to establish and explore the connec- tion between the Australian landscape and th imaginative life of the characters portraYe0. Patrick White has so far been its most distin- guished practitioner. But the method particui larly suits the intense and extraordinary tale° of Randolph Stow, already well known as Pc'et and novelist. Tourmaline is an exciting additiog to his three earlier novels about Western Ait,s; tralia. It has the same gift of combining lab's and marvellously realistic description. It share their poetry, their force, their original charac- terisation. But it is free from the melodraina and pretentiousness, the strain which in the Past sometimes pulled between action and meaniug. What distinguishes Tournialine from its pre- decessors? A summary of the plot, at once the storY of an old man and a derelict gold-dust tnWn, still bears little relation to what the book is actually about. Cross-currents and undertones matter most. But never before has Mr. Stow made his narrator a central character. This ap- Parently simple technical innovation makes all the difference. The old man, the Law (he has no other name), can record an intense experi- ence, the mysterious hope which springs in him and the whole town at the chance arrival of a diviner. At the same time by showing it as a de- lusion now past, the book avoids pretentiousness. The Law is meant to recall Heriot, central character of Mr. Stow's last book, To the Islands. He was an impressive but uncertain creation. Although sixty-eight, his suffering was sninetimes that of a young man, his personality NOW and his spiritual significance too great. 'Now the burden is divided, and the anguish ap- POrtioned to the young diviner, who at the end of the book disappears as strangely as he came. The second novelty in Tourmaline is its free- dom from excrescent and esoteric quotation of 1-troPeari poetry. But the landscape of Tourma- line is akin to that of Part V of The Waste Land: 'What the thunder said.' There is the same trility, the same red rock, the same ruined CuaPel. Yet the connection is nowhere explicit and only interesting as an enriching background a new work. Mr. Stow had already created imaginative world. Now he moves freely 11 jL Adler In Notes frorn -a Dark Street, Mr. Edward l is blatant about his subject, a sterile and 1hYsically imperfect society : 'Rivers and rain- b) s of phlegm bubble along our curbs. Lung and nostril that's what we are in New York .nlerica--a mass asphyxia.' Mr. Adler borrows "Is technique from films like The Savage Eye, Which cram shot on nauseating shot until they create complete disgust with the human skin; ci nuhinus on the screen and even more dubious TI-4", the page. Every birth and death is violent. ,'`'ere are gang fights, rat bites, madness, pruri- ;nee, incest and sadism—all recounted in a lurid style that comes just a little too easily. n'gain like The Savage Eye, an uncomfortable 'ftentimentalism underlies it all. Knife-Grinder dn.cl IDoll-Maker recognise that their crafts are YIng, 'We're plunging into a vast corporate economy Although Although they participate in the than violence, they are recognisably better enali Mr. Baron, the steel-boss. And the book ends with the narrator, legless Yago, realising ,tc`o is involved in his neighbours' lot. 11._tri spite of the exotic title, Tortoise by Candle- ogrnt is a domestic novel about a totally dis- „ga,nised family. Abandoned by their scatty `idupologist mother, the three children expend their l-iddei on pets (all named), which include a flea- [el and a one-eyed hen. Grandma, ;Iti.gious and eccentric, keeps the household to- wi,;"n.er. When she dies, Father, an unsuccessful tn_ear, whose most attractive characteristic is ci

miration for Raymond Chandler, makes atte

4atn 'TIP( to cope. New arrivals next door, an can r?pologist and his neurotic wife, think they jeaid_nell). Instead they work out their own us.ies in rival championship of the children. ter`She';girlEmmie, is the most interesting charac- ' ticularl attempts to protect all her family, par- ki_ Y Oliver, the youngest, a beautiful !clatornaniac child with I Stoll th a Char es Addams pas- and Well brewing spells. The book is realistic 4ell put together. Fortunately a welcome 6uness underlies the snug surface.