Book Review: Stream System: The Collected Short Fiction of Gerald Murnane

These Stories Paint a Picture of the Australia Murnane Grew Up In 

Gerald Murnane’s characters and their experiences bear a striking resemblance to the author himself and to his own experiences. In these fiction stories, Murnane paints a picture of places in Southeastern Australia where he himself grew up. His characters lives among the yellow-brown grassland, pale blue skies and grey sea. They are surrounded by dairy farms, hills and rivers. He writes in the third person, often referring to someone as the “chief character” in the story when describing what they’re doing, and while Murnane often uses repetitive language, for him, it is intentional and serves a literary purpose.

He writes from the point of view of either a boy or a man, and sometimes both, jockeying back and forth from the present day to the man’s past as a child or young man. His descriptions are easy to visualize, such as “the man with a thick moustache” or “the wooden-faced woman in a white frock.” Like Murnane himself, his characters are avid readers; they quote poetry, and dabble in writing fiction or poetry themselves. By the time you get to the last page, you’ll feel in many ways as if you know the author better than when you turned the first page.

About The Author

Gerald Murnane was born in Melbourne in 1939. He has been a primary teacher, an editor and a university lecturer. His debut novel, Tamarisk Row (1974), was followed by nine other works of fiction, including The Plains now available as a Text Classic, and most recently A Million Windows. In 1999 Murnane won the Patrick White Award and in 2009 he won the Melbourne Prize for Literature. His ‘Memoir of the Turf’, Something for the Pain, was published to great acclaim in 2016. Gerald Murnane lives in western Victoria.

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Article originally Published in the February/March 2020 Issue “Short Stories”

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