Classic: Thea Astley
- Author: Thea Astley
- Title: Hunting the Wild Pineapple (8 stories)
- Published: 1979
- List Reading Challenges 2018
- Monthly reading planning
- I love a good short story.
- Usually I review just one story to post on this blog.
- W. Trevor and John Updike are favorites of mine,
- ..but a collection is the hardest thing to review.
- I want to give Thea Astley the attention she deserves and
- …have spent 4 days reading eight short stories!
- I felt only a few of the selections were real short stories.
- Instead Astely uses each ‘story’ as a continuation of
- Keith’s thoughts and adventures in Queensland.
- A short story must come to the point!
- A short story must reveal in 1st or 2nd
- paragraph the mood, theme and conflict.
- Astley fails on this point.
- In The Curate Breaker there was a clear conflict
- between the Catholic priest and Anglican minister.
- The resolution was believable and touching.
- This story made this reader pause and think.
- I read these eight stories and have reviewed four.
- The first story was a disappointment and
- …I had to push myself to read the rest of the book.
- I was expecting a short story and got what sounded
- …like the exposition of a novel!
- So you’ve been warned: the first story is a dud.
- But I kept reading…giving Astely a chance to improve!
4 REVIEWS I’ll let you discover the rest yourself!
North: Some Compass Readings: Eden
- Setting: Carins
- Title: refers to the first two sentences:
- “Let me draw you a map…put it just north of 20 and 146 east…
- sea bitten rind of coast…limbo for those who’ve lost direction.”
- Parents: Iris and Bernard are exact opposites:
- Iris: gorges on horoscopes, sports a lucky color and
- it always seems to be the Ides of March.
- Bernard: jocular, jaunty and tips his son an unsmiling
- wink as he he rattles his newspaper busily.
- Narrator: Keith Leverson
- Note: Iris, Bernard and Keith are
- characters are from Astley’s book The Slow Natives.
- A suburban couple, Iris and Bernard,
- …have drifted into the shallows of middle-aged boredom.
- Their fourteen-year-old son, Keith is a stranger.
- Fourteen-year-old son, Keith is now
- middle-aged, thinning blond hair and
- ..has lost one leg in a car accident
- …that was central in the book The Slow Natives.
- Keith sets out on a journey from Carins
- to Falls Gorge on the Kuranda railway.
- Keith/Astley rants about the influx of lean, arrogantly young
- Balmain and South Yarra drop-outs,
- the new urban trendies and
- the middle-aged straights trying to adopt the patois and local dress.
- Theme: landscape is beautiful in Queensland
- ….but you get more magic from strangers (the misfits).
Weak point: allusions
- The use of allusions in Astley’s novels is
- one of the elements of her style that I enjoy reading.
- But in her short stories I think she has
- overreached herself and lost much of her focus.
Weak point: Tone
- The tone achieved by the use of allusions
- shifted from imaginative in her novels...
- to pedantic in the short stories.
- This was NOT an easy read.
- Astley starts her story in the present but
- flashbacks to a month ago, then yesterday,
- …then the present again.
- It was hard to follow.
- The author makes it even more complex….
- by filling the story with too many allusions.
- Brilliant writing….but not a well-balanced story.
- Thea Astely’s novels? TOP!
- Thea Astely’s short stories? Not her strong point!
- Allusion: poem Trade Winds by J. Masefield
- Allusion: Shakespeare’s Hamlet
- Allusion: to Virgil “Sera comans, Iris” (the late blooming…)
- Allusion: D.H. Lawrence poem Green:
- “…the gorge is evaporating in green light,
- green into greeness as Lawrence might have said…”
- ... Astely assumes we all know who Lawrence is.
The Curate Breaker
- This was a normal short story….a pleasure to read
- …with a beginning, middle and end.
- The story centers around an insanely bitter conflict
- between the Roman Catholic priest and the Anglican canon.
- Father Rassini and Canon Morrow are at odds
- …but their lives are heartbreakingly parallel.
- The tragedy is….neither the priest nor the canon
- see their uncharitable behavior.
- Canon Morrow flatters and shields his ego from blame
- when we make mistakes (berating his wife…severely, angrily)
- because he is doing God’s work.
- Father Rassini observes this behavior and is appalled.
- But this suave man of God realizes he is no better than Canon Morrow.
- Father Rassini has callously ill-treated his father
- …snapping and shouting at him when the elderly parent falters.
- Father Rassini suddenly leaves the house after seeing
- his frail, grey parent shelling peas for the evening meal.
- Father Rassini must spend some quiet time with God,
- asking Him to show him where he needs to change.
Hunting the Wild Pineapple
- I was hoping to have a great time enjoying
- Astley’s humor and finding out what
- in heaven’s name the wild pineapple meant.
- My enthusiasm waned.
- Why do bad souffles happen to good cooks?
- Why do dull stories….happen to good writers?
- This story started out with Astley’s keen observation of bored
- people at a tropical Bed and Breakfast
- …where the pink gin, vodkas on ice
- …and stingers kept the guests
- in a permanent ‘happy-hour’.
- There was some sexual tension arising among
- B&B owner, guests and two plantation workers (gay and bi).
- But nothing that made the story shine.
- Hunting the Wild Pineapple was a hoax to
- …take bored and slightly tipse guests
- …on a wild goose chase.
- This story had so much potential
- ..and I hoped it would entertain me as much as
- Boat Load of Home Folk,
- but this short story sadly #Collapsed.
A Northern Belle
- Astley uses no alcohol, no allusions only Clarice’s tears and embedded fears:
- Fear black men instilled by her mother
- Fear of sins of the flesh instilled by the nuns, Mother Suplice.
- Irony: her mother was determined her daughter Clarice would marry well
- ….but her only true love was Bixer, her dog.
- Weak point:
- There is no real epiphany, no redemptive moment.
- Just a sad life that ends with a traumatized unmarried
- …50 yr old woman….screaming.
- #Disappointing, lacking imagination.
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