In the autumn of 2017 I wrote the critical portion of my MFA thesis on the Australian author Gerald Murnane. I cannot remember the last time I discovered an author as stimulating as Murnane. I read a great deal of stylistically or structurally adventurous prose. I like and study other kinds of writing, too, obviously. But I have become increasingly invested in what I think of as more innovative kinds of prose fiction. Well, I can’t remember the last time I discovered an author as fresh and brilliant as Murnane. He’s not everyone’s cup of tea, however, I realize that. I would like someday to publish — in a respectable venue, not among these scattered thoughts — an essay explaining what I think are Murnane’s unique achievements and contributions to the art of prose fiction. But here, for now, I’m just going to offer a couple of big quotations, in the second of which you will see the source of the new name of this blog.
I have always been interested in what is usually called the world but only insofar as it provides me with evidence for the existence of another world. I have never written any piece of fiction with the simple purpose of understanding what I might call the real world. I have always written fiction in order to suggest to myself that another world exists. And whenever I have read a piece of fiction that seemed to me worthy to be read, whether the author of that fiction was myself or another person, I have always read with the purpose of suggesting to myself that a world might exist beyond the world suggested by the fiction, even if that further world was suggested only by such passages in the fiction as a report of the narrator’s reading a text the he could not understand or of a character’s dreaming a dream that was not reported in the text. (Stream System: the collected short fiction of Gerald Murnane, p.466)
That’s from Murnane’s story, “The Interior of Gaaldine.” Next is a passage from near the end of his novel, Barley Patch. But first I will tell you that the subtitle of the story just mentioned reads, “A true account of certain events recalled on the evening when I decided to write no more fiction.” Murnane did in fact stop writing fiction for a long time, about fifteen years. Or at least he stopped publishing it during that time. Barley Patch comes from his later golden period, after that hiatus, a burst of productivity that has only just concluded with the publication of Border Districts, which the author has announced will be his final work of fiction. Here is the passage from Barley Patch, which was first published in Australia in 2009. I quote from the American edition (Dalkey Archive) of 2011:
Now, I was free to suppose what I had often suspected: many a so-called fictional character was not a native of some or another fictional text but of a further region never yet written about. Such a character looked often from the region of the text towards that further region or dreamed about it. Such a character, perhaps, remembered often some or another personage who had never left that further region but remained safely there, never mentioned or referred to in any passage of fiction. Now, I might try to glimpse in my own mind some of what might be glimpsed in the mind or remembered or dreamed of but never written about. Now, I was justified in believing in the existence of places beyond the places that I had read about or had written about: of a country on the far side of fiction. (p.247)