Daily prompt: Why I will never write The Great Australian Novel


All I ever really wanted to do from a very early age was write, and by the time I left school, I hadn’t changed my mind. But this was a very long time ago when children still listened to their parents’ advice, and mine pointed out that it might be wise to go to university first and rack up a few qualifications, to help me keep the wolf from the door until I acquired fame and fortune as a literary genius.

So I did (for a while, though not long enough to rack up the qualifications, but that’s another story), and while I was there, I verified once and for all what I had always suspected: that I would never write The Great Australian Novel.

This knowledge, I have to say, didn’t fill me with great despair or a sense of failure. I didn’t want to write The Great Australian Novel.  In order to be The Great (Anywhere) Novel, your precious opus must be acclaimed by the literati and the intelligentsia, and to achieve that, it must be so deep and meaningful it borders on the opaque – if indeed, it doesn’t fall right over the edge.

This is all well and good if literary opacity floats your boat, but it never did float mine – much to the horror of my eldest sister, who lectured me long and often on the subject. She seemed to think that since I had the intelligence to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest this stuff, I owed it to (someone/something unspecified) to do so (but that is also another story).

As for writing deep and meaningful opacity – I don’t have it in me. Deep as a puddle – meaningful as pollie-speak – opaque as clear glass – who knows. What I do know is that if I sat here trying, I’d be bored so rigid I’d be spending any potential profits on visits to the chiropractor.



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9 Responses to Daily prompt: Why I will never write The Great Australian Novel

  1. Thomas Ward says:

    Thank you for the … clarification, so to speak. 🙂

  2. You always leave me with a smile.
    Now I must get up from behind this keyboard or I too will need chiropractic intervention!

  3. I don’t know about the opacity thing. The Great American Novel is thought to be Huckleberry Finn and that’s just a great story. Sure, the wankers read into it, but what they read into it is not what makes it a great book, or, more precisely, a great American book. It couldn’t have been written about any other place or time AND it’s fun to read.

    But I get it, and I’m never going to write the NEXT Great American Novel because — bottom line — no one wants to publish my novels and hardly anyone wants to read them, and, so far, none of them have been set in America. There’s just so many ways NOT to do this. 🙂

    • I know you’re right. I just get so very tired of the wankers. It’s possibly even more obvious in poetry, where clarity seems incompatible with ‘worth’.

      • Ah. I noticed in my Yeats seminar that much of what was “opaque” (and therefore meaningful) in his poetry were the very simple images that were just out of everyone’s life experience but were a common part of people in 19th century early 20th century Ireland. I think the wankers make things deep so they have job security. There’s a poem by Yeats in which the speaker is watching a parade. Yeats makes this clear by saying that a “thigh” went by. I remember the seminar going nuts over this image — was it an evocation of the horrors of war? Dismemberment etc.? No. It was a parade. Yeats was describing (very literally) a guy on horseback. I finally said so and the professor looked at me as if I were a sage. God I’m glad I didn’t go for a PhD in that shit. It would have destroyed forever my love of poetry.

  4. Job security and a constant massage of their [sic] intellectual superiority. I always find it interesting to read the poems that win competitions. So many of them strike me as an exercise in massaging the intellectual superiority of the judges as well as the entrants. Or just a wank – but that would be my cynicism speaking. (I don’t enter myself, know I am far too simplistic.)

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