Saturday, June 3, 2017


A  special  1980   issue  of  the London Magazine, a respected literary publication,  dealing  with   Australia has come our  way  with   interesting observations  about  the  American  influence on   the  nation .

The  magazine  had  previously  devoted  an  issue to  Australia  in  September  1962 which  had   included   Patrick White's long story A Cheery Soul, a discussion of Sidney Nolan  imagery , poems by  Judith Wright  and Randolph  Stow, articles by Ray Matthew  and Alan Seymour , a memoir by Hal Porter , the novels of  Patrick White , Ray Lawler's Summer of the Seventeenth Doll .
Ian  Ross , who compiled the material  for the  l980 special ,   had  visited  the country in  1955 and  l963  . He   said   that  there  seemed to  be less sense   abroad  at  the start of  the  l980s  of  any  specific  Australian  identity  than  there  was  in  1962.  When  he  lobbed here   in  March  1980   to prepare  this issue  he observed Australia  had  changed in  appearance and  habit  since  his  earlier  visits . 
Australians  in 1980  seemed  little  worried about " marsupial relationships " or problems of  national  identity.  We  were  closer to California  than Britain  and  our  cities  were  developing  along  American  lines.

Americans were  also influencing  the way  the younger generations of Australians  wrote   and   painted .  It was  inevitable  that  Australians looked increasingly across the  Pacific  or  up  to Asia  rather  than to  Europe .

Poems in the issue had been selected by  Les Harrop, editor  of the Melbourne literary journal Helix ; Christine  Godden , director of the "adventurous Australian Centre   for  Photography, " Sydney , had  helped choose  photographs , which  included  some of studies  by  Bill Henson , the subject of  controversy in  recent times .

 The contents  attempted to give an idea of what  was going on  in Australia   at the start of  the  l980s. Gary Catalano suggested a new relationship between  painters and the landscape.  Poet  and   academic  Vincent Buckley wrote about Australian racing  . A former  editor of the Sydney Morning Herald  J. D. Pringle  wrote about  Australian communes in a  new book . There were articles on theatre,  David Williamson's  latest  play, George Johnston's novels  .  A colourful, illustrated  article  about  lawless   prawn   fishing  in  the  Gulf  of   Carpentaria tells how skippers  fire  at each other  with  shotguns and   Karumba, in Queensland ,  is said  to be a  wild  west  town  full of " fucking  misfits", which no doubt  would  have   caused  shivering  British readers to  think  twice  about   moving  to  the  sunny  colonies .   
Advertisements in the magazine included  one for  Peter Carey's The Fat Man In History  to  which  he  could   add   more  flab  by   writing about some of the tubby  , big  jowled   Conservatives   in  Australia , especially in  Queensland , not to  forget  a  former certain  NSW pollie in America  where the   food servings  are  huge . And  dear Dame Edna  is  shown here  with  a Treasury of  Australian Kitsch , said  to  be a feast of  bad taste , her best hat modelled along the lines of the Sydney Opera  House.  The  back and front cover from  Shopping Day by Russell Drysdale .