The long hand of Murray Bail: travel and writing
Murray Bail was one of the 'new generation' fiction writers of 1970s Australia who looked beyond the national boundaries to bring fresh vision to the increasingly familiar images of cultural identity circulating in literature. Affordable air travel was possibly the major factor in producing a change of outlook from either the Bush or Britain, although some writers (Christopher Koch, for example) had already taken ships abroad and begun the trend towards Asian adventures. Critical response to Bail's work has, however, been largely confined to musings on the literary image of the nation, helped along by his early reconstruction of Russell Drysdale and Henry Lawson in his version of 'The Drover's Wife'. Homesickness is read as a story about Australians discovering the world and stamping their mark on it as inveterate tourists full of risible Barry McKenzie anxieties and brashness. Holden's Performance is self-evidently a social panorama of post-War Australia in A. D. Hope-ish satirical tones, and EucalyptHs is both a retreat to the rural bush enclosure and a national 'coming of age' effected by access to the global myth kitty. If nation is not the focus of response, then Bail is seen as a writer interested in language itself -not unlike the more recent settler in Bail's birthplace, J. M. Coetzee.