In his two books, The Day of the Dog and Going Home} Archie Weller has established himself as the leading chronicler of the lives of urban and fringe Aboriginals. His narratives are searing and depressing accounts of an existence which affords few gratifications and is irretrievably circumscribed by white power. Only very occasionally in Weller’s fiction is there any fruitful and productive contact between Aboriginal and white,2 and even when this occurs the effect is quickly swept away by events. The narratives are almost invariably closed. Where they do not end in actual death they involve either a return to jail or a definitive repudiation of former hopes. Unlike the Maori writers, Patricia Grace and Witi Ihimaera, who often write about incidents in Maori life or Maori-Pakeha relationships which allow for a redirection of attitudes and a future, Weller’s stories take the shape of representative life sagas ending in tragedy or stultification whether they are extended account as in The Day of the Dog or ‘Cooley’ or whether they are only a few pages in length like ‘Pension Day’. Sometimes the life can even be summed up in an aphorism: ‘Cooley, the dreamer. Cooley, the hate-filled and hated half-caste, Cooley, the dead boy.’ (p. 212)
Tiffin, Chris, Relentless Realism: Archie Weller’s Going Home, Kunapipi, 10(1), 1988.