Wednesday, 01 August 2012
The Hanging Garden by Patrick White
[Comments by a reader of no repute]
I have finally read The Hanging Garden by Patrick White, Australian writer and Nobel Prize winner 1973. I managed to finish the unpretentious looking novel of 215 pages but can hardly wait to get back to the novel I put on hold to do so.
This posthumously published and unedited work, I believe didn’t live up to its resurrection and sleeping dogs should have been left to lie in eternal obscurity.
My personal uneducated opinion, yes, but I am a reader of books of all genres and regularly explore new writers or established writers, I haven’t read before. So as a member of the reading public, my opinion should be of some value. I add here I did not, or ever will, purchase this book to read. I waited on the booking list at my local library to borrow it. I’m glad I saved my money.
I read with interest the comments of David Marr, White’s biographer at the end of the story and am glad I read them where they were, at the end, as they didn’t sway my opinion. He reveals the journey of this story prior to it’s deliverance to the publisher.
It seems that Patrick White never actually meant for it to be published at all. It was his unfinished symphony and I think he would be doing cartwheels in his grave if he knew this book was now available, in its skeletal form, as he himself is.
There are passages of utter waffle where the thread of the story meanders like a brook in need of a good rain, struggling over cascades, trying desperately to cover the ground intended.
Yes, it may have had some worth if White had finished it; But Ms Mobbs (his secretary), in a fervour to delight the charities named in his will, certainly not to re-inflate her own ego, did it for him and exposed only whispers of a story that could have and would have, been better than it is here.
White panders to societal whims in his prose with a plethora of words, most of which even he, I hope, would have edited. A dandy of high repute, a sycophant of the worst kind, toadying to the world of literary elite and publishers in general, particularly in his early years. I believe the critics of his earlier novels who perceived him as a misogynist would have seen traces of it here too, in spite of Blanche Clark's staunch rebuttal.
Every female in this story suffers at his hands. Oh yes, Mr White, I see now why you turned away from Australian shores, shunned by Australian publishers to pander to those of the Motherland with your grandiose language which leaves the average Australian reader grasping for something more worthy.
I daresay literary experts would laugh me out of any debate on the subject but I am what I am, a reader of books I find entertaining, that cause my bookshelves to sag under their weight. Books I have enjoyed so much I have read them numbers of times and struggle with my inner self occasionally, as to whether I should look for something new, or reread an old favourite I know I wont be disappointed in.
Time is the essence at my age; I must use it prudently. So in my honest opinion, The Hanging Garden, is not worth the read, but for this has been an interesting exercise. For me Patrick White is not a reader's writer and I am glad I have finally overcome my feeling of inadequacy in my past failures to read his books.
I’m off to pick up that which has been beckoning me from my bedside table these past few nights, Echoes From a Distant Land by Frank Coates, a new novelist on my reading list and I have started with his most recently published (2012) seventh novel.
It is a rollicking good yarn and I am sure I will make time to read more of Mr Coates, Australian author and South African raconteur.
[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]