When you read do you come across passages that you just want to hang onto forever – but (if you’re a blogger) when you go to write your blog review you can’t quite make them fit? I do, and have been pondering for some time what to do about it. Then, suddenly, it came to me. How about a series of posts comprising favourite bits from books (and other writing)? And so, “Delicious descriptions from Down Under” was born. The posts will be occasional – and some times more occasional than others – but I’ll just see where it takes me.
For my first one, I couldn’t go past Barbara Hanrahan‘s The scent of eucalyptus (1973) which I reviewed recently. It’s full of “delicious descriptions” but the one I wanted to share has to do with the Sun, with, specifically, hot sunny days in the city of Adelaide. I was in Adelaide on a scorchingly hot long January weekend many moons ago, and haven’t forgotten it. Here is Hanrahan:
The sun is everywhere.
It is in the garden: peering huge-eyed over the berry bush, roosting behind the chimney, floating like a fried egg in puddles. It mocks me when I burn my bare feet on the earth and scorch my fingers on the iron fence. It peels my nose to jigsaw puzzles, gilds my skin with freckles, turns the hair on my arms to gold.
It is in the house: spangling the passage with leopard spots, turning the sheepskin rug tawny, casting zebra stripes through the shutters. It curdles the milk, melts the butter, shows the dust, fades the curtains. It steals into vases and drinks their water; creeps up the cold tap and turns it hot.
Such intense summer heat that goes on for days is typically – though not solely I know – Australian. I love the way she gives the sun life, the way she mixes up her imagery and yet consciously but not rigidly uses a symmetrical structure to make it read more like poetry than prose. It works beautifully – for me, anyhow.