A few months ago I wrote a Monday Musings on the representation of sheep – well, people who work with sheep anyhow – in Australian literature. I was therefore tickled when early in Patrick White’s Happy Valley, which I reviewed last week, he talks of men who work with sheep, as follows:
Men who work a lot in the open, especially men who work with sheep, have a habit of repeating things, even trivial things, several times, perhaps because conversation is scarce and it gives them a sense of company to have a phrase coming out of their mouths, even if the phrase is already stated. Clem Hagan was like this. He repeated a remark ponderously, sometimes with different intonation just for variety’s sake. He stared out in front of him with an expression that might have been interesting if you didn’t know it was due to his having spent most of his life looking into the distance for sheep. Anyone who stares long enough into the distance is bound to be mistaken for a philosopher or mystic in the end. But Hagan was no philosopher, that is, he searched no farther than the immediate, sensual reality, and this translated into simpler terms meant a good steak with juice running out at the sides, and blonde girls with comfortable busts.
White then goes on to describe a man who thinks he’s God’s gift to women – and whom many women, though it beats me why they do, let think so.