Delicious descriptions: Stephen Orr’s farm family
When I reviewed Stephen Orr’s farm-set novel, The hands, last week, I didn’t share many quotes as the post was getting rather long. I decided I’d use my Delicious Descriptions series instead! So, here are three excerpts to show you more of what I so enjoyed about Orr’s writing.
One aspect I really enjoyed was his dialogue, but it’s tricky choosing something that works out of context. However, here’s a discussion between parents Trevor and Carelyn, and their eldest son Aiden about whether he continues school to Year 12. Young brother Harry is there too:
‘Maybe there’s no point starting Year Twelve,’ Aiden suggested, looking at his parents.
‘Why not?’ Trevor asked, not entirely surprised.
‘Not if I’m gonna fail things.’
‘Why are you going to fail?’ Carelyn asked.
‘Maybe not fail, but get through with Cs.’
She crossed her arms. ‘You’re not a C student.’
‘It’s getting harder.’
‘So? You work harder. Year Twelve is minimum for anyone now.’
‘But what’s the point if —’
‘You. Will. Continue.’ She decided against the lecture. How he (Yes, you, look at me when I’m talking to you) was, for seven years, the best student in his School of the Air class; how he used to finish maths worksheets in minutes and spend half an hour waiting for others; always scored an A on tests and had a spelling age five years above his actual age.
‘It’s only another year,’ Harry said to his brother.
Aiden gave him his shut up, Shit-for-brains look. ‘It’s none of your business.’
‘You’re meant to set a good example.’
I don’t know about you, but I love this. It’s so “true”. I love the “gonna” for Aiden, and the “going to” for his Mum; I love big brother’s condescending-irritated-but-love-you-all-the-same “shit-for-brains” response to his brother; and I love the whole set up of the argument regarding the importance of education.
And here, without spoiling anything, is a description of what comes after an affair:
… It was more a case of what came next: the small wedding, in a small park; the moving van; the bathroom reclaimed by lavender soap and fresh towels; her, inserted into his life like a deep splinter; opinions floating through the air and settling on the floor like talc; fine words butter no parsnips; her laugh; bright dresses on the line beside their overalls and pyjamas …
But finally, of course, you need a description of the land:
Bundeena was marginal country. It could carry cattle, sparsely. To Trevor, this was where Australia became desert, where man — following the east-west railway, before it seriously set its sights on the Nullarbor — had given up on agriculture. Most men, at least. Except for them: sixth generation Beef Shorthorn producers who’d wrestled with the land for 130 years. This was country that hadn’t asked for farmers but had got them anyway. On the southern edge, the railway line, and to the north, nothing. They had neighbours to the east and west, but they may as well have been living in New Zealand.