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My literary week (16), Values and truth

March 13, 2020

Wow, it’s been a year since my last literary week post. How did that happen? I have had many literary weeks since then – haha – including a few that I even thought writing about, but each time something got in the way. This time, though, I’m not letting it …

Family values …

I was inspired to write this post by seeing a performance of Australian playwright David Williamson’s latest (and possibly last) play, Family values, this week. It is quintessential Williamson, I’d say – a satire in which a contemporary issue/ethical or moral concern is explored during an event or tightly defined period, in this case a retired judge’s 70th birthday party for “family only”. (Don’s party, for example, is set during an election night party, The club takes place over a football season, and Travelling north during a family holiday, to name a few well-known examples.)

What Williamson does is use satire to skewer some aspect of modern Australian life and values. In Family values, his target is our treatment of asylum-seekers/refugees. So, we have the successful but conservative recently retired judge Roger, and his tolerant but definitely not down-trodden wife, Sue, preparing for the birthday party. They are joined by their three, all divorced, adult children – daughter Lisa who arrives early with the recently medevac’d and now escaped refugee Saba, born-again Hillsong devotee Michael, and Emily who brings her partner Noelene. Lisa’s plan is to get Saba away to the family holiday house before Emily and Noelene, Border Force employees both, arrive. Of course, she doesn’t, and the stage is set for a family conflagration over values, priorities, and politics – all complicated by longheld childhood grievances.

It was highly entertaining as Williamson always is. I’m sure most of us watching could see bits of ourselves, and/or of our lives, in one or more of the characters. The set was effective, with its central staircase going nowhere, the actors did excellent jobs with their parts, and there were genuinely funny moments, but the satire was a little too obvious and some of the speeches were just that much too preachy and declamatory for me*. Mr Gums found it distressing because of the cruel intractability of our government’s attitude to asylum-seekers, but I’m afraid I was somewhat distracted by the play’s didacticism, despite its heartbreaking theme. However, the play’s heart is absolutely in the right place and I did enjoy the evening.

Behrouz Boochani, No friend but the mountainsCoincidentally, we are currently watching and enjoying the new Australian television series Stateless, which is also about our cruel mismanagement and mistreatment of asylum-seekers. It, though, is drama, and so quite different to Williamson’s satirical approach. All of this has reminded me that I need to read Behrouz Boochani’s No friend but the mountains, which will give me a first person account of what it’s like to be an asylum-seeker to Australia.

Miss Fisher … an interlude

We also saw, in the last week, the Australian feature film, Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears, which was inspired by the very popular Australian television series Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, which itself was inspired by the popular Phryne Fisher 1920s-30s set detective novels by Australian novelist Kerry Greenwood. It was fun, but, although I like much of screenwriter Deb Cox’s work, this story and the production pushed my disbelief beyond my comfort level. However, as always, I did love Phryne’s clothes and derring-do!

Quote of the week

Hilary Mantel, Bring up the bodiesHaving included a Quote of the Week in my last two literary week posts, I’m continuing the tradition. This post’s quote, coming from Hilary Mantel’s Bring up the bodies (my review), is, however, not new:

What is the nature of the border between truth and lies? It is permeable and blurred because it is planted thick with rumour, confabulation, misunderstandings and twisted tales. Truth can break the gates down, truth can howl in the street; unless truth is pleasing, personable and easy to like, she is condemned to stay whimpering at the back door.

Like most, I read Bring up the bodies soon after it came out, but I have just seen this quote in the free little reading guide – The world of Wolf Hall – which I picked up in our local independent bookstore, Harry Hartog, last weekend. It is one of the guide’s two epigrams, and seems strangely applicable to our times! I’ll leave it with you …

* That said, I did love Williamson’s “going forward” joke.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. March 13, 2020 10:12 pm

    Heavens ! – a sort of mini ST diary ! 🙂
    Most enjoyable.
    I intend to binge-watch the entire “Stateless” series when it’s finished on air. Do not ask me why: I just do.

  2. March 13, 2020 10:47 pm

    Well then, I won’t ask – though I will wonder all the same, M-R!! (Seriously though I understand the joy of binge watching.)

  3. March 14, 2020 12:04 am

    I’m not a Williamson fan – the Ken Done of Australian drama – but that’s just me being Melbourne centric.

    I love the Phyrne Fisher books – and yes it is hist.fict with a modern sensibility, done with a wink which obviates all the offence. But I thought the few TV episodes I watched got the tone quite wrong, sleazy.

    • March 14, 2020 8:43 am

      Ah that’s interesting re Phryne Fisher TV series, Bill. I haven’t really found it sleazy, but I haven’t read the books.

      • March 14, 2020 9:19 am

        The Phryne Fisher books, and Tomorrow the War Began were my introduction to audio books. Try just one Phryne (and not an Earthly Delights by mistake) on your next trip.

        • March 14, 2020 10:50 am

          Ok, that’s a really great idea Bill. I’ll put that in my list so I don’t forget.

  4. March 14, 2020 9:21 am

    One of our friends, Andrew Nolte is a jazz singer in that film. We’re promising ourselves to go and see it, but we’ll probably end up waiting for the DVD like we usually do.
    I’ve been watching Stateless too, plus endless stuff on SBS On demand and ABC iView. Already I am sucked into series 2 of The Heights, which LOL is even more of an ideologically sound soap opera. Before the eye op, I made a list of all the French movies on SBS and am working my way through those, a very mixed bunch so far, and a bit of a challenge when the sub-titles are a blur, but a good contrast to their crime series with all that blood and gore. Nothing like The Father Brown Mysteries that I used to watch with Daddy, or The Bill!

    • March 14, 2020 9:49 am

      The Jazz was fun in the movie Lisa. And yes we’ve been sucked into The Heights too. It has enough social issues till makes it interesting doesn’t it?

      Good on you with your French movie plan. We are so lucky with all the technology available to us today to help us in different situations.

      • March 14, 2020 3:59 pm

        Indeed we are. Social-distancing isn’t going to be as hard for us as it is for some people.

  5. March 14, 2020 4:03 pm

    Very true.

  6. March 15, 2020 11:08 am

    Both Stateless and No Friend are on my TBW/TRR lists… I almost need a CoVID19 lockdown so that I can get some uninterrupted viewing and reading done… !

    I have never got on with Mantel but that quote is terrific.

    • March 15, 2020 11:20 am

      What a shame re Mantel Kate … but we can’t get on with them all. I’m glad you appreciated the quote. 😀

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