HOLDEN'S PERFORMANCE book cover   Holden's Peformance
Murray Bail

Cover painting: detail from The Tram 1952 by John Brack.

Dustjacket synopsis:
"Holden's Performance is the epic story of the four stages of the life of Holden Shadbolt. In his matter-of-factness, Holden passes through the Australian landscape, seeing the world around him flicking by in black and white. Holden develops a reputation for silence and reliability, and for an amazing photographic memory, making him useful to men of power and women who appear to need protection. His life moves him from the straight tramlines of Adelaide to the irregularities of Sydney, and on to Canberra, where the streets form ever-decreasing circles.

"Holden Shadbolt is surrounded by larger-than-life figures: Frank McBee, ebullient ex-corporal, scrap dealer and tycoon; Vern Hartnett, earnest proofreader, provider of a factual diet; the comely usherette next door, teacher of the facts of life; and finally Colonel Light, who beckons Holden to join his team of bodyguards to prime ministers."

"The clotted magnificence of this chortling midden of ratbags, pervs and wastrels does keep you reading." - Valentine Cunningham, The Observer
"Holden's Performance is a work of dazzling imagination." - Kate Saunders, The Independent

First Paragraph

When the last of the city's trams were removed with their poles and bells and the industrial paraphernalia of lines imposed on the mind's eye, it was as though a great net had been lifted clear of the city, letting in light. The trams had been inflicting all kinds of untold damage, running amok at will. Anyone living there beyond a certain length of time was in danger of becoming marked, ruled by inner grooves.

Day after day, for years on end, the heavy oblong shapes had been lumbering backards and forwards across the field of vision and conversations, or there'd be one travelling away in an absolute straight line, its pole waving, demonstrating the laws of perspective, which is how they entered the souls of generations.

From the Penguin paperback edition, 1988.

This page and its contents are copyright © 2002 by Perry Middlemiss, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

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Last modified: April 29, 2002.