XAVIER HERBERT book cover Xavier Herbert
Edited by Frances de Groen and Peter Pierce

Cover design by Craig Glasson using Ron Edwards's portrait of Xavier Herbert

Dustjacket synopsis:
"'Capricornia is...the best written and finest spirited novel that has ever come out of Australia.'

"H.G. Wells penned this high opinion of Xavier Herbert in 1939. In the half century since then, Herbert's work has excited many other readers and critics.

"This volume is designed to convey a sense of the scope of Xavier Herbert's vast output, with a selection that confronts broad issues such as nationalism, the land, Aborigines, sex and gender, and the role of the creative artist.

"Extracts from all of Xavier Herbert's major works are provided, along with some significant and hitherto unpublished material, as well as a range of polemical and autobiographical material.

"The lengthy sampling of his better known works will serve as an enticement to further reading of a writer whose challenging fiction has always generated controversy and reached a wide popular audience."

Notes on the editors:
Frances de Groen is a senior lecturer in Australian Literature at the University of Western Sydney. She has published a number of books and articles on Australian writers, and is currently working on a biogrpahy of Xavier Herbert.

Peter Pierce lectures in the National Centre for Australian Studies at Monash University. He has written and edited a number of books, including The Oxford Literary Guide to Australia, and is a frequent contributor of book reviews to various publications.

1 Short Fiction
Editors' Note
Miss Tanaka
Kaijek the Songman
My Thosandeth Death

2 Capricornia
Editors' Note
Chapter 1, The Coming of the Dingoes
from Chapter 10, In the Midst of Life We are in Death
Chapter 14, Peregrinations of a Busybody
from Chapter 15, Machinatons of a Jinx
Chapter 22, Song of the Golden Beetle

3 Ideas for Stories
Editors' Note
Ideas for Stories

4 The Little Widow
Editors' Note
Chapter 3

5 Seven Emus
Editors' Note
from Chapter 9

6 Soldiers' Women
Editors' Note
Chapter I, part iii
Chapter V, part ii
from Chapter XXII, part iv

7 Disturbing Element
Editors' Note
from Chapter 2
from Chapter 4

8 Poor Fellow My Country
Editors' Note
from Chapter 1
from Chapter 8
from Chapter 19
from Chapter 24

9 Me and My Shadow
Editors' Note
from Chapter III

10 Articles, Speeches, Interviews
Editors' Note
Autobiographical Letter, 1928
Lynch 'Em, 1938
Interview b W.J. Miles, 1938
Autobiographette, 1938
A Town Like Elliott, 1962
Editors' Note
Australia has the Black Pox, 1978
Interview by Peter Corris< 1979

11 Letters and Literary Logs
Editors' Note
P.R. Stephenson - April 1934
Arthur Dibley - c. Easter 1935
Arthur Dibley - c. late April-early May 1936
Arthur Dibley - 30 June 1936
Jean Devanny - 11 February 1939
Walter Cousins - 6 February 1940
Ian Mudie - 23 November 1940
Ian Mudie - 4 February 1941
Clem Christesen - 19 October 1941
from Literary Logs, 1950-1955
Secretary, Commonwealth literary Fund - September 1956
Sadie - 27 June 1966
Sadie - 6 September 1968
Sadie - 11 October 1968
from Literary Log, 22 October 1971
from Literary Log, 25 October 1971
Laurie Hergenhan - 11 December 1971
Beatrice Davis - 12 April 1972
Rt. Hon. Gough Whitlam - 27 January 1973

Select Bibliography

First Paragraph from the Introduction

The project of assembling a single volume selection of the works Xavier Herbert provides greater challenges than it would in the case of many other Australian prose authors. At his best Herbert was able to discipline himself to brevity and concision, but his natural bent was in the direction of prolixity and melodramatic excess. It was not unusual for him to belabour a regular correspondent with ten or more closely written pages or to hypnotise a listener with literally hours of rambling if fascinating monologue. Interviews with Herbert invariably turned into marathons. His longer fictions (some very long indeed), recapitulative and repetitive, evolved over years and reformulated what are essentially the same "plots" across different narrative terrains. To excerpt, however successfully, from lengthier pieces, or to select only those rare items which are brief and self-contained, is to provide a distorted impression of what is a much "larger" literary talent and a unified, if varied, literary performance.

From the UQP paperback edition, 1992.

This page and its contents are copyright © 2001 by Perry Middlemiss, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

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Last modified: September 27, 2001.