The Glass Canoe
"The Southern Cross is a pub, an old, battered and experienced place, somewhere in the centre of Sydney. Meat Man is a regular, a very regular regular, who views the world - the world of the pub and its clientele - through his beer glass, his glass canoe which transports them all to other worlds, worlds of fighting and loving and, above all, drinking.
"The grand saga of the Southern Cross or the tragic futility of humanity at a watering hole? Perhaps it's all to be taken on a bent elbow with another swallow."
"In a flash of inspired vision David Ireland has perceived that the real centre of Australian life, and the last shaky refuge from industrialism is the pub...which the novelist demonstrates and enlarges upon with great verve and menace and macabre humour." - Douglas Stewart, National Times
Down the back of the Southern Cross kids were shooting butterflies. Occasionally pellets tinkled harmlessly off the tinted glass windows of the saloon bar or made little dints in cars in the car park.
They never shot at the big neon sign riding high above the pub. It was a proud sign: THE SOUTHERN CROSS. They had a natural reverence for neon.
Butterflies flew free. They dazzled the eye and the mind with their freedom. Flight was something we could never know.
At night when the butterflies had gone to bed and there were no moving targets to hit, they'd pot fireflies. We don't get fireflies down the back of the Southern Cross; fireflies were street light globes. Somebody put little shields round the globes to keep out rocks from shanghais or the human arm, but BBs or slugs couldn't be kept out. Sometimes the street was in darkness for a mile in both directions. They were sodium lights. Perhaps that was the difference.
From the Penguin paperback edition, 1986.
This novel won the Miles Franklin Award in 1976.
This page and its contents are copyright © 1998-2001 by Perry Middlemiss, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.Return to David Ireland page.
Last modified: May 16, 2001.