"Another shed coming up on the horizon ... a low, wide roof of galvanised iron the only landmark in a million square miles of flatness and glare.
"Into the hard-living world of travelling shearers in the Australian outback comes acclaimed writer Roger McDonald, driving an old truck rattling with cooking gear. He has abandoned writing for a time and found work as a cook for a team of New Zealand shearers travelling through New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria. He is determined to find a sense of belonging: somehow to join his life with the landscape, the places and the people he meets along the way.
"Shearers' Motel is the record of that quest, of its triumphs and its failures - a story told with a heartfelt sense of the profundity of ordinary lives.
"Written with an insider's affection and familiarity sharpened by an outsider's perception, this moving account of working life in a classic Australian industry gives a new twist to a long tradition of outback travel writing. It confirms Roger McDonald as one of our finest and most lyrical chroniclers of the land."
"Roger McDonald uses language with the precision of a diamond cutter." - US Publishers Weekly
He wanted to say no to melons like Bertram Junior had. He wanted to lie all day on a mattress, chin on his hands like Louella. He wanted to be hard like Lenny, drinking everyone under the table and still be pulling another West End from the fridge when the breakfast bell rang. He wanted to name who liked work, and who was afraid of work. He wanted to give Betty the lowdown on unions, and withstand the glare of her husband, who only needed to shift sideways to crush him.
He wanted to be a nondrinker and a Christian. He wanted to sit on his throne of clouds like Harold. He wanted to let go, laugh, and be like a child. He wanted to tip buckets of water on Bradshaw, and walk in at lunch, look around, make that his meal, as Rocco had. Felled by labour, he wanted the solitude of his pride in the smoko room, speaking to no one. He wanted to put coloured beads in his hair like Jules, and wanted to say, 'A man of forty-five should know better'.
At the root of the work-ladder he wanted to be foul as Wade arriving from Charleville, tattered and snarling, beard singed by cigarette ash and full of sandwich crumbs. He wanted his T-shirt moth-eaten by waste. He wanted to declare: 'Write about me, but only write the truth'. He wanted his hopelessness strewn at the feet of mentors, male and female, mother and dad, uncle, cousin, big brother, teacher-substitutes awaiting his betrayal. He wanted to beat them all at chess. He wanted to be taken under the wing of people whose wisdom was a revelation and whose friendship was love, whose exasperation he could badmouth as know-nothingness. He wanted to journey inwards in destruction. He wanted to finish the year hated by all, Christlike in his truculence, ready to throw in the towel. He wanted to break into a stock agent's office, take the typewriters and computers, a load of unsaleable junk in a stolen van, that he would sell to a passer-by, and get what he wanted, be put under arrest, taken care of at last, a sort of paradise, a kind of death.
He wanted rest - to be the cook who could take no more, who served breakfast and shot through, like Hazel who wanted her life to consume her, leaving nothing else, no trace.
He wanted to find his own story.
From the Picador paperback edition, 1992.
This page and its contents are copyright © 2002 by Perry Middlemiss, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.Return to Roger McDonald Page.
Last modified: May 6, 2002.