Combined Reviews: Glissando by David Musgrave

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glissando.jpg    Glissando
David Musgrave
Sleepers Publishing

[This novel has been shortlisted for the 2011 Prime Minister's Literary Award - Fiction category.]

From the publisher's page:
When looking back over his life, Archie Fliess has got some understanding to do. So begins his sprawling reflection, from the day the fortunes of two brothers change when they're taken to be the rightful owners of their granfather's property in country NSW. Along their journey they're introduced to an odd collection of family and caretakers, who don't always have the boys' best interests at heart. Archie becomes embroiled in the mystery surrounding his grandfather's life, as their two stories of disappointment and failed ambition unravel.

Glissando travels along many threads with a playful, philosophical voice in a style reminiscent of Sterne's Tristram Shandy and White's Voss. It has a burlesque bravado similar to Steve Tolt's Fraction of the Whole. It's an Australia classic, a satirical romp of epic proportions.


Geordie Williamson in "The Australian": "Don't, whatever you do, mistake David Musgrave's first extended prose fiction for a novel...Recall instead the satires of Pope, Swift, Rabelais and Thomas Pynchon: parodists, whose intentions could not be more serious, storytellers whose characters are not facsimiles of the human so much as super-sized grotesques, scintillating minds on stilts...But Glissando is also something apart from these. Satire on the European model requires a shared moral framework, an unspoken agreement about what a culture's philosophical underpinnings may be. In these pages, an eccentric Viennese architect named Wilhelm Fliess arrives in rural NSW during the middle years of the 19th century, hopeful of building a house based on designs far from Europe's deadening norms. In keeping with his high-minded Mitteleuropean ideals, Wilhelm has legal documents drawn up to ensure that the traditional owners of the land he purchased will not be dispossessed...Like its great progenitors, Glissando is a work bursting with erudition on matters as various as architecture, music, gastronomy and psychoanalysis. It locates itself in a literary tradition two millenniums old. And yet, there are times when Musgrave leaves the reservation of morals and mores, abandons the blend of knockabout physical farce and pure intellectual play typical to such satire, and goes walkabout. He knows the alien nature of Australian experience has the potential to upset every Western assumption, however wittily stated or nobly deployed."

Genevieve Tucker on her "reeling and writhing" weblog: "Glissando is remarkably close to its name in its inception and execution: a ripple across strings previously played by others, to largely dramatic effect, with a melancholic afterglow...The strings have been noted by others - Murnane and White come to mind (think plains, hidden properties, maps, remarkable houses, Voss-like travels, a melancholy narrator.)...The problem with this book to me, if there is one at all (and I think I'm nitpicking when I say this), is that dipping into such a potent mix carries the hazard of producing a pastiche from the contents. I think Musgrave manages to avoid this, but it is a narrow escape...It is pretty much imperative that one has read Voss before reading this, and reading Gerald Murnane's The Plains wouldn't hurt either. Having read David Marr's biography of Patrick White just prior was, for this reader, one of those remarkable reading coincidences - is it accident that the Fliess grandfather is a great collector, as was one of White's uncles at the fabled Belltrees? I don't think so. That music has a dying fall indeed."

Lisa Hill on the "ANZ LitLovers" weblog: "There is no doubt about it: Australian writing has become much more interesting lately. For a while there our literary fiction was in danger of drowning in heavy-handed lyricism, with novels so weighed down by a sludge of symbols and metaphor that the hapless reader could hardly wade through it all. One after the other first-time novelists emerged from their respective creative writing schools in the same mould; it was not a good time to be a keen supporter of Australian literature!..But the recent crop of first time writers seem to be offering something new and playfully inventive. Glenda Guest entertains with magic realism in Siddon Rock, and now David Musgrave has come up with Glissando, a wonderfully comic pastiche deliberately drawing on literary traditions both familiar or obscure. "

Madeleine Smith for "Readings" bookshop: "As the title suggests, Glissando is a musical piece of writing, gliding effortlessly from one pitch to another. David Musgrave is a Sydney based poet-turned-novelist, and his talent for rhythm and imagery are apparent on every page. Told with wit and sharp humour, particularly when describing a series of fanciful and surreal theatre performances, Glissando is a story that shines with elegant prose, philosophical musings, and interesting snippets of early Australian colonial history."

Kimberley Chandler on "M/C Reviews" website: "The text is lyrical and descriptive, playful and beautifully structured. It is obvious that Musgrave's talent as a poet has been a strong driving force in the structure and development of this book."

Glissando was shortlisted for a 2011 New South Wales Premier's Award in the category of New Writing. The judges had this to say about the book: "This comic pastiche of a novel is a marvellous and witty tale of young Archie and his half-brother, Reggie, orphans who grow up fostered by the bizarre Madame Octave in an absurdist outback Australia peopled by exaggerated characters, hymned by wild music and ruled by ironic situations...While Musgrave plays shamelessly with literary allusions, Colonial history, food critics, obsessive architects, and our view of Australia as a tabula rasa to be built on, there is serious intent in his writing when he speaks of Australia's black history and the lack of restitution in a pre-Mabo world. This is a thoroughly contemporary novel, where the Theatre of the Absurd becomes real life, and where events point a wise finger at our national illusions."


Bookseller and Publisher
Jo Case for "Reading" bookshop.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on July 7, 2011 10:09 AM.

Reprint: Letter to the Editor: George Essex Evans was the previous entry in this blog.

Reprint: "The Secret Key": George Essex Evans's New Book is the next entry in this blog.

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