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Dirt Musicby Tim Winton
Winner of the Australian Booksellers Association Book of the Year Award, 2002.
Shortlisted for the 2002 Man Booker Prize for Fiction
Winner of the 2002 Miles Franklin Award (Australia)
Undoubtedly one of the best novels published over the last several years, Dirt Music takes place in the wilds of Australia's West Coast. It follows the adventures (and misadventures) of a young poacher as he runs afoul of his village's headman, and is forced to flee, eventually finding himself in the great Australian wilderness area on the continent's Northwest coast. This is truly a great novel, filled with engaging characters, and an encyclopedic and dazzling array of allusions to music and literature going back several hundred years.
What propels this work is the intensity of Winton's very poetic style. A plot like this with these characters would typically make me tear my hair out with irritation. Under Winton's paternal guidance (not unlike Thomas Hardy's) I was consistently riveted and seductively drawn along. A wonderful read!
Synopses & Reviews
Tim Winton is sometimes likened to Cormac McCarthy, and while in Dirt Music Winton's wild west is the desert coastline of Western Australia, both men recreate a harsh landscape beset by scarred characters enduring violence, abandonment, and cruel twists of fate. Winton's seventh novel is set in an insular fishing town called White Point, whose inhabitants, a motley and sometimes terrifying bunch, are nicknamed "White Pointers." A complex relationship develops between the three main characters; Georgie Jutland, a restless forty-year-old whose drinking and insomniac internet browsing keeps her at a distance from her partner, the wealthy fisherman Jim Buckridge, and leads her to spy on, and eventually fall in love with, Luther Fox, an outcast poacher. The love triangle is twisted and despairing, fraught with regret and guilt, leading to a series of tragic misunderstandings. As the story unravels Winton mesmerizes with beautiful language, veering from the laconic to the poetic, and his pacing is calibrated to keep the most easily distracted of readers captivated. Short-listed for the Man Booker Prize, Dirt Music received rave reviews across the board — "[An] exhilarating multilayered amalgam of withering satire and beguiling character creation....A terrific novel. Winton's best yet." was the verdict from Kirkus, while the Washington Post raved, "If character were Winton's only strength, Dirt Music would still be a compelling story, but the author's understated, vivid language is entrancing." It is epic yet intimate, and a truly accomplished novel from one of Australia's most accomplished writers. Georgie, Powells.com
Luther Fox, a loner, haunted by his past, makes his living as an illegal fisherman — a shamateur. Before everyone in his family was killed in a freak rollover, he grew melons and played guitar in the family band. Robbed of all that, he has turned his back on music. There's too much emotion in it, too much memory and pain.
One morning Fox is observed poaching by Georgie Jutland. Chance, or a kind of willed recklessness, has brought Georgie into the life and home of Jim Buckridge, the most prosperous fisherman in the area and a man who loathes poachers, Fox above all. But she's never fully settled into Jim's grand house on the water or into the inbred community with its history of violent secrets. After Georgie encounters Fox, her tentative hold on conventional life is severed. Neither of them would call it love, but they can't stay away from each other no matter how dangerous it is — and out on White Point it is very dangerous.
Set in the dramatic landscape of Western Australia, Dirt Music is a love story about people stifled by grief and regret; a novel about the odds of breaking with the past and about the lure of music. Dirt music, Fox tells Georgie, is "anything you can play on a verandah or porch, without electricity." Even in the wild, Luther cannot escape it. There is, he discovers, no silence in nature.
Ambitious, perfectly calibrated, Dirt Music resonates with suspense and supercharged emotion — and it confirms Tim Winton's status as the preeminent Australian novelist of his generation.
"[An] exhilarating multilayered amalgam of withering satire and beguiling character creation — a more than worthy successor to [Winton's] critically acclaimed Cloudstreet and The Riders....Winton presents this uniquely textured fable of growth and change as a boisterous comedy....A terrific novel. Winton's best yet." Kirkus Reviews
"Dirt Music strikes with the force of a full-blown natural catastrophe — an intricately layered and impeccably executed novel that begins with a woman torn for the love of two men but escalates effortlessly into an examination of the central questions of human existence. The genius of Tim Winton is that for all of this he never loses his pacing, and the story lodges deeply within the reader. Dirt Music is that rare and wondrous thing — a novel that is impossible to put down and yet one read slowly for the diamond brilliance of each sentence. My hands were shaking when it finally came to an end." Jeffrey Lent, author of In the Fall
"Dirt Music plunges the reader straight into small-town life in Western Australia, where we find ourselves at once adrift and percussed by the tidal movements of love. Winton's prose has a shocking veracity, and a velocity that is intoxicating to behold." Gretel Erlich, author of The Solace of Open Spaces
"The stunning new narrative by Australian writer Winton (The Riders, nominated for the Booker), a tale of three characters' perilous journey into the Australian wilderness in efforts to escape and atone for their pasts, may just be his breakthrough American publication." Publishers Weekly
"If character were Winton's only strength, Dirt Music would still be a compelling story, but the author's understated, vivid language is entrancing....It feels awkward to enjoy the spell of such delicately rendered trauma, but Dirt Music's quiet intensity only tightens as the story evolves from a domestic drama into an epic quest." Todd Pruzan, The Washington Post
"[A] mesmerising account of three people whose past is catching up with them in unexpected ways. It is not at all solemn or portentous, and anyone who has read, say, Cloudstreet will know how deft a stylist Winton is." Brian McFarlane, Australian Book Review
"As in The Riders, he uses an odyssey to gouge unfathomable regret into a landscape, from which solitary equilibrium emerges as the most positive outcome. Somehow, he manages to make his elegiac novels uplifting and cathartic dissections of fractured men and women." James Urquhart, The Independent
Winner of The Miles Franklin Literary Award, The Christina Stead Award, WA Premier's Book of the Year, Book Data/ABA Book of the Year Award, Goodreading Award-Readers Choice Book of the Year
Set in the dramatic landscape of Western Australia, Dirt Music tells the story of Luther Fox, a broken man who makes his living as an illegal fisherman — a shamateur. Before everyone in his family was killed in a freak rollover, Fox grew melons and counted stars and loved playing his guitar. Now, his life has become a "project of forgetting." Not until he meets Georgie Jutland, the wife of White Point's most prosperous fisherman, does Fox begin to dream again and hear the dirt music — "anything you can play on a verandah or porch," he tells Georgie, "without electricity." Like the beat of a barren heart, nature is never silent. Ambitious and perfectly calibrated, Dirt Music resonates with suspense, emotion, and timeless truths.
About the Author
Tim Winton's novel The Riders was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, and he has won numerous awards for his thirteen previous books. Many of them have been adapted for the stage and screen, including That Eye, the Sky and Cloudstreet. Married with three children, he lives in Western Australia.
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