Big Tree, Gardiner's Creek - Louis Buvelot
Collection of the City of Whitehorse, Melbourne
Anni Heino has tagged Denis and Miss Eagle with a book meme. So here is Miss Eagle's literary effort, Anni.
1. One book that changed your life
Miss Eagle's earliest memories of reading are the volumes of Australian poetry on her grandparent's bookshelves at Wilston in Brisbane. Here began her love of the Nationalists - those new generations of Australian poets whose stories of the social life and character of a newly discovered continent became woven into our lives; those poets who were published in the Pink Pages of The Bulletin.
Nana O'Carroll's particular favourite was Fair Girls and Grey Horses by Will Ogilvie. Needless to say, Henry Lawson and Banjo Paterson were there. But Miss Eagle's earliest very own copy was a volume titled The Australasian Book of Verse for Boys and Girls. This book was on her bookshelf for decades until it literally fell to pieces. All the greats were represented along with people who talked about "out where the crow flies backwards and the pelican builds its nest". In adulthood, this love of Australian poetry became a love of the bush and transferred itself to art in the form of the works of Louis Buvelot and the Heidelberg School and the novels of the period of which the foremost is Such is Life.
And then, of course, there is no substitute for seeing Australia for oneself which Miss Eagle has been doing consistently for three decades and will continue to do. Next weekend, Miss Eagle traverses central and north-western Victoria en route to Broken Hill and then across to Robertson in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales up behind the Illawarra where she may, at last, get to meet Anni.
2. One book you have read more than once.
For this, Miss Eagle has singled out a little known 20th century spritual classic, A Testament of Devotion by Thomas R. Kelly. Miss Eagle tries not to be without a copy of this little masterpiece but has given away numerous copies. Last year though, on Ebay, she obtained from the USA a first edition complete with dustjacket. What joy!
3. One book you'd want on a desert island.
At the age of 17, Miss Eagle fell hopelessly in love with Boris Pasternak after reading Dr Zhivago. Since then, she is never without a copy on the shelf. Pasternak's masterpiece gives the appearance of prose but it is, quite simply, poetry paraded as prose. And if you loved the movie, Miss Eagle wishes it to be known that the movie is only a very small portion of the book. But the main reason Miss Eagle keeps a copy on the bookshelf is not the novel itself but the collection of Dr Zhivago's poetry which comes at the conclusion of the novel. Aaah, the romance, the religion and the tragedy of Russia!
4. One book that made you giddy?
The award for this goes to The Outcasts of Foolgarah by Frank Hardy. Outcasts is a political satire published in 1971. The book is dated now because the politicians it lampoons are virtually unknown even to people of middle years these days. The Outcasts were the dunny men. The thesis of the novel is that the only ones with true freedom are those who are very wealthy who can own or flout the system or the very poor who are outside the system. The dunny men were too poor to have mortgages from the bank over their homes. They built their homes out of materials salvaged from the dump. They owned their own homes and so had a wonderful freedom. Miss Eagle had led a sheltered Catholic girl hood in a respectable family. Frank Hardy gave Miss Eagle an education in amongst the hilarity of The Outcasts.
5. One book that you wish had been written
Miss Eagle has a dear friend, Jenny. We live far apart these days and our friendship is the occasional email letter interspersed with funny emails. Jenny is older than Miss Eagle and a former animal control officer and pound keeper. She is or was a world expert in her field and what Jenny does not know about animals and their owners is not worth knowing. Jenny is of British origins and grew up in Kashmir where her father was stationed with the British Army. Jenny had a privileged lifestyle. She came to Australia, completely helpless but ready for adventure, when she was 18. She knew precious little so when she wanted to learn something she asked someone to take her on and teach her. This was how she came to be a panel beater at one point in her life. Jenny's adventures were many and through them all she became a woman of great wisdom and great humour. Miss Eagle used to say to her that she had to write her story and, if she didn't, Miss Eagle would follow her around with a tape recorder. This has never happened and Jenny emailed Miss Eagle a couple of weeks ago to say she has lung cancer. She has returned from treatment to palliative care. Now Jenny is at an age where news of life coming to an end is not a surprise. But I don't think this what she or her friends would have chosen for her. So, it looks like Jenny's story will not reach a wider public. But there are those of us who love her very much and there will always be a very warm space in our hearts which is especially hers.
Miss Eagle will take a pause.
The second five questions of the meme will be in the next post.