By Vita Forest
There are books that need a second reading and there are books that you love the first time around. This is different for everyone, but why? Perhaps it is your own life that must be aligned to fit the book. Do the characters speak your own thoughts back to you? Is the emotional tenor tuned in to within a hair’s breath of your wavelength?
Dirt Music by Tim Winton is one of my very favourite books. But it was not always so. I used to prefer Cloudstreet – that sprawling tale of two families sharing a house in Perth. With a talking pig and a mulberry-stained tent in the backyard. But my preference now lies with Dirt Music. The first time I read it, I admired it, but the second time, I loved it.
It tells the story of two lost souls – Georgie and Lu, who stumble into each others’ way. Perhaps I love it because of Georgie – stuck in a bad place, having lost her direction, purpose and sense of self. I am Georgie, I thought. Another friend felt the connection to Georgie too, but found it too close to the bone, and for that reason, remained deliberately detached. Or maybe it was because of Lu – the sole survivor of a terrible accident who deliberately provoked the wrath of the Gods (both local and spiritual). I am Lu, I thought, as he noticed the tiniest details and avoided reminiscing. Or was it the sum of its parts – the contrast of the brutal, ugly township and the transcendent scenes of nature, or the small poetic moments of yearning, like Lu leaving the imprint of his lips on Georgie’s window, or Georgie eating the red dirt found in an otherwise empty envelope sent from Broome. Whatever it was, on my second reading I got it and Dirt Music became a “book to own”.
Dirt Music also contains a sense of hope sometimes missing from Tim Winton’s other books. The characters are on a quest that they can’t articulate, but in the end, there is redemption. I remember reading of someone finishing The Riders and being so frustrated, they threw the book across the room – before realizing what an amazing writer Tim Winton was, to provoke such a reaction.
Last year I saw an interview with Tim Winton by Jennifer Byrne. There is something about him too. Despite his eloquence he is very self-depreciating, an attractive quality in this world of narcissists. When asked about whether his new book Eyrie was a change of direction for him with its urban setting, Winton ruminated for a few moments before drawing parallels to his earlier work and concluding, “It’s the same old shit really.”
Perhaps this is why, as Saskia would say, we are “a little bit in love with him.”
Do you have books that needed a second reading before you loved them?