Thursday, April 23, 2009
Spectrum - Books
IN SHORT - Fiction
Reviews by Kerryn Goldsworthy
Sydney Morning HErald
18 April 2009
PICK OF THE WEEK
BOY ON A WIRE
By Jon Doust
Fremantle Press, 240pp, $27.95
Jack Muir is a boy who believes in honesty and God but his hot temper and sense of humour often get him into trouble, especially after he is sent away from his country-town home to board at a grammar school in the city. It's Perth in the 1960s and casual violence - slappings, punchings, beatings, bullying and brawls - are a way of life, not only in boarding school but within the family itself. Even Mrs Muir is a hothead and frequently needs to be led away to a darkened room by her husband in order to calm down. Only Jack's serene older brother, Thomas, openly his parents' favourite, seems to rise above the family drama.
The story is told from the point of view of a boy bewildered not only by the apparently senseless eruptions of family violence but also by the more chillingly deliberate punishments of the schoolyard, the dormitory and the headmaster's study. Perhaps the most surprising thing about this character is the way he survives to the end of the book without sustaining any permanent physical damage. It's startling for a reader who remembers the '60s to realise how much has changed since then in our perceptions of children, of violence and of the definitions of what constitutes abuse and assault, and there are hints that the abuse of the previous generation was even worse.
Jack tells the story himself, in a slightly incredulous voice that suggests he can't quite believe the events that he is recounting and he certainly doesn't understand them. One of the things that puzzles him most is the heat of his own temper and the way it gets away from him; it's clear that in a physical fight he can give as good as he gets and more.
The novel is apparently autobiographical and is being publicised as such but Doust has done with his material what so many autobiographical novelists fail to do: he has turned it into a shapely story, with no extraneous material or diversions and with an absolutely consistent and convincing narrative voice.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Christ Church Grammar School's Centre for Ethics recently welcomed old boy Jon Doust back to the school for the launch of his book "Boy on a Wire".
Jon, who is based in Albany, is a well-known stand-up comedian and performer and a former columnist for The West Australian. He was born in Bridgetown and was sent to boarding school at Christ Church in the early 60s. Jon said he survived the boarding experience because he was strong from chopping lots of wood on the farm and had a quick wit and sharp tongue.
“The biggest scar boarding school left on me was the scar I saw left on others,” Jon said. Dedicated to all those boys who carried their scars into manhood, he said Boy on a Wire was about an underdog who bit back.
Sent to boarding school at a young age, Jack Muir quickly has to decide who he is going to be. Will he rollover or bare his teeth at the bullies, the bullied and the boarding school? Jack gets by with a quick wit and macabre sense of humour – but not everyone is so lucky. Boy on a Wire depicts alienation and the beginnings of depression with poignancy and humour.
Jon said he always intended to write the book at some stage in his life. When the right time finally arrived it took him five years to write. “I wrote it first as a kids’ book,” he said. “Then I thought: ‘This is a cop-out. It has to be real.’ So I re-wrote it as a raw, serious book, but with lots of humour. I then let it sit for 18 months before coming back to it.”
Jon said it was up to the reader to decide how much truth was in the story. “It’s based on reality. But the reality is distorted,” he said. “I’ve taken incidents in my life and rehashed them. I take a kernel of truth and distort it to suit my bigger purpose, which in this case is making universal comment on the issues of bullying, loss of faith, depression and relationships between fathers and sons and siblings.
“I expect a lot of people will read it and see the immediate truth. Others will see a universal truth.”
And asked whether it’s a one-off, or set to be the start of a series, Jon said he wasn’t sure. “I’m thinking maybe I’ll keep Jack running. I feel I need to give Jack another adventure.”
Bird on a Wire is published by Fremantle Press.
© Christ Church Grammar School
To read the original go here: CCGS
If you want to order the book from your local here are the details:
Title: Boy on a Wire
Author: Jon Doust
Publication Year: 2009
Publisher: Fremantle Press
Or you could go here: Fremantle Press
Saturday, April 4, 2009
Two big launches in recent weeks - first Perth, then Albany - along with other work designed to earn enough money to sustain life and reasonable comfort, have taken their toll.
Today is Saturday April 4, 2009, and by now most bookshops will have a copy or two. At least two bookshops have already had to reorder more than once - the two that sold at the launches.
And selling it, if you are the author, is no easier.
As luck would have it, we were in the same school at roughly the same time. So he bought mine and I bought his.