In the kitchen of a small house in Leichhardt, a young woman is dancing with her eight-year-old daughter. It’s winter, and dark outside. A dish of lentil burgers sits warming on the hotplate and the strains of some exotic Latin tango strum insistently from a large black tape deck that stands on top of the fridge. Mother is clasping daughter in a parody of adult coupledom, each awkward and jolting with laughter as they stride, with exaggerated poise, up and down the skillion kitchen, sweeping across the black and white chequerboard tiles, heads tilted back, arms outstretched stiffly in the arch and demonic thrust of the tango. Dum dum, da da! Da-da-da-da dah, dum dum da da!
Amanda Lohrey, Camille’s Bread, 1995
No one writes about Sydney anymore. Not really. Sure, John Birmingham wrote about it extensively in Leviathan, but I’m talking about novels, not historical exposés. Okay, maybe there was one sharehouse in Felafel that was a Sydney sharehouse, but it was probably in Bondi or somewhere, not the Inner West. Who writes about the Inner West?
Amanda Lohrey does, god love her.
Here’s the contemporary Australian fiction section of my bookshelf, divided into Australian cities and regions and the authors who write about them:
Brisbane/Gold Coast: David Malouf, Nick Earls, Matthew Condon, Helen Garner, Andrew McGahan, Rosie Scott
Darwin/NT: Peter Goldsworthy
Perth and surrounds: Tim Winton, Robert Drewe, Robert Dessaix, Sally Morgan
Hobart and surrounds (ie anywhere in Tasmania basically): Julia Leigh, Christopher Koch, Richard Flanagan
Adelaide/SA: Kate Llewellyn, Peter Goldsworthy, Colin Thiele
Sydney: Amanda Lohrey, Mandy Sayer, Drusilla Modjeska, Timothy Conigrave, Jennifer Kremmer, Melina Marchetta and whoever it was that wrote Hell Has Harbour Views.
Okay, so Sydney isn’t doing too badly, actually. I take it back. Hell Has Harbour Views was a terrific book, and Lisa McCune was superb in the tellie-movie.