Randolph Stow: Overview

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Author: W.H. New
Date: 1996
From: Contemporary Novelists(6th ed.)
Publisher: Gale
Document Type: Critical essay
Length: 784 words

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The contrast between The Merry-Go-Round in the Sea, with its local "realism," and Tourmaline, which makes a symbolic landscape out of Randolph Stow's native land, indicates the initial range of his fiction. The Merry-Go-Round by no means eschews symbolic patterns, but it emerges more directly from Australian national sensibilities. Stow's novel links the isolating impact that World War II had on the country with the older traditions of convict settlement and South Pacific paradise. (Stow is careful to debunk the easy myths which see convict and bushranger mateyness as the sole generative character trait throughout Australia; his comic children's book Midnite: The Story of a Wild Colonial Boy, about the triumphant adventures of a native bushranger and his gang—a cockatoo and a cat—delightfully overturns assorted local archetypes. Yet with linguistic playfulness it celebrates the spirit of the country as well, which serves as a reminder of the ambivalent blend of prison and paradise which has always provoked the Australian imagination.) For Rick Maplestead, in The Merry-Go-Round, imprisoned in Changi and then freed only to discover his bonds to history, family, mates, and mediocrity, there is no escape but flight. But as he and his young cousin...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|H1420007769