Excerpt from Carpentaria by Alexis Wright, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Carpentaria

A Novel

By Alexis Wright

Carpentaria
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Hardcover: Apr 2009,
    528 pages.
    Paperback: Apr 2010,
    528 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


In this otherwise quietly living population of about three hundred people, no living soul remembered what the port had looked like before. No picture could be put on display in a showcase at the museum of scarce memorabilia, because no one at the time of the heyday thought it was worthwhile to take a photo. But everybody knew that this was Normal's river.

One day, someone in town, whose name is not worth a mention, was languishing around in a laconic stupor following the months of heatwave in the Wet season build-up, waiting for the rain to come. Lying flat out like a corpse on the bare linoleum floor in the hallway of a house exactly like the one next door. Capturing in a long sigh of appreciation the northern sea breezes that came waltzing straight over twenty-five kilometres of mudflats, whistling their arrival through the front door while, on the way out, slamming the back door open and shut. All of a sudden this someone of no consequence thought of changing the name of the river to Normal. And, in a town where change never came easy, it came to be.

There was a celebration by the local Shire Council. The occasion was the anniversary of the port's first one hundred years. It coincided with a spate of unusual happenings during a short-lived era of Aboriginal domination of the Council. Harmless coercing of the natives, the social planners hummed, anxious to make deals happen for the impending mining boom. Meaningful coexistence could now accommodate almost any request whatsoever, including changing a river's name to Normal. During this honeymoon period, those Aboriginal people who took the plunge to be councillors wisely used their time in public office to pursue scraps of personal gain for their own families living amidst the muck of third-world poverty.

All this was part and parcel of the excitement of Desperance when the first multinational mining company came into the region. Numerous short-lived profiteering schemes were concocted for the locals, in order to serve the big company's own interests as they set about pillaging the region's treasure trove: the publicly touted curve of an underground range embedded with minerals.

The elaborate white linen ceremony, paid for by the mining company, attracted Southern politicians who flew in for the day. Most of them were known by the local dignitaries as a bunch of fly-by-nighters. And what's more, as they rolled out the welcome smile, some locals whispered unmentionable insults behind the backs of their very important visitors. Other locals who liked the sound of their own voices attacked the politicians straight out with a diatribe of insults. Yelling out, the crowd picked up bits wafting in the wind gusts: Youse are always cowering down on the ground. Are youse the runt of the Australian political litter or something? Yah! Falling over yaselves to any foreign investor flocking up the steps of Parliament, knocking on the big door, and smelling like money.

The politicians and mining executives mingled uncomfortably with the crowd, then pushed themselves up against the old hero Normal for a photo opportunity, and got snapped by members of the media circus who had jockeyed for free rides on the official executive jets. Then everything got ruined by a normal sort of dust storm thundering in from the south. A thick wall of red dust mingled with all manner of crunched vegetation and plastic shopping bags gathered up in its path, damaging the cut sandwiches when it came through. The fidget-prone adults panicked, running for cover along with their red-and-green-cordial-stained screaming children.

Then came a violent electrical storm when the rain ruined the day anyway -- as the town's sceptics said it would. A taut occasion, despite these dramatic interventions; enough time for the now disposed-of State Premier to complete the ceremony of officially changing the name of the river from that of a long deceased Imperial Queen to "Normal's River." Traditional people gathered up for the event mumbled, Ngabarn, Ngabarn, Mandagi, and so did Normal in a very loud and sour-sounding voice over the loudspeaker in his extremely short thank-you address, although those who knew a fruit salad full of abuse in the local languages knew he was not saying Thank you! Thank you! and belly-laughed themselves silly because the river only had one name from the beginning of time. It was called Wangala.

Copyright 2006 by Alexis Wright

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Promise
    The Promise
    by Ann Weisgarber
    Canadian author, Lucy Maud Montgomery of Anne of Green Gables fame, once wrote that "...all things ...
  • Book Jacket: Black Moon
    Black Moon
    by Kenneth Calhoun
    The popularity of book-turned-movie World War Z and television series The Walking Dead points to a ...
  • Book Jacket: Hyde
    Hyde
    by Daniel Levine
    In Robert Louis Stevenson's 1886 novel, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the story ends ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin

Published Apr. 2014

Join the discussion!

Win this book!
Win The Steady Running of the Hour

The Steady Running of the Hour

"Exciting, emotionally engaging and amibtious. I loved it!" - Kate Mosse

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

I T T O A Eye

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.