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Waiting by Philip Salom


by Philip Salom

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Well, I said so in the Sensational Snippet from this book that I posted a couple of days ago (see my blog): I think that Philip Salom’s novel Waiting should win this year’s Miles Franklin award. It’s also been short-listed for the Victorian Premier’s Award in Fiction, and I think it should win that too.

Waiting is a richly rewarding story, with characterisation and plot that made me see the world differently. Salom has an astute poetic sensibility that makes his sharp observations politically deft and often very amusing, but it’s his empathetic portrayal of misfits that stole my heart.

Four characters test the meaning of love in modern Melbourne. Jasmin is an academic with an inside mind who works abstractedly in a fixed firmament of alliterative and tautological shifts. Her field is semiotics, (which most of us have never heard of). She finds herself becoming fond of Angus, who likewise knows nothing about semiotics. He is a man who works with his hands and doesn’t fit in with her intellectual circle, but he is ruggedly sexy, and she always knew she fancied that…

He is a man who looks like a man used to look like. Shoulders lumpy from real work and arms muscular and hairy and scuffed, to be honest, not decorated with neat little muscles and waxed skin. […] Angus is a landscape designer, and his sandy skin is believably of the earth, and he stands upright in his outside body and his outside mind. (p.9)

A world away from academic elites and an economy with work for landscape designers is a chaotic microcosm – a rooming house for people with ‘barriers’ to participation in the everyday world. This hostel is home to Big and Little. Little is small and shy and battered by life, but newly optimistic because she anticipates receiving an inheritance from her mother who might die soon. Big is a beefy cross dresser devoted to the welfare of Little, but well aware that the world looks at him askance.

There are times one simply has to face oddities in oneself. One must accept that people do not always feel relaxed or generous. Or talkative. Some of us are destined to be disliked without good cause, destined to be laughed at forever, left out of the fun, taken as fools, considered lesser or smellier, and without good cause. Looks, perhaps, appearances, certainly expectations of safety – the world is made up of timid people, after all, people who are fearful of the cuckoo in the nest. Big is a cuckoo. No God could have invented him but then no God presides over this misaligned place. (p. 198)

(An author not afraid to use the impersonal pronoun when it’s needed. Be still, my beating heart!)

To read the rest of my review please visit https://anzlitlovers.com/2017/06/05/waiting-by-philip-salom/ ( )
  anzlitlovers | Jun 4, 2017 |
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Big is a hefty cross-dresser and Little is little. Both are long used to the routines of boarding house life in the inner suburbs of Melbourne, but Little, with the prospect of an inheritance, is worrying Big with by indulging in dreams of home owenership. Little's cousin, Angus, is a solitary man who designs lake-scapes for city councils, and fireproof houses for the bushfire zone. A handy man, he meets Jasmin - an academic who races in her ideas as much as in her runners. Her head is set on publishing semiotics books on semiotics, her heart is turned towards her stalled personal life. All four are waiting, for something, if not someone.… (more)

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