March 13, 2012
Patrick White, the Australian writer, won the Nobel Prize for Literature with the novel VOSS in 1957.
The name was introduced to me by my host when my husband and I were visiting in Australia. My host was an avid reader. I had just finished reading the marvelous novel OUT OF AFRICA by Isak Dinesen and gave it to him. He told me I should read something by Patrick White and I wrote that name down on a small piece of paper and tucked it away. For several years since then I have kept that note. With the recent publication of my novel THE PROVIDER, I decided to send a flyer about it to Australia. My host answered me. He said he was revisiting Patrick White after many years, and especially since David Marr came out with a biography.
So I attended to my note, and asked my friend to recommend one of White’s novels; there were so many.
He suggested VOSS since, he said, that was the one that earned him the Novel Prize.
I started reading. Am 100 pages into it. Oh glory. Serious fiction writers should read him with utmost care. Read slowly, watch what he does, how he does it. His characters are soooo complicated in their cumulative rendering that I am dazzled. Descriptions are such originals: “His moustache looked like two dead birds.”
One of my readers asked: “Do you find it hard to read another author and then write fiction?”
Here is my answer. Fine literary writing gives me a “high.” It gives my mind a workout. VOSS by Patrick White is a perfect example: I read him in the morning and he wakes up my mind, gets it to churn with ideas, until I no longer can concentrate on his book; I am too full of excitement and I rush to my own writing: at present the sequel to THE PROVIDER. By contrast, if I read a mediocre novel, I find it lacks originality, density, richness, and amusement. Nothing happens in my head.