Sunday, 29 October 2006

Dastgah bookcover; Allen & UnwinReview: Dastgah: Diary of a Headtrip, Mark Mordue (2001)

This book I picked up after searching on Abebooks, where it was listed for $7. But I noticed the seller was a second-hand bookshop near where I worked, so instead of buying it online I telephoned them and asked them to keep it for me. A day later I stopped by on my way home and paid $9.30 for it.

It is also written by my tutor, for my Advanced Writing for the Media course. I am on edge today as I need to finish my feature for this unit of study. So it's possibly appropriate that I'm reading his book, when in a few weeks he'll be reading — and marking, assessing — my own work: a 2500-word piece that started out as an essay but now I think should be classified as a memoir. A memoir. I feel slightly guilty about this change in plan, as it seems that anyone can write a memoir. Just say what happened to you in somewhat poetic language, and voila!

To get back to Dastgah, though, I must say it was an interesting read. It took off slowly, the beginning sections slightly out of synch with the subject matter. Once he gets to Turkey and Iran, however, the pace and the topic are in step, and it's a very satisfying read. Mordue has lived in Sydney for many years and is about my own age, so there were many points of relevance for me personally. I felt a kinship with him. I could also hear his high nasal tones reading out the prose as I skimmed along the lines of text. I could hear him reading it to me, and that added a layer of complexity to the mixture of questioning and seeking that yields so many insights in this book.

As a piece of literary non-fiction, Dastgah is very interesting. If you manage to get hold of a copy, it rewards close reading.

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