Sunday, 10 December 2006

Frank Moorhouse has written a 1200-word memoir for the Sunday Life magazine — which is delivered along with the Sun-Herald — that charts a section of his early development from childhood into that psychological no-man's-land of early adolescence. It is a skillful and highly economical portrait of the artist as a young man.

At the age of "11 or 12" young Frank is sent to a small town in the Blue Mountains — that magical belt of bush and rocks located to the west of Sydney — to stay with "Aunt Lil", an old schoolfriend of his mother's. There he tries to discover the meaning of religion and meets his first flame.

The first half of the piece is dedicated to his efforts to attract God, "or failing that, the supernatural world in general, the dead, the Devil or even nymphs would do". He paints some rocks, sets up a brass vase he finds underneath Aunt Lil's house, and prays. The summer sun streams down, the cicadas whirr. Nothing happens.

The next day Aunt Lil gives him a book to read: Tales of Mystery and Imagination by Edgar Allan Poe. Book in hand, he walks off to bathe at a local rock pool.

I began reading The Fall Of The House Of Usher and I was transfixed. When the rain stopped, I took my book and my cut lunch and walked the considerable distance to the local swimming hole, a long way from my now-abandoned sacred site. (I never went back — it could still be there). I found my way down to the shady rock pool and sitting there on the edge of the pool was a blonde girl, with long smooth legs, small young breasts showing under the bathing suit — not that these were of consequence to me at the time — looking like something of a tomboy. I knew instantly what she was — a naiad! I had been pondering this word for some time, although I didn't know how to pronounce it and nor did Aunt Lil.

They read together, swim, and become friends. This is a lovely little piece and it's a pity that no content from this newspaper is located online. I would like to link to it.

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