Splitting the Difference: A Heart-Shaped Memoir

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Winton discovered the depth of his connection with the West Australian environment only when he failed to connect to iconic European landscapes during the years he lived in the northern hemisphere. Perhaps those of us descendant from settler peoples are finally ready to learn some of the wisdom that Aboriginal people have never lost. Australians remain a restless and insecure people: we look forever north for cultural validation, to New York, London, Paris, to Los Angeles — a cultural cringe that results from a diet comprised largely of European and American culture.

His key idea seems to be this: our minds have been colonised just as our country has been. And that has slowed the development of distinctive Australian voices. We lack confidence in the stories of our own places, and struggle to believe our lives are worth the telling. Seeking validation, many gravitate towards the narratives and idiom of the cultural centre, and fail to sing the songs of our own souls.

And they follow in the footsteps of earlier giants. Winton mentions Patrick White and Randolph Stow. Judith Wright, Joan Lindsay and David Malouf have also written evocatively and powerfully in this vein. And Winton remains one of the finest place-painters in Australian literature, particularly of lives lived in and around the estuaries and ocean of his homeland in coastal Western Australia. Australian writers who sing the songs of our unsung country help us to love these places deeper and better.

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They should be celebrated and encouraged. The challenge, however, does not just fall to them. Reading Winton, I look back on my life, and wonder how the twin stories he tells — of the beauty and power of Australian place, and the colonisation of the Australian imagination — map on to my own experience. His descriptions of childhood mucking around in swamps on the edge of Perth reminded me of my childhood playing in and around scrubland wedged between the ocean and the hills in rural Tasmania.

As a teenager, I wrote reams of poetry about the brooding loveliness of that landscape. We utter them when they come. Hadrian is all past, no future. But death has a way of sneaking up on writers who wait this long. As he awaits his inglorious end, all he can really do to pass the time is write a memoir. Time has foreclosed possibilities, and bestowed a definitive form. In any case, if death completed the life of a pagan like Hadrian, it was not the end of the story for those who die in Christ.

The great moment in the Christian life is the amazement of grace; and from Augustine on, Christian memoirists organized their stories around the lifting of the mist of unbelief. To explain their conversion, they rummage mental archives and examine, in the light of revelation, discrete incidents along the path to salvation. For Hadrian, a life had to be seen whole. For Augustine, the narrative had to be split in the middle. Christianity implied that life, rather than simply ending, is an ongoing project, in which mistakes were made and lessons learned.

Splitting the Difference - Rodriguez, Tre Miller - | HPB

Most modern memoirs, secularized since Rousseau, are still undergirded with this basically religious notion of progress: I once was lost but now am found. The conversion narrative is most effective when dark sin contrasts with subsequent light — a dramatic consideration that often nudges the author to paint in colors bolder than merited.

I would steal fruits. There is no need to feel guilty. A sheer joy to read that also manages to satirise British fascist leader Oswald Mosley as a querulous grump in black shorts. Shelley was just 18 when she wrote Frankenstein as part of a challenge with her future husband, Percy Shelley, and Lord Byron, to concoct the best horror story.

Some years after it was first published, the gothic tale feels more relevant than ever as genetic science pushes the boundaries of what it means to create life. His theory is this: maroon a bunch of schoolboys on an island, and watch how quickly the trappings of decent behaviour fall away.

Never has a broken pair of spectacles seemed so sinister, or civilisation so fragile. Not many love stories take in a mad woman in the attic and a spot of therapeutic disfigurement, but this one somehow carries it off with mythic aplomb. This is a richly satisfying slow burn of a novel that follows the lives and loves of the inhabitants of a small town in England through the years — The acerbic wit and timeless truth of its observations mark this out as a work of genius; but at the time the author, Mary Anne Evans, had to turn to a male pen name to be taken seriously.

Stick another log on the fire and curl up with this dark, peculiar and quite brilliant literary murder tale. A group of classics students become entranced by Greek mythology - and then take it up a level. Remember, kids: never try your own delirious Dionysian ritual at home. A subtle and engrossing look at racial identity, through the story of a charismatic young Nigerian woman who leaves her comfortable Lagos home for a world of struggles in the United States.

Capturing both the hard-scrabble life of US immigrants and the brash divisions of a rising Nigeria, Adichie crosses continents with all her usual depth of feeling and lightness of touch. An absolute unadulterated comic joy of a novel. Stella Gibbons neatly pokes fun at sentimental navel-gazing with her zesty heroine Flora, who is more interested in basic hygiene than histrionics. Morrison was inspired by the real-life story of an enslaved woman who killed her own daughter rather than see her return to slavery.


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Evelyn Waugh bottles the intoxicating vapour of a vanished era in this novel about middle-class Charles Ryder, who meets upper-class Sebastian Flyte at Oxford University in the s. Rarely has a fictional world been so completely realised. Will there ever be a novel that burns with more passionate intensity than Wuthering Heights? My sin, my soul. Back in an age before artificial intelligence could teach itself to play chess in a few hours better than any grandmaster that ever lived, Philip K Dick was using the concept of android life to explore what it meant to be human, and what it is to be left behind on a compromised planet.

That he could do it in pages that set the mind spinning and engage the emotions with every page-turn make this a rare science-fiction indeed. The Catcher in the Rye is the quintessential novel of the adolescent experience, captured in deathless prose. Dashiel Hammett may have been harder boiled, his plots more intricate but, wow, does Raymond Chandler have style.

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As a woman on the make, Becky is the perfect blend of wit, cunning and cold-hearted ruthlessness. Try as film and TV might to humanise and make excuses for her, Becky needs victims to thrive! Almost every word is arresting, and the way that Plath captures the vivid life happening around Esther, news events, magazine parties, accentuates the deadening illness that drives her towards suicidal feelings. Harry Potter may be more popular, but Willy Wonka is altogether weirder.

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In Anna Karenina — enormous, too! The most deliciously wicked experience in literature, this epistolary novel introduces us to the Marquise de Merteuil and Vicomte de Valmont, who play cruel games of sexual conquest on their unwitting victims. Sexy but very, very bad. There she meets the housekeeper Mrs Danvers, formerly devoted to Rebecca, who proceeds to torment her.


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