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Wednesday, 16 October, 2002, 15:09 GMT 16:09 UK
Dirt Music: Press views
Dirt Music
The novel is set in a fictional fishing town in Australia
The press review Australian author Tim Winton's seventh novel, Dirt Music.

The Independent on Sunday

Dirt Music is easily his best, a big, rolling, road-train of a novel that transports its reader shudderingly across the vast and enigmatic landscape of Winton's Western Australia. Its a slow-moving, rambling, sometimes awkward and always challenging narrative that immerses its reader in a world both convincing and magical.

The Independent

Love may be possible, Winton seems to allow, but guilt and regret remain the motive forces in Dirt Music. As in The Riders, he uses an odyssey to gouge unfathomable regret into a landscape, from which solitary equilibrium emerges as the most positive outcome. Somehow, he manages to make his elegiac novels uplifting and cathartic dissections of fractured men and women.

The Guardian

Perhaps Winton's most considerable achievement is his description of this fishing community, with its violence, its resentment of urban big shots ("lawyers and surgeons and CEOs") and its love of "dirt music", an Australian composite of everything that was ever moaned along to a guitar in the United States.

The Sunday Times

Dirt Music is vividly written in a seemingly effortless prose that never puts a foot wrong, pulling off fine effects without strain (a large bird going by in the dark, for example: its wings "whopped by, invisible but close as a whisper; the sound prickled Georgie's skin like the onset of the flu").

The Daily Telegraph

Dirt Music is spoiled by a vastly overplotted narrative, which swamps the many small moments of emotional truth. Winton is never better than when showing the psychological and social stutterings that mark human interactions. While his characters speak in dialogue that is spare to the point of telegraphese, the hinterland of conflicting desires that informs it are as dangerous as the storms which blow in unannounced to West Point.

London Evening Standard

Modern small-town life is, in Winton's wonderful dialogue, rich and dark with comedy and remorse. His reading of family relationships, which seem to flow naturally out of Australian history, is psychologically pitchperfect. Subtly, through his fishing community, Winton hints at the racial anxieties of the new Australia - its turning inwards, away from the Aboriginal legacy on the one hand and, on the other, its inevitable and accelerating "Asianisation."

The Times

Shot through with natural, historical and psychological violence, Dirt Music nevertheless works toward resolution and a hard-won optimism. Towards the end there is a symbolic scene in which Luther's maps are seized by an Aboriginal boy: "Go on the country...Not on the map," he is cautioned. Winton's own gritty lyricism heeds this advice.

Sunday Express

The novels of 42-year-old Winton emerge slowly, almost painfully, by the half-decade - if fans are lucky. In Dirt Music Winton writes about a remote, hidden Australia as if he has slept on its beaches, hunted in its undergrowth. Winton's novels have a musical quality all their own, and Dirt Music offers a mesmerising melody from beginning to end.

The Observer

While making amends can be a rough journey, Winton switches with ease between Georgie and her two men. In chapters often as short as a page, he offers snippets of the past and fragments of the present to carry their common existence forward. Winton's prose can be inventive and as sharp as it is simple. But at the same time, Dirt Music seems cluttered with visuals and asides pitched at the big screen.

Sunday Telegraph

Winton's writing is a heady blend of muscular description, deep sentiment and metaphysics that will not be to everyone's taste. But Dirt Music is a beautiful celebration of his country.

Coverage of the 2002 Booker Prize from BBC News Online and BBCi Arts




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16 Oct 02 | Reviews
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