From the Editor's Desk (now the blog at ABR):
A few weeks back I headed to Clunes Booktown with thousands of other readers and bibliophiles. Away from the dozens and dozens of antiquarian book displays and the brass band in the quaint rotunda and the ferocious Punch and Judy and the hay-bale maze in the main street, Tess Brady and her colleagues presented an interesting program of interviews, panels, and workshops. I chaired one of these sessions, a tribute to Patrick White, and was joined by three friends and colleagues: Peter Goldsworthy, Michael Heyward, and Nicholas Jose. We began by discussing our first encounters with White. Peter Goldsworthy, borrowing The Tree of Man from the Glenelg library, thought White was from South Africa. For Michael Heyward, it was The Aunt’s Story. ‘It changed the shape of your mind.’
That’s exactly how I felt when I read White for the first time. This was earlier, in 1973, when I was seventeen. I bought a copy of The Aunt’s Story for about a dollar and read Part One in a single gulp. I don’t think I’d ever been so stirred by anything in my life, especially that last, inexpressibly tragic paragraph:
Theodora looked down through the distances that separate, even in love. If I could put out my hand, she said, but I cannot. And already the moment, the moments, the disappearing afternoon, had increased the distance that separates. There is no lifeline to other lives. I shall go, said Theodora. I have already gone. The simplicity of what ultimately happens hollowed her out. She was part of a surprising world in which hands, for reasons no longer obvious, had put tables and chairs.
I recall having to put the novel aside for a couple of weeks before I could read the other two parts. I couldn’t bear much more of that knowledge.