The stories in Ben Walter’s first collection are not about Tasmania. A frozen Indian mountain range is the cause of great distress in the fiery ‘Wrapped in Ice, Speaking’, while in ‘The Day the Music Dead’ most of the tension occurs in Qantas’ flight to Fiji. Other pieces feel geographically vague: a giant slide in a suburban backyard, a rising river in a foreign country, a sleepless man scurrying around for Halloween tricks.
So far, what was the fear Undoubtedly a Tasmanian book, written by a Tasmanian author (and current fiction editor of the state’s literary magazine). island) and feature Tasmanian landmarks, both real and invented, from the Tasman Bridge to the Royal Company Islands. Many of Walter’s characters are proud Tassie locals, who indulge in classic outdoor pastimes such as fishing and nature walks. Bad weather sometimes forces them to seek shelter: Tasmania receives a lot of rainfall, which supports the development of its World Heritage forests. This entire collection also saw rain, rivers swell, wood rust, and holes boring through roofs.
But now the state is drying up. Drought conditions in 2016 resulted in the re-emergence of the flooded city of Crotie from the bed of the man-made Lake Burberry, a phenomenon addressed in ‘The Lake’ and ‘Atlantis Minor’. Hydropower failures affect the electrical grid, and dry conditions leave the landscape vulnerable to fire. Despite efforts to trap and control the fire in ‘Beast Evolving’, it continues to threaten the residents, bushwalkers and wildlife in the collection’s eponymous story.
Walter is aware of how his eco-consciousness can unfold, which provides a rebuttal from the reader in the final story, ‘An Anti-Glacier Book’. Its use of skeptical footnotes is one of many attempts to translate the environment into the language. In fact, the narrator of ‘Below the Tree Level’ feels that he can literally read the trees like text: ‘My eyes were fixed as if a story was being unveiled in front of me, and I could see that. Was a part of the story’. However, as we learn in ‘Landscapes in Landscapes,'[t]The land needs to be seen without the eyes, and the voice without the tongue is needed to talk about the land’.
Like a fast-flowing river, Walter’s sentences are both dense and fluid, capable of lifting you off your feet and taking you away from where you started. A chorus of talking flatheads, a corpse who takes smoky paparazzi shots, and a shipwreck that rises from a riverbank to take yet another blow at an enemy pylon are all improbable themes, but they’re all improbable themes. Feel confident in confident hands and lyrical prose.
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Some of the more frantic premises (What if a dead cricket commentator answered the phone at a German art gallery? What if comic actor Leslie Nielsen, stuck in traffic for decades, picked up a hitchhiker fan?) left readers on the edge of disbelief. risk of being thrown. Nevertheless, these provide a potentially welcome distraction from the credible threat undercurrents in environmental and climate stories.
As in the real world, when the scenario becomes bizarre, Walter’s characters attempt to explain, catalog, control, and even erase it to no avail. Slowly, like a group walking in a ‘conglomerate’, we realize that something terrible is happening in the natural world. But we are, of course, too late, and the land is with us. ‘Do you see now?’ It demands. ‘Nothing is right and there is nowhere you can hide.’
what was the fear by Ben Walter
Publisher: Puncher and Whatman
Release date: 1 February 2022