Anything Under the SunAugust 26, 2014

If you're living outside of Australia, then you have notice the weather. More than once. Then you remember the pleasant climate back home. How many times you remark how boring it is? You lost count. You turn on the telly one night and find yourself watching a sporting event. The score excites you, reminiscing the chants of "Aussie Aussie Aussie" with your mates. Then the sausage rolls makes you hungry. (Our sauso is the best.)

There are some things that Australia does best. These are what make us truly Oz. This is what Australian literature is all about. If you think long and hard about it, our writers have been searching for things we can call our own. It seems poppycock, until the books you read come to mind.

The solitary bush

Henry Lawson, one of the best authors during the colonial years, spoke about mateship.

"They tramp in mateship side by side -

The Protestant and Roman

They call no biped lord or sir

And touch their hat to no man."

- "A Sketch of Mateship and Shearers"

Lawson may be referring to egalitarian mateship, but the basic concept is more or less the same. Friendship. Loyalty. Equality. It's standing by someone through thick and thin. The bush, a ubiquitous sight in the Outback, embodies this. Outsiders may find this confusing, as this can be seen in two ways. A good mate is like a solitary bush or no bloke is an island, er bush. (This is not an interpretation of our political ideals.)

Mateship also refers to a ritual that Australians can relate to. Take a hike with your friends. Drinking around the campfire. Having a good time. We are truly a friendly nation. (Do we have bad blood with the English? None at all. Otherwise, we aren't part of the monarchy.)

No escape from the sun

Long before travel writers describe the Outback in a romantic way, Australian authors have conflicting views about it. The continent may be more urban, but much of the coutryside is still untamed. Like our early explorers, our writers try to know more about it. They found out that it's complicated and unpredictable. Colin Thiele's "Storm Boy" (1963) is a good example, as it examines a young boy's relationship with a pelican. They have been inseparable since the bird's birth. Readers can only guess, which is how Mother Nature wants it. On the other hand, Kenneth Cole's "Wake in Fright" (1961) is a shocking depiction of what rural folks do. It's a long list, all part of our culture, which we may like it or not.

This leaves the women. The likes of Miles Franklin ponder the place of women in Australian society. Mateship can melt anyone's heart, but only the male can relate to it. So some try to find their own place. ("My Brilliant Career" is a good illustration.) There is debatable, but there are some things that everyone can agree on. Our coffee for one.

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