THE MAGPIE WING
Max Easton’s debut novel, The Magpie Wing, is a personality examine targeted on siblings Helen and Walt and their childhood buddy, Duncan. Raised in western Sydney, they search for a world larger than the one they knew. As Helen and Walt pursue music and Duncan focuses on sport, the novel meditates on the shift from childhood innocence to the disappointments of early maturity.
Though Easton cleverly makes use of bildungsroman components to border his narrative, this can be a disjointed novel, its origins as a short-story assortment nonetheless seen. Chapters have a vignette really feel, continuing extra like individually noticed scenes fairly than a part of an natural entire – a way inspired by the third-person omniscient narration. Essentially the most attention-grabbing – and maybe sudden – facet of the novel is its temporary explorations of Helen and Walt’s bisexuality and queerness. These are tender and thrilling however, having caught the spark of one thing, Easton doesn’t nurture its flame.
Stylistically, The Magpie Wing is oddly muted. Maybe the occasions have modified: the voice-driven work of authors akin to Hazzard, Morrison, Bellow and Stead have given strategy to the subdued and completely unintrusive narrative voice: Rooney, Moshfegh, Lerner, Heti. It is a novel through which silences are damaged, makes an attempt are ham-fisted, stalemates damaged, doorways stormed by and stares inevitably clean – a novel that’s studiously snug with cliche.
There may be additionally a sure degree of consolation with relaying the language of sports activities and music scenes. Inform a dream, lose a reader, Henry James stated. And the dream of sport, if not music, inevitably proves tough to convey on the web page. It additionally locations the critic in an invidious place: do they provide, as typically happens in critiques of translations, ideas on the language, though they might know nothing of music or sport – as with all these Haruki Murakami critics who hasten to tell us how “ready” his newest translation is, regardless of not understanding a lot as a baka in Japanese – or do they depend on preexisting acquaintance, if not hours of swotting, to reach at an knowledgeable critique?
Such a path dangers forgetting that the primary rule of narrative description is to have the technicalities of a given topic – cooking, card video games, whaling – disappear, ideally, into the lodging of the prose. When Easton writes, for instance, that “whereas Duncan noticed an ideal union, Walt would solely ever see the seams”, the imagery recollects sport (and weddings – the seamstress, the tailor); however a line about how “[t]inheritor strengths and weaknesses dovetailed” feels jarring within the context of the 2 boys receiving magpie tattoos – had “matched” changed “dovetailed”, the sports activities reminder would solely have been repeated.
Right here, the avowal of a truism could also be so as: artwork will not be life.