24 March 2008


I picked up a copy of A MAN'S GOT TO HAVE A HOBBY, after hearing William McInnes speak at Adelaide Writers' Week earlier this month. An accomplished actor, McInnes comes over as a laconic, laid-back larrikin, and those qualities emerge from his book too. He read a number of excerpts from this book in particular at the AWW sessions I attended and I was hooked. That's why I have read a book which is an exception to my genre of choice.

It has taken me a while to finish, simply because I put it down to get on with some "genre" reading, and I'm not good at reading two books at once.

William McInnes says A MAN'S GOT TO HAVE A HOBBY is a tribute to his father, but it is really a tribute to a life style that we've almost lost. McInnes is a decade or so younger than me, and despite the fact that it is written from a masculine point of view, we have shared so many growing-up-in-the-country experiences. The Queensland of his childhood is a long way from the South Australia of mine, but the book is all about values, what is important in life. It is a memoir filled with larger than life characters and a kaleidoscope of humour.

The first hundred pages focusses on the house McInnes grew up in - the fine vessel - the big house on the battleaxe block that was always full of laughter and music. In the second hundred pages McInnes is attending a benefit dinner to raise money for the new local museum for the town where he was born. He is an invited guest, and waiting for his turn to speak, his mind free ranges over the past: from the time the footy coach tried to inspire the team with sound track he'd recorded from the Guns of Navarone, to going to the drive in theatre in the truck in his pajamas. The final fifty or so pages is titled Saying Goodbye - "a part of me is moving further away from where I grew up".

McInnes is part of a fine Australian tradition, of Australians who have a keen eye for character and incident. He doesn't have the literary flair of the classic writers such as Joseph Furphy, Banjo Paterson, and Henry Lawson. But he does have a turn of phrase and a sense of the ridiculous. I am the first to admit I'm not at all well read in this genre but A MAN'S GOT TO HAVE A HOBBY reminds me a lot of Nino Culotta's THEY'RE A WEIRD MOB.

The blurb on the back says "This is a book about people who aren't famous ... but should be. It is about love and hope and fear, laughter, death and life." That just about says it all.

My rating: 4.4

No comments:


Blog Widget by LinkWithin