Month: January 2017

Scoundrel Days: review by Brendan Fredericks

Scoundrel Days (UQP, March 2017) is one of the most exciting, exhilarating, excessive and exhausting books I’ve read in a long time… this extraordinary memoir of a wild adolescence – a wild ride of wayward days and wayward ways – is told in a compelling poetic voice, where language shifts and changes and ages as the narrator ages and changes, where new words enter the writer’s world and work their way into his vocabulary and into his storytelling and pile up onto each other like his life experiences, gaining speed and momentum as the narrative unfurls, as his worldview unfurls and uncurls itself over and around him, building with disillusion, balling forward with self-destruction, driving at high speed down highways of oblivion in search for something more, something else, burning with the beat-like urge to be and feel and lust and love, for kicks, bawling with the punk-like rage to rant and rally against it all, clamouring and clashing with the anarchy of not giving a fuck… burning out and smoldering when the comedown comes and hits you… like a car crash you can’t help but look at…

E-Prime is the fuel that drives this narrative, gives it a primed-up immediacy and immersion… hyperbole is the turbo-injection that gives the story its real and lived sense of full-on excess and exuberance… there is real joy here in all the indulgence and living and loving… and there is so much living in this memoir, a life lived like the starring role in a film, a life written like a novel, where the author is the protagonist and the protagonist is a writer, like Sal or Chinaski, where people inhabit the narrative like characters in a novel, written about ‘like characters in a book’, life and experiences are viewed as poetry… ‘been busy livin the poems I haven’t written’…

And underlying it all is a sensitivity, a sensitivity of the lost wastrel… to the downtrodden, the disenfranchised… a rejection of the system and authority and entitlement that excludes… an affinity and affection for outsiders, fringe dwellers, gypsies and convicts and peasants and the washed–out that washed up on the shores of this vast harsh beautiful land, and those that were here first, a respect and reverence for the first people… scoundrels all.

And all of this set against the backdrop of Queensland, that sunburnt soundtrack, the outback, the tropics, Townsville, Cairns and Brisbane (and Perth, Melbourne, Sydney and PNG), but it’s Brisbane and QLD, that unique landscape that has produced some of Australia’s greatest writers of grunge and gritty realism and the experiences of the Australian male, McGahan, Earls… some of my favourite authors, and now I have a new one. Brentley Frazer. I can’t recommend this ride highly enough. It’s one helluvva road trip. Read it.