At a tender age, while attending Primary at Greenvale State School in Northwest Queensland, Brentley Frazer learns the meanings of the words suicide, rape, jacking off, growling out, and a number of common swears, with which he promptly attempts to shock his parents. His parents belong to a Protestant, Anti-Trinitarian cult called The Truth. He remembers his own circumcision. Soon, while part of a rebellious schoolyard gang called The Wreckers, he discovers tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, amphetamines, pornography, madness, family violence and death.
Frazer’s first long-form work, Scoundrel Days, is a memoir that employs a literary constraint known as English Prime, or E-Prime, as a method to overcome the “static hum of reflection” … “with an adult voice reflecting back on childhood, telling the viewer what the characters are thinking and feeling.”2
This constraint, which prohibits use of the copula (the verb ‘to be’ and it’s tenses, including the words am, are, be, been, being, is, was and were), has proven highly effective in providing Frazer’s first person present narrative with a sense of immediacy, and strength of connection to the characters and events portrayed. The book is brutal at times yet articulated with a poet’s voice. Importantly, it stretches itself occasionally beyond the purely personal account to comment on the social and political aspects of Australian life:
They stand around on their own side of their picket fences saying things like Oh, the Abos, they don’t participate … if only they’d stop drinking and integrate. You see the irony, people talking about integration over fences.
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