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Murray Bail
at the
complete review:


biographical | bibliography | quotes | pros/cons | our opinion | links


Biographical

Name: Murray BAIL
Nationality: Australian
Born: 22 September 1941
Awards: Victorian Premier's Award, 1988
Miles Franklin Award, 1999
Commonwealth Writers Prize, 1999

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Bibliography

Highlighted titles are under review at the complete review

  • Contemporary Portraits - stories, 1975 (also published as: The Drover's Wife (1986) and, in slightly different form, as Camouflage in the US (2002) - see our review)
  • Homesickness - novel, 1980
  • Ian Fairweather - non-fiction, 1981
  • The Drover's Wife - stories, 1986 (previously published as: Contemporary Portraits (1975))
  • Holden's Performance - novel, 1987
  • Longhand: A Writer's Notebook - non-fiction, 1989
  • Eucalyptus - novel, 1998
  • Camouflage - stories, 2001 (note that UK edition (2001) and the US edition (2002) differ considerably in scope: see our review)
  • Notebooks 1970-2003 - non-fiction, 2005
  • The Pages - novel, 2008
  • The Voyage - novel, 2012

Please note that this bibliography is not necessarily complete.

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Quotes

What others have to
say about
Murray Bail:

  • "What matters to Murray Bail is what grows, both in the parched Australian landscape and in the apparent dryness of stories. (...) Actual observation of life is what you want new language for. And Bail's is new. His sentences have a perpetually off-balance wit which gives you life's jumble, its mystery, its under-explained compactness. You take in the humour first, but then they deepen and deepen." - Francis Spufford, Evening Standard (22/6/1998)

  • "A writer with a strong visual imagination and a distinctive prose style." - Emma Hagestadt and Christopher Hirst, The Independent (20/11/1999)

  • "(T)hroughout Bail's career he has written about his native country and its inhabitants in a strikingly original way (.....) It has been said of Bail that, for him, realism in fiction fails to record the subtleties of reality." - Robert Ross, World Literature Today, (Winter/2000)

  • "Though widely acclaimed in his native Australia, Murray Bail is best known in Britain and America as the author of Eucalyptus, an enchanting novel about love and gum trees, which appeared in 1999. Mr Bail is also an accomplished short-story writer." - The Economist (1/12/2001)

  • "Bail loves a flashy stunt; sometimes he crashes to earth, but more often than not he soars." - Daniel Zalewski, The New York Times Book Review (4/8/2002)

  • "Bail isnít a prolific novelist, but the pages he does produce exhibit a surfeit of imagination, skill and style. (...) It might also be said of Murray Bailís novels -- there are not enough of them." - Alison McCulloch, The New York Times Book Review (22/8/2010)

  • "Murray Bail is one of the most remarkable writers of his generation because he is committed to doing something different with the form of the novel (as if there were no other way to do anything new by way of vision), and yet he is not, like Flaubert or the late David Foster Wallace, a writer of great technical virtuosity. (...) The upshot is a body of fiction that shows great power of design, even if it recurrently sounds like the work of a hayseed of genius sifting through beads to find diamonds." - Peter Craven, Sydney Morning Herald (22/9/2012)

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Pros and Cons
of the author's work:

    Pros:
  • Wildly imaginative
  • Inventive and attentive use of language
  • Humour
  • Clever literary games

    Cons:
  • Occasionally seems too focussed on ebullient invention
  • Occasional excesses in his filled-to-bursting novels
  • The annoying and confusing repackaging of the collection of what were once Contemporary Portraits (see our review of Camouflage)

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the complete review's Opinion

     Murray Bail is emphatically an Australian author. All his works focus on his home country, and almost all are set there. Even the rare foreign forays -- as in Homesickness -- serve largely as reflection of Australia itself.
     However, Bail is anything but provincial, even in this domestic focus. He offers a decidedly different twist and spin and perspective on the continent down under. Naturalistic description blends into wilder fantasy, grounded reports bizarrely take flight. Much of Bail reads like slightly hallucinogenic Patrick White.
     Bail's writing is also very controlled: the stories artfully wrought (and surprisingly varied), the novels densely packed. Language is carefully used, even as Bail experiments wildly with it It can be a bit much: Bail is rarely a quick, easy read, but if one adjusts one's pace to his words the works are very rewarding.
     Bail has published relatively little, valuing literature enough not to merely churn out competent work but rather to focus on producing the exceptional. Regrettably, this likely means a wait of several more years before the next larger fiction is available. But we imagine it will be worth the wait.

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Links

Murray Bail: Murray Bail's books at the complete review: See also:

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