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This Excellent Machine

Stephen Orr

This Excellent Machine
Clem Whelan's got a problem: trapped in the suburbs in the Sunnyboy summer of 1984 he has to decide what to do with his life. Matriculation? He's more than able, but not remotely interested. Become a writer? His failed lawyer neighbour Peter encourages him, but maybe it's just another dead end? To make sense of the world, Clem uses his telescope to spy on his neighbours. From his wall, John Lennon gives him advice; his sister (busy with her Feres Trabilsie hairdressing apprenticeship) tells him he's a pervert; his best friend, Curtis, gets hooked on sex and Dante and, as the year progresses and the essays go unwritten, he starts to understand the excellence of it all.

His Pop, facing the first dawn of dementia, determined to follow an old map into the desert in search of Lasseter's Reef. His old neighbour, Vicky, returning to Lanark Avenue - and a smile is all it takes. Followed by a series of failed driving tests; and the man at his door, claiming to be his father.

It's going to be a long year, but in the end Clem emerges from the machine a different person, ready to face what he now understands about life, love, and the importance of family and neighbours.

Praise for This Excellent Machine
'Orr is one of my favourite authors .. he is a genius with characterisation and setting ... There are laugh-out-loud moments, but also poignant sequences where Clem learns that his initial judgements of people arenít always fair, and that sometimes there are heart-rending reasons why people do rather odd things such as knitting 17 identical jumpers in all different sizes ... I really enjoyed losing myself in the pages of this book.' - Lisa Hill, ANZ LitLovers LitBlog

'There are so many interesting characters in this book, and so many personal stories; they are all fodder for Clem's machine - his budding novel about how life is a machine where people go in and come out changed. And that is what the author Orr creates in the end, the excellent machine where people interrelate and are changed by their relationships, in a wonderful old-time suburb where people all know each other and look out for each other. The novel is about growing up in the Adelaide suburbs in the 1980s, the world of Datsuns and permed hairstyles, men having a drink at the pub, and women holding the fort at home. Much of it is told via conversations where the language is so Oz it makes you laugh at times. It is a very enjoyable book and offers much to reflect on afterwards.' - Helen Eddy, ReadPlus

ĎYou have many fans, of which Iím one. I really, really enjoyed this book. Itís my favourite of your books since Timeís Long Ruin.í - Peter Goers, ABC Adelaide

'Orr has distilled the bogan northeast of Adelaide onto the page with consummate skill and affection. Savour the vernacular. Read slowly. The life of the novel turns repeatedly on a scant sentence and a half, a muttered aside, a quick flip of perspective; read too fast and you'll miss it and have to backtrack anyway. Orr has foreshadowed a trilogy of childhood novels ... readers who have experienced the unexpected grace of Lanark Ave, Gleneagles, through Orr's telescope and appraising, appreciative eye will be waiting impatiently for whatever this very local hero decides to give us next.' - Katharine England, Advertiser

'It's the new novel from literary acrobat Stephen Orr - he swings along from allusion to illusion, spins the words and drops them so that they land perfectly in a field of metaphor. Keep a look out for turning points or important moments because they will be there and gone before you notice. To say that he writes in an understated style is to understate it; what he leaves out goes exactly to the limit of what can be left out. Keep looking - a master of dialogue and pinpoint description, Orr's writing stealthily makes you complicit in its created world ... The craftmanship is excellent so enjoy the feeling and the journey.' - Patrica Johnson, Westerly

Stephen Orr was born in Adelaide in 1967 and grew up in Hillcrest. He studied teaching and spent his early career in a range of country and metropolitan schools. One of his early plays, Attempts to Draw Jesus, became his first Australian/Vogel shortlisted novel, published in 2002. Since then he has published seven novels, a volume of short stories (Datsunland) and two books of non-fiction (The Cruel City and The Fierce Country). He has won or been nominated for awards such as the Commonwealth Writers' Prize, the Miles Franklin Award and the International Dublin Literary Award. This Excellent Machine is the first volume in an anticipated trilogy of childhood novels.

Stephen Orr is married and lives in Adelaide.
Details
Category
Format Paperback
Size 210 x 140 mm
ISBN 9781743056134
Extent 492 pages
Price: AU$34.95 including GST
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