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. …
About the Author
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.
Who knew the north east suburbs of Adelaide were so interesting. The author has constructed a street full of interesting people, but not over the top interesting, which makes the story so real. Some of the characters are more interesting than others, some are hoarders, some are backyard mechanics, some are even Catholic, some like going to the pub, but you can just sense a street with no street trees and plenty of weatherboard houses. It’s so evocative of the times (early 1980s), and even the local fish and chip shop is described to a tee; a takeaway shop that did very little to attract customers, but nevertheless, everyone stopped in there. This book should be on your “must read” list. State Library of South Australia, Australia