Academic journal article Cultural Studies Review

Serial Cities: Australian Literary Cities and the Rhetoric of Scale

Academic journal article Cultural Studies Review

Serial Cities: Australian Literary Cities and the Rhetoric of Scale

Article excerpt

Serial Cities: Australian Literary Cities and the Rhetoric of Scale

Matthew Condon, Brisbane NewSouth Books, Sydney 2010 ISBN 9781742230283 RRP $29.99

Sophie Cunningham, Melbourne NewSouth Books, Sydney, 2011 ISBN 9781742231389 RRP $29.99

Paul Daley, Canberra NewSouth Books, Sydney, 2012 ISBN 9781742233185 RRP $29.99

Delia Falconer, Sydney NewSouth Books, Sydney, 2010 ISBN 9781921410925 RRP $29.99

Kerryn Goldsworthy, Adelaide NewSouth Books, Sydney, 2011 ISBN 9781742232621 RRP $29.99

Eleanor Hogan, Alice Springs NewSouth Books, Sydney, 2012 ISBN 9781742233253 RRP $29.99

Tess Lea, Darwin NewSouth Books, Sydney, 2014 ISBN 9781742233864 RRP $29.99

Peter Timms, Hobart NewSouth Books, Sydney, 2012 ISBN 9781742233727 RRP $29.99 (originally published as In Search of Hobart, NewSouth Books, Sydney, 2009)

David Whish-]Wilson, Perth NewSouth Books, Sydney, 2013 ISBN 9781742233673 RRP $29.99

It is not surprising that Tess Lea should open Darwin (2014)-the final volume to appear in NewSouth's series on Australian capital cities-with a vivid account of the night she and her family survived Cyclone Tracy. This moment wins instant recognition from Australian readers like me who have little experience of the Top End but can recall exactly where they were when news of the disaster broke on Christmas morning 1974. This virtual connection with strangers remote from oneself recalls Benedict Anderson's account of the 'imagined community' of nation, a 'deep horizontal comradeship' between fellow citizens one will never meet that is daily facilitated by the simultaneities of broadcast and print media.1 The operative parameters of Lea's Darwin are, therefore, as national as they are local. Yet nation remains implicit rather than articulated in the book, latent rather than activated. Rather than announcing nation as the governing frame or scene of reading, Lea's narrative orients itself towards the dynamic, multifarious space of the city. Darwin appears as a city among other cities, determined by its local region but situated as much within expansive, diffusing global networks as within the nation-]statefs territorial boundaries. Even so, Leafs tracing of Darwinfs historical role as garrison town points towards what is otherwise hidden in plain sight: the capital cityfs service in the operation and maintenance of the greater nation state.

Narrating the city requires movement above and below the dimension of nation, from local stories to a larger geographic range that implicates region and globe. In order to shiftbetween these different scales and perspectives, Lea recruits various modes of address, namely the poetic, the anecdotal and the analytic. Onto a sensually apprehended Darwin, Lea grafts a cogent analysis of the cityfs social production as urban space, its repeated obliteration and rebuilding from colonial times to the present, from the aftermath of cyclones to the bombings of World War II. Darwin takes form as a built response to the particulars of topography, climate and an elemental nature that extends from the mosquito, characterised as the hidden architect of the city, (84ff) to the cyclone itself. Yet the forces that destroy and create the built city are at once material and abstract, elemental and economic; that which fetters Darwinfs growth also forges its character. Regardless of their precise combination, these disparate forces of creative destruction bring Darwin into alignment with modern industrial and post-]industrial cities everywhere.

Leafs is the ninth and final instalment in a series commissioned by NewSouth Books editor Phillipa McGuinness. The initiative resembles other literary guides to cities, such as Bloomsburyfs eWriter and the Cityf series, in which evocative narratives are produced by well known writers with a personal attachment to their designated cities, by birth, residence or other circumstance.2 McGuinness began by recruiting Peter Timms to write In Search of Hobart (2009). …

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