Academic journal article Journal of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature : JASAL

Carpentaria: Reading with the Dirt of Blurbs and Front Pages

Academic journal article Journal of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature : JASAL

Carpentaria: Reading with the Dirt of Blurbs and Front Pages

Article excerpt

Graphics

Enter 'Carpentaria' into Yasiv.com and the screen is populated with an ever-expanding constellation of books. This is one way of imagining transits of Alexis Wright's novel offshore. These are associations, and sometimes seemingly random affiliations driven by the purchases of Amazon customers. There is no quantitative information about book sales here, we cannot derive any historical or conceptual insights or information about curricula or courses that produce these associations. This digital tool launches Carpentaria into a vast network of books that resists orderly associations of canons, traditions, and fields.

This Yasiv.com graphic of the US market launches Carpentaria into a constellation of 155 texts, with the distinctive American edition at the centre. In immediate proximity we see Wright's other fictions, Plains of Promise and The Swan Book, but so too is Louise Erdrich's Tracks and a node of South Pacific writing: The Bone People, Come Over Here and We Will Eat You All: A New Zealand Story, Potiki, Tales of the Tikongs, among others. Through Skins (a compilation of contemporary Indigenous writing) and Red on Red (on reading Native American literature) Carpentaria is networked into native American writing in the US Amazon market: Talking Leaves, anthologies of native American testimonies and short stories, and the Canadian Indigenous novel Kiss of the Fur Queen. These associations within what we might configure as a transnational Indigenous literary network are accentuated in the graphic generated by Amazon's Canadian market. In this Yasiv.com graphic Carpentaria is affiliated with fictions by Tomson Highway and Thomas King, as well as Traplines, One Good Story That One and The Rez Sisters. This Canadian network indicates a strong field of Indigenous writing that hosts Carpentaria, however this dissipates in the graphic generated from the British market. Here Carpentaria is relatively isolated, with few connections to proximate texts. There is an Australian node nearby, where fictions by Christos Tsiolkas and Tim Winton predominate and, via the Routledge Literature and Globalisation Reader (which does not feature Wright's work), weak links to postcolonial writers, Amitav Ghosh and Chimamanda Adi che. Finally, the particularly strong interest in Wright's fiction in France drives the graphic of the French market generated by Yasiv.com to incorporate 200 books in proximity to Carpentaria although, intriguingly, there is 'no image available' of the book itself at the centre of this field-in all other markets it is the American edition, with its distinctive ochre livery, that is marketed. What we see here in the French graphic is a strong field of Australian literature, both historical and contemporary, popular fiction (Burial Rights') and a node of Booker contenders and prizewinners: The Luminaries. The Narrow Road to the Deep North, as well as Adiche's Americanah. Books on English language nearby are a reminder that here Carpentaria is read in translation. To date (the Black Words database records) there are four translations of Carpentaria: French, Italian, Polish and Chinese.

The Yasiv.com graphic is contingent on the vicissitudes of the market, but it presents the movement of Carpentaria with a dynamism that is compelling and suggestive of various nodes driven by consumer choice. Other graphics of Australian Indigenous literature on the move 'outside country' are less volatile, for example this image generated from the Black Words database tracks a series of Indigenous texts on the move through translation and overseas editions:

This graphic indicates the dominance of Sally Morgan's My Place in translations of Australian Indigenous literature, which we have discussed elsewhere (Whitlock 2013, 2015) and it indicates the strong interest in Indigenous life narrative more generally, in the translations of Ruby Langford, Jackie Huggins and Doris Pilkington Garimara, for example. However if we transpose a chronological framework here we see there is a recent shift to Indigenous fiction, and Wright's work figures prominently, with translations of her writing into French (Actes Sud 2009) and Italian (Rizzoli 2008), Polish (Media Rodzina 2009) and Chinese (People's Literature Publishing House 2012). …

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