Thursday, November 21

Tim Winton: License to Shock

You want to cover your eyes but you've already seen.  Before you even realise that something is amiss, it's too late to do anything. 

We are reading Tim Winton's modern classic Cloudstreet.  There's this thing that he does in his writing that I find shocking.  I have to talk about it because it's the first time I've experienced something like this in writing.  

The power to shock

Tim Winton keeps shocking me.  We are unsuspecting passers-by, innocently enjoying the scenery.  The same second that we first feel the prickle of something going wrong, it is too late to prevent the tragedy.  

We are now the witness of a horrific accident.  We am scarred.  We would have closed our eyes or run away if only we had known.  But now the trauma of the characters is in part our own.  I am Quick Lamb.  

To resume life

These moments always occur in the middle of a chapter.  This is such a powerful technique.  We become the characters who cannot stop, cannot hide from what they have experienced.  We are forced to continue living the chapter.  There's no time to grieve, only room for moving forwards.  

**SPOILER ALERT**  Quick Lamb witnesses the death of Wogga McBride and because he doesn't tell anyone, he has no choice but to act as though nothing out of the ordinary happened.  This terrible trauma and tension belongs to the reader as well, unable to do or change what we've read, we just keep reading.

In this way, the book mirrors life.  To read Cloudstreet is to experience  life in miniature.  It is not a passive viewing experience, but a forced participation in life.  I will be haunted by every word.

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