An Ode to the Tome: Pink Mountain on Locust Island, Foreign Soil and The World Was Whole

We all have those books. The ‘I fell asleep reading you’, ‘I dropped you in the bath’, ‘I covered you in crumbs as I devoured you over lunch’ – the un-put-downables that became like instant best friends or toxic lovers. To celebrate the powerful ways in which words can rouse us, we’re asking our favourite book bloggers to pen An Ode to A Tome, love letters to three books as penned by the authors and artists appearing in this year’s program.

This week, Michaela from Crazy Book Lady shares her heartfelt gratitude to the books she loves best: Pink Mountain on Locust Island by debut novelist Jamie Marina LauForeign Soil by Poet Laureate Maxine Beneba Clarke and The World Was Whole by poet and essayist Fiona Wright.

I was asked to write an ode to the tome, a love letter to three books that have had a profound effect on my reading experience. Each of these books is uniquely written in a distinct and diverse form, though each has left an enduring mark on my mind. All three books are written by an incredible women writer of Australia.

All of these women are poetic and evocative and have an affinity for language that leaves me yearning for more. I only hope I can convince you to experience them for yourself.

Pink Mountain on Locust Island, Jamie Marina Lau

To the debut novel, Pink Mountain on Locust Island by Jamie Marina Lau. An experimental novel you will be hard pressed to define. That such a young voice can write something so mesmerising and disparate leaves me astonished and excited for the future of Australian fiction. Experimental literature is often inaccessible, intellectual and haughty, for only those advanced enough to understand.

Pink Mountain on Locust Island takes that notion and blows it apart. Lau writes a compulsive narrative unlike any other. Her protagonist, Monk, is quirky and irrepressible; a joy to inhibit. Not everything within this novel needs to be understood or explicit and, yet, an appreciation is not only attainable but effortless. Thank you for teaching me that unconventional can be approachable.

Foreign Soil, Maxine Beneba Clarke

To the short story collection, Foreign Soil by Maxine Beneba Clarke. A cluster of stories set in varied times and spaces showing a snippet of life. You introduced me to the art of short story writing, although, if I’m honest you may have set the bar too high.

To become so immersed in a vignette, so impacted by a brief glimpse, so consumed you only want more, is a gift. Within these stories is a prodigious amount of life and heart for minimal words. Emotive and distinct in voice, the sensation many of these stories stirred in me in a few pages was more than many novels achieve in their entirety.

Many of these stories have stayed with me years after I first encountered them, a feat in itself given the volume I read.  To find writing, a collection of words, that hits like a physical blow is the feeling I chase as a reader and Clarke’s left me beaten and weeping on my knees. Thank you for opening my eyes to a different view of the world and the written form.

The World Was Whole, Fiona Wright

To the collection of essays, The World Was Whole by Fiona Wright. A collection of essays about home and shelter, whether that be body or bricks, you that taught me an essay is not merely regurgitating rhetoric. Persuasive arguments, the meat between an intro/outro bun prescribed by high schools everywhere.

To borrow from Wright’s conversation earlier this year with Luke Carman, an essay has no beginning or end. An essay is life, ‘the everyday occurrences and injuries … the small transfers of energy that shock us, sudden and electric. The hidden things they illuminate.’

The World Was Whole shocked me. Feelings and ideas that I could never clearly articulate were written so elegantly, so profoundly. Written in a way that made me feel known, seen and above all, relevant. These pages provide a window into Wright’s soul that I, in turn, feel can be mirrored back by my own, and I have no doubt many others’. Thank you for this collection that makes me feel connected to the world and those that walk within it.

Michaela is a bookstagrammer based in Adelaide, South Australia who will happily talk books to anyone who will stand still long enough and loves nothing more than connecting with other readers. Her perfect bookish situation involves a great read, a large coffee, and brunch that preferably includes halloumi. While she is happy to read just about any genre of fiction and non-fiction, literary fiction and reading the work of Australian women is her ultimate passion. Follow Crazy Book Lady on Instagram and her blog.