Posted by: Lisa Hill | May 10, 2012

Sensational Snippets: Closer to Stone (2012), by Simon Cleary

Closer to StoneI am reading Closer to Stone, Simon Cleary’s new novel, and successor to The Comfort of Figs, but I had to stop to share this arresting image with you.  The young man is making his first trip overseas to find Jack, his brother, a peace-keeper who’s gone missing somewhere in Africa…

I lay exhausted until dawn was surely not too far off.  Then a new sound, entirely foreign, broke open the night.  It was a wail, neither strong nor delicate.  Even whether it was near or far I couldn’t tell, the sound distorted by whatever distance it had to travel, an inconstancy on the gusting ocean winds.  My first thought was of a rabid dog losing itslf in fever.  But there was no agitation in the whining.  It was more like the sound of dingoes beyond a campfire, flat and controlled.  Then, from another compass point, a second wailing began, as if in answer to the first, and I understood they were not dogs, but men calling into the night.  Two men, droning away in the dark.  And then a third voice, and a fourth, perhaps more.  Some ritual was taking place out there.  I imagined Aborigines chanting through the darkness around the tentative encampments of The Springs’ first settlers,unsettling them.  The stories our father told Jack and me when we were kids.

I crept from my bed, lifted the hanging blanket, and peered sideways through the slats at the faded stars and all that lay beyond.  Now the chanting was like warrior calling warrior out there in the night, warning the city of an intruder, planning their assault.  Because on that first night I was just a boy, a country child who knew nothing of Muslim calls to prayer.  Wide-eyed, I listened to the wailing city, my cheek pressed against the cold plaster of the wall.  The moon, visible near the roof-line at the end of the street, was many days from full, a mere sliver of crescent.  In time the last echoes of wailing stopped, there was silence, and I crawled back to bed, curled tight, and waited.
(Simon Cleary, Closer to Stone, UQP 2012, p 8-9)

Oh, how that perfectly realised scene reminds me of my first night in Yogyakarta, startled out of my sleep by that mystic wailing!

Fishpond: Closer to Stone
Or direct from UQP


  1. […] second novel, Closer to Stone is a stunning novel. It opens in Casablanca, where (as shown in the Sensational Snippet that I posted last week) the central character Bas Adams is overwhelmed by a culture completely […]


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