Posted by: Lisa Hill | November 9, 2016

Why I write, Christina Stead

Bill at The Australian Legend has posted a Sensational Snippet from Cotter’s England, check it out!

The Australian Legend

ANZLitLoversChristina Stead Week Nov 14-20 2016

1437769.jpg note the misplaced apostrophe!

Lisa at ANZ LitLovers has been posting the opening pages of Christina Stead novels. She suggested I put up an excerpt from Cotters’ England (1966), which I am planning to review. Here on pp 37-38 Stead’s protagonist Nellie, talking to her friend Caroline, gives a pretty good definition of the Social Realist novel:

“You’re all alike, you amateurs. Everything is grist to your mill. You don’t see the warm natural human material. You see a subject …  I understand the urge [to write]. But you’ll need more experience. That’s not enough, the seamy side. You can’t butcher them to make a holiday in print. Writing’s not just a case of self-expression or conscience clearing. The muckrakers did their work. Now we want something constructive. You see, sweetheart, just to photograph a refuse yard with its rats, that wouldn’t help…

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  1. By sheer coincidence i found a comment today on the Guardian’s list of top 100 novels over three centuries. the list dates from 2015. In explaining that this is a process of judgement and some key names might have been committed the columnist says: “One casualty of this process whom I deeply regret omitting is the Australian novelist Christina Stead’s The Man Who Loved Children (1940), a profoundly moving study of family life so pitch perfect that it’s hard to believe her novel is not better known.”


  2. His remiss absolutely. She is in a unique realm but requires attention and time. Something sadly lacking in a world that keeps us constantly distracted.


    • Yes, everything has to be instant and easy these days, and for most people that includes reading (if they read, that is).


  3. Thank you for that link. Now I’m wondering if Bill’s full review (when it gets published) will give me a new way of regarding Stead’s dislike of social realism’s constraints — the link between her opinions of a genre, and her descriptions of Nellie as vampire and leech.


    • Bill is a most original thinker, and his reviews often give me pause for thought. I look forward to reading it too (and the book as well, of course!)


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