[From August 2004] Vale Thea Astley

In tonight’s news, running a very poor third to Ian Thorpe’s brilliance in Greece and John Howard’s increasingly transparent duplicity (‘I won’t take a polygraph test because if people can’t tell I’m truthful by looking at me they’re not going to believe me just because a machine says I’m telling the truth’), we were told that Thea Astley died today.

I met her and heard her speak when I was an impressionable 21 year old. The one thing I remember well was an anecdote about Patrick White that she told with great pleasure, to an audience of young Marist Brothers, for the most part earnest seekers after knowledge and virtue. White had read her novel The Well Dressed Explorer, perhaps in manuscript, or at least very soon after publication, and commented: ‘Thea, if you’re going to write about a shit, make sure it’s a very big shit.’

5 responses to “[From August 2004] Vale Thea Astley

  1. I didn’t see that on the news. She had a bit to do with the cairns city library when I was there. She had very strong views and was very outspoken when I knew her in the early 80s

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    • It’s a very old post, Mary Ann – from 2004. I’ve just changed its status from ‘Private’ to ‘Public’, and unfortunately that makes it turn up in people’s email inboxes as if it’s a new post. There’s an excellent essay about her in Southerly Nº 1 2017, which I’m reading at the moment, and I want to link my blog post to this one.

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  2. It’s a very old post, Mary Ann – from 2004. I’ve just changed its status from ‘Private’ to ‘Public’, and unfortunately that makes it turn up in people’s email inboxes as if it’s a new post. There’s an excellent essay about her in Southerly Nº 1 2017, which I’m reading at the moment, and I want to link my blog post to this one.

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  3. Brilliant “replay” Jonathan! And good to note that your political viewpoint remains consistent – though the horrors of Abbott/Tremble – and Morrison/Dutton are way way beyond the always ironically used “honest” John! Thea ASTLEY – what a writer. Makes me wonder the novels she’d be writing to-day…referencing a Pacific-bullying Australia with rampant racism (à la The NT Intervention/asylum-seekers) and a gated wealthy fascist mob separating themselves from the riffraff! Goodness – I’m not even into fiction here – this has all the makings of non-fiction!

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    • YesJim. J Howard almost looks like the statesman he thinks he is by comparison. Debra Adelaide in the Southerly imagines Thea Astley inveighing against smart phones. Clearly we feel the lack of people with strong opinions colorfully expressed.

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