Rough frontier town explored in debut novel

Luke Carman
Luke Carman

Western Sydney writer Luke Carman's debut novel is about life on the cultural frontier of Australia.

The title An Elegant Young Man belies a western Sydney that is tough and a self-conscious young man who is anything but elegant.

Carman, who was born in Auburn and grew up in Liverpool, said western Sydney is an Australia unto itself.

"Things are more intense there, they are constantly redrawn and redefined. It [the region] doesn't have much of a voice in media but it certainly has a strong culture of its own," he said.

The novel, published by western Sydney-based publisher Giramondo, is a collection of short stories and monologues that explore the poetry of everyday experience in the west.

Carman said the region has its own mythology, codes and language that have rarely been explored in fiction before.

"What we consider the everyday in western Sydney is different to the aesthetics and poetics elsewhere in the country," he said.

"There's a background intensity, an objective sense of nervousness at times, that comes from the kind of frontier situation that western Sydney is."

The hero of the novel traverses through a sometimes violent landscape with fraught social world made up of "Grubby Boys", "scumbag Aussies", "Fobs" (fresh off the boat) and "Lebbos".

"People are often shocked that there is so much violence in this book but I think the people who notice that have never had to live with the kind of experience of menace and violence that is a real part of an ordinary everyday situation for people in western Sydney," said Carman, who is completing a doctorate at the University of Western Sydney.

The novel is a bid to revitalise our national literature, he said.

"I truly believe that the only hope for Australian literature is the stories coming out of Sydney's western suburbia. There will be an audience for it, people want to read stories that take them seriously."

This story Rough frontier town explored in debut novel first appeared on Parramatta Sun.


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