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This review is taken from PN Review 90, Volume 19 Number 4, March - April 1993.

PLACE AND PLAY Paul Carter, Living in a New Country: History, Travelling and Language (Faber, 1992)

At the heart of Paul Carter's new collection of essays is a Borgesian piece entitled 'Grass Houses'. It is a fake memoir of Vincenzo Volentieri, an Italian-Australian architect whose projects included Gondwanaland, a migrant accommodation which would float among the clouds. 'Taking his cue from the phenomenon of migration itself, Volentieri insisted that the essential feature of "home" was the sense of direction it created. Birds in flight were not between places: they carried their places with them. Sensitive to the earth's invisible roads, its geomagnetic lines of attraction, they travelled by listening. They sang out to one another in the night, not for solace, but because they were on the road. As a consequence, when they arrived they were as at home as if they had never departed.'

Carter's previous book, The Road To Botany Bay, persuasively reconsidered the published writings of Australian explorers as literary works formed by stylistic conventions. Living In A New Country continues to investigate 'the artefactual nature of our reality' from broader perspectives.

Throughout the book images of birds predominate. The explorer Charles Sturt, Carter suggests, was partly inspired in his search for an inland sea by a concept of bird migration taken from the mechanistic notions of Gilbert White. While there was never any clear evidence that an inland sea was likely, the feeling that it had to be there took some disproving (and as recently as the late 1940s serious plans were still being put forward for ...


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