September 2006

Arts & Letters

‘Tuvalu’ by Andrew O’Connor

By Zora Simic

A young man named Noah goes to Japan and ekes out a threadbare existence teaching English in cubicles to pay for his room in a rambling hostel overflowing with cats and cast-off people. He has a companionable relationship with another Australian, Tilly (short for Matilda), who has the requisite freckles and farm back home. This is disrupted by a dalliance with a rich, beautiful and eccentric Japanese woman who lives in a luxury hotel with a sweeping view of Tokyo. Her name is Mami Kateka, and she speaks and acts as though she has escaped from a Banana Yoshimoto novel. So far, so Vogel-award-winning. Yet, pleasingly, Andrew O'Connor's debut novel is much more beguiling and ambitious than any quick sketch of its narrative suggests.

At first, it is hard to be absorbed by Noah's various minor predicaments. Potential plot developments announce themselves, only to wander off shortly afterwards. A few improbable conversations take place. Japan could be anywhere. Then, "a moment later", Noah finds himself overwhelmed: "There were literally thousands of people surrounding me and I wanted to linger, to peer into one window after another. But the idea of skulking on the edge of other people's happiness only exacerbated my loneliness." Noah is not a rake, nor an adventurer. He really doesn't know what to do with his life, and it is to O'Connor's credit that the reader really begins to care.

Tuvalu refers to a Pacific paradise, claimed as a special place by somebody for whom paradise proves impossible. It also gradually reveals itself to be the ideal title for a coming-of-age story that is traced with surprising and delicate gravitas by O'Connor. We are left hoping that Noah's self-exile is only a temporary condition.

There is nowhere quite like The Monthly. We are told that we live in a time of diminished attention spans; a time where the 24-hour-news-cycle has produced a collective desire for hot takes and brief summaries of the news and ideas that effect us. But we don’t believe it. The need for considered, reflective, long-form journalism has never been greater, and for almost 20 years, that’s what The Monthly has offered, from some of our finest writers.

That kind of quality writing costs money, and requires the support of our readers. Your subscription to The Monthly allows us to be the home for the best, most considered, most substantial perspectives on the state of the world. It’s Australia’s only current affairs magazine, an indispensable home for cultural commentary, criticism and reviews, and home to personal and reflective essays that celebrate and elevate our humanity.

The Monthly doesn’t just comment on our culture, our society and our politics: it shapes it. And your subscription makes you part of that.

Select your digital subscription

Month selector

From the front page

Osamah Sami with members of his local mosque

In ‘House of Gods’, Sydney’s Muslim community gets to be complicated

Plus, Barnaby Joyce shines in ‘Nemesis’, Emma Seligman and Rachel Sennott deliver ‘Bottoms’, and Chloë Sevigny and Molly Ringwald step up for ‘Feud: Capote vs. The Swans’.

U2 performing in the Las Vegas Sphere

Where the feats have no name: ‘U2:UV’ at Sphere

It’s no surprise it took U2 to launch post-stadium rock via a spectacular immersive show within the technical marvel of Las Vegas’s newest venue

Grace Tame running in the 2023 Bruny Island Ultra Marathon

Running out of trouble

How long-distance running changed the life of the former Australian of the Year (and earnt her a record win in an ultramarathon)

Illustration by Jeff Fisher

Might as well face it

Lively discussions take place around the country every week on ethical non-monogamy, love addiction and how much sex is too much

In This Issue

The 5000 spirits or the layers of the onion

Joe Boyd’s ‘White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960s’

The contours of the everyday

Writing ‘Ordinary People’s Politics’

Everyone’s battleground

Ken Inglis’s ‘Whose ABC? The Australian Broadcasting Corporation 1983–2006’
Illustration by Jeff Fisher.

Comment


More in Arts & Letters

Illustration by Jeff Fisher

Pictures of you

The award-winning author kicks off our new fiction series with a story of coming to terms with a troubled father’s obsessions

Jordan Wolfson, ‘Body Sculpture’ (detail), 2023

Call to arms: Jordan Wolfson’s ‘Body Sculpture’

The NGA’s newest acquisition, a controversial American artist’s animatronic steel cube, fuses abstraction with classical figure sculpture

U2 performing in the Las Vegas Sphere

Where the feats have no name: ‘U2:UV’ at Sphere

It’s no surprise it took U2 to launch post-stadium rock via a spectacular immersive show within the technical marvel of Las Vegas’s newest venue

McKenzie Wark

Novel gazing: McKenzie Wark’s ‘Love and Money, Sex and Death’

The expat writer and scholar’s memoir is an inquiry into “what it means to experience the self as both an intimate and a stranger”


More in Noted

Cover of ‘Kids Run the Show’

Delphine de Vigan’s ‘Kids Run the Show’

The French author’s fragmentary novel employs the horror genre to explore anxieties about intimacy, celebrity and our infatuation with life on screens

Still from ‘Boy Swallows Universe’

‘Boy Swallows Universe’

The magical realism in Netflix’s adaptation of Trent Dalton’s bestselling novel derails its tender portrayal of family drama in 1980s Brisbane’s suburban fringe

Cover of ‘Question 7’

Richard Flanagan's ‘Question 7’

A slim volume of big ideas that takes in H.G. Wells, chain reaction, Hiroshima and the author’s near-death experience on the Franklin River

Scene from ‘The Curse’

‘The Curse’

Nathan Fielder directs and co-stars in an erratic comedy about the performative benevolence of a couple creating a social housing reality TV show


Online latest

Osamah Sami with members of his local mosque

In ‘House of Gods’, Sydney’s Muslim community gets to be complicated

Plus, Barnaby Joyce shines in ‘Nemesis’, Emma Seligman and Rachel Sennott deliver ‘Bottoms’, and Chloë Sevigny and Molly Ringwald step up for ‘Feud: Capote vs. The Swans’.

International Film Festival Rotterdam highlights

Films from Iran, Ukraine and Bundaberg were deserving winners at this year’s festival

Two women on a train smile and shake hands

‘Expats’ drills down on Hong Kong’s class divide

Plus, Netflix swallows Trent Dalton, Deborah Mailman remains in ‘Total Control’ and ‘Vanderpump Rules’ returns for another season

Image of a man playing music using electronics and the kora (West African harp)

Three overlooked albums of spiritual jazz from 2023

Recent releases by kora player John Haycock, trumpeter Matthew Halsall and 14-piece jazz ensemble Ancient Infinity Orchestra feel like a refuge from reality