March 2009

Arts & Letters

‘Shots’ by Don Walker

By Tim Rogers

Two years back I spent time with Don Walker in the manner to which we’re both accustomed: meet in a lobby, jump in a van, drive to a show, play, drive back, avoid morning duties with shaky resolve. I was intimidated, not merely by his prowess as a songwriter but by his steady gaze. Come 4 am we were talking of Iran and Farsi, tales of exploration as intoxicating as almost everything in Shots, a memoir of sorts.

The ‘shots’ from a childhood in northern New South Wales are presented with a detachment recalling Hal Porter’s tales of youth. There’s no lament for a world hurtling by, because it’s just a raised thumb on an unmarked road away. At the dinner table Don’s father tells of “a world where all walls crumble before a balanced, enquiring mind”, and it’s surely not simply a revisionist memory that equates “Newtonian cantilever physics” with barn-dance sexual politics. It’s the balanced, enquiring mind of a man ballpein-hammering at a piano in a soulful rock band from the Adelaide suburbs, his head cocking up every 36 bars to check all are present and accounted for.

As he enters university, with its lecture-dodging charlatans and the submarine presence of music constantly threatening to break the surface, our protagonist appears a man out of time, as if the experimentation of the era is mere folly. The joy in this book lies here, in the same way that a solemn description of a truck-stop coffee and soulless toasted sandwich burnt my lips without howls of hyperbole turning them into a cat’s bum. Juxtapositions abound: aerodynamics and rock ‘n’ roll, sex and loneliness, drugs and unforgiving sobriety. The coolness in recollecting the formation of a great band is no pose – the hipster is 16 bars ahead, knowing that all is transitory. As his life turns menacing and tragic, it’s this acceptance that keeps him observant in the eye of the storm.

Rock music is populated with many of the duller characters to have graced the globe, but a handful of restless romantics know that at its heart is a truss of darkness and furious light into which anger, love and desire can be flung. Don Walker does it as well as anyone, and in the absence of a tune his stories have greater weight, an ache that has me packing a bag, wanting to chance my arm at something a way up ahead.

Tim Rogers
Tim Rogers is a Melbourne-based musician. He is a solo artist as well as the frontman of Australian rock band You Am I. He made his stage debut at the Malthouse Theatre in Woyzeck in 2009.

Cover: March 2009

March 2009

From the front page

2009 forever

Blame the Coalition, not the Greens, for Australia’s decade of climate dysfunction

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‘The Testaments’ by Margaret Atwood

The Booker Prize–winning sequel to ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ is an exhilarating thriller from the “wiliest writer alive”

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Interrogating the interrogators: ‘The Report’

This tale of the investigation into CIA torture during the War on Terror places too much faith in government procedure

Image of police station in Alice Springs with red handprints on wall

What really happened at Yuendumu?

The promised inquiries must answer the biggest questions raised by the police shooting of an Aboriginal man


In This Issue

Hidden treasure

Forty-three years at the ABC

‘Teenagers, Alcohol and Drugs: What Your Kids Really Want and Need to Know About Alcohol and Drugs’ by Paul Dillon

Neo-Liberal meltdown

The response to the Prime Minister’s essay
Illustration by Jeff Fisher.

Sinking sandbanks


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Radical ambiguity: Jia Tolentino, Rachel Cusk and Leslie Jamison

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A gripping psychological study of psychosis offers a surprising change of pace in the superhero genre


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‘Civilization: The Way We Live Now’

The beautiful photographs of often grim subjects in NGV Australia’s exhibition raise questions over the medium’s power to critique

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‘The Testaments’ by Margaret Atwood

The Booker Prize–winning sequel to ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ is an exhilarating thriller from the “wiliest writer alive”

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‘The Man Who Saw Everything’ by Deborah Levy

The British author experiments with a narrative structure that collapses past and present

‘The weekend’ cover

‘The Weekend’ by Charlotte Wood

The Stella Prize–winner returns with a stylish character study of women surprised by age


Read on

Image from ‘The Report’

Interrogating the interrogators: ‘The Report’

This tale of the investigation into CIA torture during the War on Terror places too much faith in government procedure

Image of police station in Alice Springs with red handprints on wall

What really happened at Yuendumu?

The promised inquiries must answer the biggest questions raised by the police shooting of an Aboriginal man

You could drive a person crazy: Noah Baumbach’s ‘Marriage Story’

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Blockade tactics

Inside the 2019 IMARC protests


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