March 2011

Encounters

Shane Maloney and Chris Grosz

Bunyip Bluegum & Albert, A Magic Pudding

Words: Shane Maloney | Illustration: Chris Grosz

Bunyip Bluegum was a fine, round, splendid, well-bred young fellow. Compelled to leave home by the size of his uncle’s whiskers, he set off to see the world. In his rush to leave, however, he quite overlooked the issue of lunch. Fortunately, just as the pangs of hunger struck, he came upon two people – one a sailor, the other a penguin – in the act of eating a pudding. But this was no ordinary pudding. It was a cut-an’-come-again pudding, a pudding that positively cried out to be eaten. “Call him Albert when addressing him,” advised Sam Sawnoff, the penguin, for the pudding had a cranky temperament and a tendency to run away on its spindly legs. So begins Norman Lindsay’s The Magic Pudding, published in December 1918. It was a critical success but a slow seller. A guinea was a lot to ask for a children’s book, however lavishly bound. But for Lindsay, then 38, the task of writing and illustrating a children’s storybook might well have served to distract him from a deep and recent personal grief.

For almost 20 years, Norman Lindsay had been the resident cartoonist and illustrator for the Bulletin, providing the editorial visuals for its race-based nationalism. Aborigines were lazy children, Jews were hook-nosed money-grubbers, Chinamen were both comical and threatening. And, when fresh cannon fodder was required during World War I, Lindsay provided the recruiters with a powerful propaganda tool in the form of virulent pro-conscription posters. Huns in pickle-sticker helmets with the faces of bloody-fanged slavering baboons. The Trumpet Calls, and so forth.

In 1915, his younger brother, Reg, answered that call. He was killed in France the following year. He looked, it was said, a lot like the heroic Anzac in Lindsay’s recruiting posters.

Like many experiencing a similar loss, Lindsay tried spiritualism. And, if only because of the time and effort required for their creation, Bunyip Bluegum and Albert must have offered a form of consolation.

When Norman Lindsay died in 1969, his name was synonymous with images of frolicking nymphs with voluptuous breasts. Classical allusions, wonderful use of watercolour, Elle Macpherson in the nuddy.

Meanwhile, the Magic Pudding became our national metaphor, as fought-over and self-replenishing as the original Albert. Keating called Howard a Puddin’ Thief. PP McGuinness, himself a dead spit for Bunyip Bluegum’s poodle-whiskered Uncle Wattleberry, declared the very concept a dangerous socialistic fantasy.

As for the dark history of how this limitless resource was acquired in the first place, little is remembered and even less said.

Shane Maloney and Chris Grosz

Shane Maloney is a writer and the author of the award-winning Murray Whelan series of crime novels. His 'Encounters', illustrated by Chris Grosz, have been published in a collection, Australian Encounters.

Chris Grosz is a book illustrator, painter and political cartoonist. He has illustrated newspapers and magazines such as the Age, the Bulletin and Time.

March 2011

From the front page

Albo set to lead ALP

Can a left-winger take the party to the right?

Photo of Leonard French underneath his stained glass ceiling at the National Gallery of Victoria.

Leonard French’s Balzacian life

Reg MacDonald’s biography may return this Australian artist to the national imagination

Book cover of Choice Words

The desperate, secretive drama: ‘Choice Words’ edited by Louise Swinn

Personal stories consider questions of choice, legality and stigma surrounding abortion

Fair gone

The Coalition’s aspirational pitch worked a treat


In This Issue

Illustration by Jeff Fisher.

The devil within

Christian Democratic Party member Peter J Madden

'The Many Worlds of RH Mathews: In Search of an Australian Anthropologist' By Martin Thomas, Allen & Unwin, 472pp; $59.99

‘The Many Worlds of RH Mathews’ by Martin Thomas

Illustration by Jeff Fisher.

NSW Labor

'How to Change the World: Tales of Marx and Marxism' By Eric Hobsbawm, Little, Brown, 480pp; $55.00

‘How to Change the World’ by Eric Hobsbawm


Read on

Image of former prime minister Bob Hawke

Remembering the Silver Bodgie

Bob Hawke’s ability to build consensus reshaped Australia

Doomsday is nigh

The ALP’s policies are mild – why are they being treated as a mortal threat?

Image of Prime Minister Scott Morrison

Our distorted politics

Why is the Coalition even competitive under Morrison?

Image of the News Corp Australia office in Sydney

When journalists revolt

New Corp’s influence is being tested this election


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