I’ve just finished reading Kerryn Goldsworthy’s book about Adelaide, the fifth title in NewSouth Publishing’s series on Australian cities. Like most Adelaideans, I rarely get the chance to read about our lovely city: it’s not New York, or Paris, or London, not one of the great cities of the world. So it’s an unaccustomed pleasure to read about North Terrace ‘with its patches of elegance and swathes of shade’ and the Torrens Lake enlivened by ‘the spray of the river fountains as they catch and atomise the light.’
Kerryn Goldsworthy has used a simple but effective technique to write about our city: she has chosen a number of different objects and framed her narrative around them. A map of the city centre, a painting in the Art Gallery and Don Dunstan’s pink shorts are amongst the well-known objects that she has selected; a chipped, white enamel bucket of peaches and a Leonard Cohen concert ticket are her personal choices.
This is one of the strengths of NewSouth’s ‘Cities Series’; they are promoting the work of Australian writers who intimately know the places that they are describing. The elements of personal memoir make the titles appealing and rewarding to read, especially with authors like Goldsworthy – she writes such lyrical prose. She captures her night-time walk along Victoria Drive in ‘folded swathes of blackness relieved by embroideries of light’ and her memories of Rundle Street in another decade as redolent of ‘the ghosts of perfumes that had long since ceased to be made.’ I have not heard such evocative descriptions of Adelaide since I read Barbara Hanrahan’s superb autobiography, The Scent of Eucalyptus when it was first published several decades ago.