The Last Pulse – by Anson Cameron, launched by John Harms

Anson Cameron – The Last Pulse  Launch Nov 27, 2014

 

Watch a video of the launch (CLICK HERE).

 

Here are the speech notes:

 

I watched the 2011 Grand Final with Anson Cameron which makes us brothers.

That means I can say what I like:

 

So let me say this:

Anson Cameron is a bastard.

 

The Last Pulse is a brilliant book, but in it Anson Cameron has offended  –   actually, that’s not right  –  he has had his narrator offend the following:

 

Most Queensland women –  whom he describes as dugongs

Queenslanders generally

Queensland – which he describes as some sort of plantation remnant of a frontier colony

He offends Hell by likening it to Queensland

Queensland culture

Queensland developers and entrepreneurs

Queensland’s notion of progress

Country music – paranoid yodel against city folk and fast women

Politicians of all jurisdictions and sensibilities – some of whom he absolutely nails

Political parties

The political process

National myth-makers

parochialists

Federalists

Romantics

Farmers, fucked farmers, and pre-fucked farmers

Indigenous sensibilities

The Church

Mysticism generally

Those who give children names which included unnecessary use of the letter ‘x’ – like Jaxon, and Sophoenix

And the media – the description of the scrum at the court house is brief but spot on

Police officers –

Lawyers

Judges

 

And that’s just from memory

 

But, by crikey he does it well. Because this is a study of the human stupidity and greed which drives the economic system. And he does it in a way that will make you laugh right the way through what is a classic tale. And in a way which shines a light on the reality that when most people have power they will use it for their own advance. And that we therefore wind up with a crazy, mixed up, unjust world which could and should be a whole lot better.

“The world belongs to the most gifted thieves,” Anson’s narrator says.

And the worst of them, in this yarn, are Queenslanders. It is Queensland and Queenslanders who have ruined the rivers of the south – by damning the northern tributaries for their own  purposes.

This allows Anson to pour as much scorn on Queenslanders as he can possibly muster.

My mother, a Queenslander, from Tent Hill from the upper Lockyer Valley where the men (my forebears) make Cliffy Young look like David Marr, was unable to make it tonight.

But as for me, a boy born in Chinchilla, near which the Condamine River flows, who grew up in Oakey, on the Darling Downs   –    I am delighted to have been invited to launch this book even though I know that my sole purpose is to make the bastard feel less guilty.

 

Yes, I am a Queenslander. I lived there for more than 30 years.

 

I like XXXX beer, and Bundy rum.

In fact I know some of the old Bundy songs:

 

 

From the hills of far-off Townsville

To the shores of Maroochydore

We have come from every corner

To sit and drink some more

Admiration of all drinking folk

We’re the finest ever heard

And we glory in the title

Of the famous Bundaberg.

Our challenge rings out on the breeze

To each and everyone

We have sat in every pub we’ve found

Where they serve bundy rum

When those southern pricks come to steal our booze

And stand on Queensland green

They’ll fine the border guarded by four chaps, pissed and mean.

 

I eat prawn sandwiches and Weis’s fruit bars.

I genuinely hope the Maroons win the state of origin series each year. I know that Wally Lewis is the finest human being to ever draw breath.

I love the Gabba, especially when it has a dog track, and the brekky Creek.

I love the beach and the Currumbin surf club.

 

 

 

 

And I subscribe to the idea that Australia is not a single nation at all, but six nations. Queensland and the idea of Queensland-ness is the most elusive. Full of paradoxes and contradictions. Full of exploitative self-serving develop-at-all cost proselytisers who peddle an unsophisticated belief in progress – as they define it up there.

But is it more than that?

In 2005 I went looking. Christian Ryan editor at The Monthly sent me on a three-week lap of Queensland where I asked everyone from archbishops to academics, to journalists and writers and teachers, to graziers and farmers, to newsagents to railway gangers, to drinkers, to military personnel, to lawyers and other ratbags the same question: “What is Queensland?”

I got some classic responses and from them I concluded that most Queenslanders haven’t thought about it too much. We don’t take ourselves too seriously. We don’t stress too much. We don’t work too hard because it’s too bloody hot and what’s the point a big cyclone is going to come along one day and blow everything away, anyway. We’re suspicious of anything from anywhere south. So Townsvilleans are suspicious of Brissos who are suspicious of New South Welshmen and as for Canberra or Melbourne – forget it.

But the idea of Queensland-ness was best defined by a lawn-mowing contractor at Longreach.

STORY

“A Queenslander is a Queenslander.”

I also have form at the other end of the river. When I was at Uni in Qld my parents moved to South Australia.

Eudunda

The Murray is an important part of SA life, of how South Australians imagine themselves.

Through many visits to SA and especially the Barossa I have become good friends with Robert O’Callaghan who established Rockford Wines – Basket Press and all that. Robert’s forebears were soldier settlers in the Riverland – at Monash. Robert has the river in him. So earlier this year while writing a story for him we spent three days on the river at North Bend near the old wool port of Morgan – which is in the middle of the desert.

So I could relate very strongly to the characters in this yarn at both ends of the rivers.

The story starts with a terrible sadness in the South Australian river town of Bartel. Merv Rossiter’s wife Jana broken by the rural despair created by the drought and the dying of the river, commits suicide.

Merv has had enough. He can see that the damming of the major rivers in Queensland in the interests of the huge agribusinesses is killing the river in the south. The Darling and the Murray are crook, and the life of those on it is disappearing. Jana is one of many to have taken their own lives.

Merv is going to act.

He steals a 9m aluminium party punt called The Party Animal, puts it on a truck, and with his 8 year old daughter Emma, drives to the town of Dillandbundy and then Karoo Station which boasts the biggest dam in southern Queensland.

Bridget Wray, very much a product of new Queensland, is a minister in the Queensland govt. She’s visiting to announce further water grants to her constituents.

She is the personification of self-interest. P50-51

When the dam is blown up the water is released and the great flood starts to consume everything in its path.

Bridget winds up on the punt. And so the journey begins. They are taken south by the huge flood.

And so we meet some wonderful characters along the way.

Dickensen – Barwon

The River Man – sings and dances the river into existence

  • Believes he has powers – immediately he attempts to use those powers to his own advanatge

Clancy Sawyers – disgraced academic – climatologist who has theories about the southern aurora and rainfall

Henry Langford

Daffyd Miles – the Machiavellian federal minister

 

What happens?

 

They are wonderful characters.

Merv is a classic. A modern day Ned Kelly. Interestingly he made me think of Bob Katter but only in the sense that he was not going to stand back and let the swell of global capitalism create torment in his life. He was not a passive acceptor of a lot over which he had zero control. Nor was he going to sell out, take the cash of a secure job in the machine.

He wanted to do things on his terms.

Was Merv an activist or water terrorist?

Merv: hero or villain?

Merv: father, doing something wonderful for his daughter or an unhinged firebrand?

 

This book comments on life:

On ambition?

On self-interest and community? How can one people grow wealthy at the expense of others? How can they show such an absence of compassion?

On the arbitrariness of state borders on the Australian continent?

On the very notion of Australia. The conclusion regarding the notion of the Australian nation has my sympathy.

 

 

Don’t be distracted by the fact this book is so enjoyable to read. It is, at the same time, a work of considerable literary merit. It’s Noah meets the Odyssey meets Ned Kelly meets Jesus Christ meets Bob Katter meets A.D. Hope.

It’s written in a style that I love: at once, horribly sad, hilariously funny, and head-noddingly insightful.

It is my pleasure, as a card-carrying Queenslander, to launch The Last Pulse written by our man, Anson Cameron – the bastard.

 

 

 

 

 

About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and footyalmanac.com.au. He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three kids - Theo13, Anna11, Evie10. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst three. His ambition is to lunch for Australia.

Comments

  1. JTH
    The thing sounds magnificent. I’m going straight out to buy eight copies before it’s sold out.
    I remember your confusion on the night about a pre-fucked farmer. A pre-fucked farmer is one who takes over the family farm already burdened with inherited debt and his old man’s maudlin ethos. “We’ll all be rooned”, said Hanrahan.
    Again, too kind.
    I’m driving up to Shepp today to go to the funeral of an old friend who nipped his troubles in the bud with Nembutal. Hoping it all be a day of celebration. But, in any case, this was a lovely start. Thanks.
    ajc.

  2. What a beauty.
    Enormous congratulations to A Cameron on this feat of imagination and ingenuity and craft and toil.

  3. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    I’m currently reading Pepsi Bears and Other Stories

    The good folk of Korumburra and Shepp get a serve, so Qld’ers shouldn’t feel like they’ve been made an example of.

  4. Great speech John. And he sings!
    A

  5. Can’t recall anything that encapsulates Australia as well as this novel. Nor anything as funny. Highly recommended.

  6. Denise weaver says

    A Born and bred Queenslander. I loved this book. I borrowed my copy from our library and after reading it in record time, promptly went out and bought my own copy.
    Thank you Anson

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