Waiting; introducing Australia’s oddest literary couple
NOTE: Waiting has just been shortlisted for the Victorian Premier's Literary Award for Fiction. Details at:
Waiting is a story of two odd couples in prose as marvellously idiosyncratic as its characters. Big is a hefty cross-dresser and Little is little. Both are long used to the routines of boarding house life in the inner suburbs of Melbourne, but Little, with the prospect of an inheritance, is beginning to indulge in the great Australian dream, which has Big worried.
Little’s cousin, Angus, is a solitary man who designs lake-scapes for city councils, and strangely constructed fireproof houses for the bushfire zone. A handy man, he meets Jasmin an academic who races in her ideas as much as in her runners. Her head is set on publishing books on semiotics and her heart is turned towards her stalled personal life. All four are waiting, for something if not someone.
“Philip Salom and I once watched a golf tournament together. A mutual friend was caddying and we talked along the fairways, discussed things in the long grass and conversed among the trees to the sound of light applause. I knew Philip was a poet but it was obvious to me by the final round that he was also a wonderful storyteller. As you are about to see, I was right.”—John Clarke
“Philip Salom’s Waiting is a strangely compelling bittersweet tale of the marginalised and the searching. From a rooming house to the world of academia, the novel shimmers with a cast of larger-than-life characters—Big and Little, Angus and Jasmin. Weirdly moving, tender, and insightful.”—Antoni Jach
“Stories with flashes of poetry and sudden insight and such profound compassion that they should be labelled—WARNING: Could make the reader kinder. Send a copy to a politician.”—Sue Woolfe
In the March 2016 review in the Australian, Peter Pierce calls the novel "brilliant and unsettling", and say "Philip Salom has unleashed Australia’s oddest literary couple since the elderly twin brothers Arthur and Waldo Brown in Patrick White’s The Solid Mandala (1966)."
I include here books that are recent and books less recent but still in print. They are, from most recent: Alterworld (the trilogy of Sky Poems, The Well Mouth and Alterworld), my Keepers books (a playful trilogy) in order Keepers, The Keeper of Fish, and Keeping Carter.
All books since Keepers (2010) can be purchased on the Puncher & Wattmann website. If you are keen to find an earlier title, please send a message using the contact form on this website. I have some copies of the original Sky Poems, also A Cretive Life, Toccata and Rain, and my 1998 New and Selected Poems. These are available at very reasonable discounts!
Alterworld is three books in one. These books are creative deliberations based eccentricaly on large worlds or paradigms - Heaven, Hell and Life. Or ironic and flawed Paradise, stalled afterlife or Limbo, and the ghosts of both living and dead in the new book Alterworld, which stands for (or stand in for) Life as we might know it. Despite their age differences - 1987, 2005, 2015 - they are in a relationship. A metaphysical ménage à trois.
The Keeper of Fish Keeping Carter
The Keeper of Fish and Keeping Carter are books attributed to the eccentric loner poets Alan Fish and MA Carter, respectively, but through the unexpected medium of Philip Salom. These two poets are heteronyms. Their books are rich with the poetry of character and individual style.
Alternatively, you could read both books as first-person verse-novels where nothing happens...
I will also be adding an article on the odd experience of writing while channeling a different persona for an entire collection, which is a choice few poets make (Fernando Pessoa is the famous example) but it has a strangely inventive fascination. Perhaps compulsion.
Alan Fish is a lyric poet, sombre, linguistically detailed; he is a poet whose poems identify closely with his emotions. Fish came to life in the basement of Keepers, my previous collection and a near but not quite verse novel ... or some such thing. In Keepers Alan Fish spoke and moved as the sardonic commentator and narrative stirrer under every page of the poems in the Art School but in The Keeper of Fish he swims free into his own voice and poetry.
Carter is also quite lyrical, especially in a musical, whimsical and eccentric way, but he is especially sardonic and wayward. There are many things out there in the world that Carter does not like and he says so. He has a sense of humour but he is a bad lad. Therefore he goes for brilliance and badness as a poetic sport. He is an original. There is no poet in Australia like Carter.
Creativity intrigues us. There can be no clear understanding of what it is and isn't and yet it's something we are deeply endowed with, sometimes in bursts, sometimes for sustained periods of time. What happens when we 'teach' it? I was there - as a student and then, from 1983 to 2008, lecturing in Creative Writing in university creative arts programs. I just had to write a book about it, eventually, the accomplishments, the huge gulfs and uncertainties, of this state we call creativity and of the humans who meet and interact there.
Keepers is full of poems about people and artistry, and work, and is therefore a novelistic book. It features named characters, a single narrator of sorts (who occupies six lines of prose at the bottom of each page of poems) and a very loose plot - or what I call a narrative of associations. Included among these figures are portrayals of historic painters, writers and musicians who have fascinated me by their lives and the strongly individual nature of their creations.
I am told it is my funniest book, which relaxes me somewhat; I hoped it was - there is much that is funny in these places. The main character, called Fish, is empathetic but is not one to suffer fools, and he can be sardonic. Still, he is a lonely man, and as he observes the goings-on from his lowly position as a print room assistant cum cleaner, he sees that creative art too can be thankless, and lonely - one of art's greatest paradoxes. Fish is sometimes a flaneur, wandering through the city; or he is sitting in his workplace basement playing the quietly secretive Go, the Japanese board game, with whoever stops by. At times he behaves as if he couldn't care less, but he does. He gets involved. The staff and the students and the artists are the real heroes, but he is the deep thread of presence in the book.
Sales: These books are for sale! For older books mentioned (The Well Mouth, A Cretive Life, Sky Poems) please use the Contact link at the bottom of the page to make a request (I have all copies of these titles). For my novels, Playback and Toccata and Rain, please contact Fremantle Press.