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Anthony Uhlmann on Wayne Macauley

At the Sydney Review of Books, Anthony Uhlmann tries to pin down the inner workings and moral purposes of Wayne Macauley’s Simpson Returns:

A cynic might argue that works of fiction can never make a difference, yet if we take an historical view we can see, again and again, examples of writers turning to fiction in an effort to open minds that have become closed. This is deeply unfashionable at time when, both in the academy among literary critics, and in the ‘creative industry’ of book publishing, the idea that books might have an end other than ‘art’ or ‘entertainment’ is looked upon with scepticism. This is not to say books need to be didactic, it only looks to reclaim a space in which works of fiction might seek to engage with problems of pressing concern. This, indeed, is a space that many current writers have never ceded.

Macauley’s works fit within this space. They are difficult to characterise because in order to come to terms with the problems that are eating the soul at any given time, the works mix modes of representation. We see this in Simpson Returns. Simpson is a kind of allegorical figure: if I’ve mentioned Don Quixote and Jesus, I might as well mention A Pilgrim’s Progress… yet the work isn’t wholly allegorical. That is, the genre is not allegory; rather, it makes use of the mode of allegory, borrowing tropes and techniques from the form. It mixes these tropes with elements of the realist mode: here there is a topographical realism as Murphy and Simpson make their way through the real suburban and rural landscapes of Victoria in 2003, among the kinds of real issues that face real people. A kind of parable line emerges as Simpson enacts the religious tenet of ‘love thy neighbour’. Not only is he only seen by those who believe in him, so too, he sees those who others cannot see, because they are overlooked, or indeed, violently hidden.