David Hunt, who among a great many other things, has written the books Girt—the unauthorised history of Australia and True Girt [unimaginatively subtitled ‘the unauthorised history of Australia Volume 2’], lobbed into Bowral yesterday [Tuesday 15 August 2017] to talk to a FOWL event—FOWL being the acronym for Friends of Wingecarribee Library.
I hadn’t read Girt or True Girt but I had seen them in bookshops and resisted buying them because they didn’t seem quite me. It’s all about me, let’s face it.
Anyway, I thought it would be interesting to see the author.
David Hunt is an unusually tall and handsome man who likes writing his own bios for all the books he has written. David is the author of Girt—the unauthorised history of Australia, which won the 2014 Indie Award for non-fiction and was shortlisted in both the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards and Australian Book Industry Awards. True Girt, the sequel, was published in 2016, as was a book for children, The Nose Pixies.
I nicked that bit from David Hunt’s author description on Black Inc’s web site. Thanks Black Inc.
David reckons that Australian histories built around themes are usually not as interesting—read ‘less popular’—to the general reader than those built around the stories of the people involved. Maybe that’s true, with bookshops offering a great number of histories of Australia’s range of explorers, sailors and bushrangers; they do offer a range of thematic books as well, though.
That having been said, I do wonder why people now seem less willing to stand back and look at the generalities and the conclusions from the combined stories of a myriad of people—themes?—and feel compelled to concentrate on just a few human stories. Drawing any sort of general conclusion from just a few case studies always seems fraught to me even if the human stories are often compelling.
Anyway, let’s shove that aside.
David Hunt’s stock in trade, it seems, is to add a humorous touch to the human stories.
For nearly an hour [including question time] David gave us some of the stories of people early in Australia’s history beginning with the Mark Twain quote [with a bit of my own editorial jiggering]:
Truth is stranger than fiction because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities, truth isn’t.
Hunt’s stories included the extraordinarily full life of Jorgen Jorgenson which you can read about in True Girt or online in the Australian Dictionary of Biography; Captain Moonlight—Andrew George Scott—and his apparent lover James Nesbitt; and the Irish convict and cannibal Alexander Pearce.
He talked about the, to us, strange selection of items taken with the Burke and Wills expedition; Sturt’s great efforts in carrying a boat in search of an inland sea [there is a replica in Pioneer Park in Tibooburra in the north western corner of NSW]; and the ill-will between Hamilton Hume and William Hovell during and after their journey from Sydney to Port Phillip Bay.
Many of the anecdotes do seem amusing to the modern Australian but I did wonder whether the humour was way too easy, that laughter at the ignorance of the early pioneers was perhaps a bit off; it was to me anyway.
And I did wonder about labelling Ned Kelly a terrorist because he attempted to derail and ambush a police train, killing all within. Was the intention to terrorise? Hunt never made that clear. And it’s a stretch, surely, to imply Kelly had some sort of metalware fetish. I guess Hunt was just playing it for laughs.
I think I’m getting old and boring so I’ll stop my rant about here.
Hunt did draw parallels to some modern history and modern political actors proving, I guess, that history is sure to repeat itself despite the warnings of the past.
Hunt’s next book will be Girt Nation, drawing on history—read people’s stories—around the time of Australian federation. That seems a little way off, though, Hunt explaining that it took over a year to compile the stories in True Girt even with sixteen hour days in the writing process.
Anyway, for a few laughs Girt and True Girt may be worth a look, though I passed up the opportunity to buy either and to talk with David.
Anyway, thanks to FOWL for this event; these people are right on it. It is good to be exposed to the variety of authors FOWL brings us through the year.
For the record this is the FOWL advance publicity:
[Thanks FOWL for the use of that, even if I didn’t ask!]
[Last reviewed: 16 August 2017.]