Saturday, November 27

The Magpie Wing by Max Easton review: a bleak and exceptional portrait of millennial movements | Books

FAnti-natalism has come back a bit in recent years. Perhaps it is not a surprise: sadness is everywhere and it accumulates. But is being so pessimistic, so cynical, really just pragmatism?

None of the three main characters in Max Easton’s debut novel The Magpie Wing are anti-natalists at the top of their lungs, but none of them actively seek to procreate within the twenty-five years that the narrative encompasses. (In fact, one of them is going firmly in the opposite direction.) The truth is that all three have been procreated, and that is why they fight and sink. Perhaps in our current world, flailing and failing is a completely reasonable answer.

The title of this original and exceptional novel refers to Sydney’s wide western wing: the sweep of the suburbs stretching down and out, where the city’s magpie citizens perch and also support their (now merged) NRL team, the magpies of the western suburbs. We join the three main characters, brothers Helen and Walt and Walt’s friend Duncan, in and around Liverpool in the late 1990s and early 2000s as they spend their childhoods on rugby fields and on kitchen tables. , before becoming more interested in drugs, sex and drinking. .

Sadly, it is unusual to see this area represented in fiction, especially so well. It’s very welcome right now, as western Sydney grits its teeth through some of the tightest closures in the country, and it’s basically being cut off from the rest of the city, although in reality this has been going on for years. More editors would do well to pay more attention to stories in the area – those talents you can see are stirring, not drowning.

While western Sydney is very important to Walt in particular throughout his life, as adults all three tire of the suburbs and are drawn east into the city, specifically the chaotic music and even more dating scenes. chaotic inland west. They fuck around and Shit around, coming home just once for a family Christmas party, and ending up in one of the dirty public parks eating miserable cocaine just stolen from Duncan’s dad, reminiscing about the good old days that were anything but. The more it changes.

Magpie Wing is at his best when things happen, so it’s great that things are always happening in this book. Easton understands the adage that the plot is a character, and his characters are as real as anyone you meet. Walt, Helen, and Duncan are Jenga Towers built from dozens of flaws; each time a defect is identified and carefully maneuvered, they become even less stable. For years, they traverse the streets and suburbs of Sydney in sharp switchbacks and slow parables, gathering in shared houses, pubs, parks, and public baths, each trying to prove the validity of their own existence against compelling evidence to the contrary.

Duncan is your classic dumb buck – a stupid league rower who laboriously beats packs on the field and takes the same approach to all of life’s obstacles. His substance abuse and obsession with meaningless encounters only serve to pinpoint his own repressive tendencies, ones he will never admit.

Walt is much sharper. Desperately disillusioned by Day Dot, he is charged with an electric urge to express his subtleties to one and all, clinging to one -ism or another for the frame, including various kinds of left-wing anarchism and punk-utopianism. He wants to stumble deeply on the solution to society’s ills, or even compile it himself in one of his manifestos that he scribbles late into the night and hides among books in operations stores. That you can’t see past your own experiences and history is a fitting metaphor for our time.

Helen is the most interesting of the three: I kept watching a version of this novel that revolves only around her. It’s captivating as a narrative lens, reminiscent of Imogen Binnie’s Maria Griffiths of Nevada or Andrea Lawlor’s Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl. Of course, Helen is ultimately doomed from the start for being the smartest, intellectually and emotionally, of her lot:

“Yeah, like he just knows I’m depressed because my phone tries to get me to buy gym memberships. Or oversized shirts. Or pregnancy tests. “Helen thought for a second as the whine of a pedestrian crossing made them walk further up the street.” It makes me feel like like I am being transcended. “

Extremely well written are Easton’s long passages on music, with many different scenes of Walt and Helen listening to music, going to concerts, learning to play, rehearsing songs and sets, and performing, all in a heady culture of drugs, drinking, love. and sex. And this sex, and also sexuality, the two don’t always overlap, it’s everywhere, often just for the characters to try to lose themselves.

A sadness that now seems common to younger contemporary fiction runs through The Magpie Wing, until its denouement: the novel closes in 2021, amid our pandemic, each main character descending deeper into depression or mania, acknowledging futility. to do much more. They have learned that the only constant in life is change, except that change for these thirty-somethings has never resulted in a better situation. It’s very little fun being a millennial, especially this millennial, be it fictional or real.

Rust Cohle of True Detective says that “human consciousness is a tragic misstep in evolution.” At Easton’s The Magpie Wing, Helen, Walt, and Duncan get turned on and in tune, all buzzing for years and years, keeping busy with their activities, their causes, and their responsibilities. And then as each of them get old enough to inherit their ancestors’ past and develop their own past, having tried various things that never work, they give up and settle in to look at the light. in the far away. at the end of the tunnel, wondering if the glow has ever been more than a train approaching.

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