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Wings of the Kite-Hawk
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This interesting but inconclusive work by journalist Nicolas Rothwell (whose first novel Heaven and Earth was published in 1999) focuses on the relationships between white Europeans and the remote outback. Taking his inspiration from the stories of explorers such as Ludwig Leichhardt, Charles Sturt and Cecil Madigan (the man who named the Simpson Desert), Rothwell describes his own encounters with the landscape over many years, and his meetings with an interesting and varied collection of explorers, prospectors, geologists and eccentrics who share his fascination with the outback's history. There are some interesting moments—a bizarre encounter with Pauline Hanson and her minders, an ill-advised drive into the desert with a unbalanced prospector, even a cameo from an Adelaide bookseller—but ultimately this collection of anecdotes and pensées doesn't really say much for itself. The very journalistic skills that enable Rothwell to recount engagingly the fascinating stories of the early explorers, and record the many (one-sided) conversations he has on his travels, seem to fail him when it comes to making some sense of it all. Whilst it shares some elements with Chatwin's The Songlines and encourages the reader to revisit the outback's extensive and historic backlist (titles such as Theodor Strehlow's Journey to Horseshoe Bend for example), ultimately this work doesn't have the wings to soar. Andrew Wilkins is the editor of AB&P. C. 2002 Thorpe-Bowker and contributors.

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