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When Peter Hill, a lackadaisical student at Dundee College of Art, answered an advert in "The Scotsman" seeking full-time lighthouse keepers, little did he imagine that within a month he would be living with three men he didn't know in a lighthouse on Pladda, a small remote island off the west coast of Scotland. He was 19, it was 1973 and, with his head fed by Vietnam, Zappa, Kerouac, Vonnegut, Watergate and Coronation Street, Hill was to spend the next six months working on various Scottish lighthouses, "keeping" with all manner of unusual and fascinating people. Within thirty years this way of life was to have disappeared entirely.
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PETER HILL was born to an Australian mother and Scottish father but grew up in Glasgow. Following his brief stint as a lighthouse keeper he did a number of jobs but for the past twenty years he has focussed most of his energy into his art and working as an art critic. He has written for many publications including the Sydney Morning Herald, London Review of Books, Artpresse and Interview and in 1986 founded the arts magazine Alba. For the past ten years he has lived in Sydney.From Publishers Weekly:
In 1973, Glasgow-born Hill impulsively dropped out of art school to train as a lighthouse keeper at a series of remote outposts off Scotland's coast. He was, he recalls, the very image of the teenage baby boomer: longhaired, scruffy, dragging his rock 'n' roll tapes around everywhere. Yet he appears to have enjoyed himself immensely, spending weeks in close quarters with a handful of much older men, listening to their anecdotes and learning how to cook huge meals. The biggest problem with this loose, digressive account is that that's pretty much all they did other than keep the lights on. There are some amusing scenesâ€"one lighthouse crew's obsession with the televised Watergate hearings; a game of Scrabble in which only nautical terms are allowedâ€"but the pace is otherwise slow moving. While that sometimes makes for remarkable character studies, the narrative is burdened by Hill's grandiose faith in the significance of his generational moment. As a result, the memoir reads more like an elegy for his lost youth than one for the lighthouse keepers who would soon be replaced by automated technology. Furthermore, American readers will struggle to make sense of the references to 1970s BBC programming, which serve as hooks to describe nearly everyone Hill meets (the book was published in the U.K. last year). At least it's easy to grasp the Scots dialect; the gruff men who speak it hold much of the tale's vitality. In contrast, Hill's more direct efforts to wax charmingly nostalgic sound too often merely pretentious, like the sort of pompous middle-aged prattle Hill would have fled from if he were still 19.
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