Peter Kocan Fresh Fields

ISBN 13: 9781933372297

Fresh Fields

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9781933372297: Fresh Fields

“A stark, harrowing, yet deeply courageous work of immense power and magnitude.”—Quadrant

Homeless and alone, a disturbed youth drifts between town and the Australian outback, growing increasingly isolated and distrustful in a society lacking the means and seemingly the will to help him. He is coerced by strange voices and haunted by a history of family violence. This compelling coming-of-age novel tells Peter Kocan’s own story, offering us an intimate portrait of the dark forces at work in the evolution of a loner. “No more authentic study of this type of loner exists,” wrote the Times, naming Fresh Fields its book of the year in 2005. “Taxi Driver is a melodrama by comparison.”

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About the Author:

Author and poet Peter Kocan was born in Newscastle in 1947. Kocan left school at fourteen to work in the country in New South Wales as a laborer and station-hand, before returning to Sydney, where he gained work as a factory-hand in a dye factory. In 1966, Kocan’s failed attempt to assassinate federal opposition leader Arthur Calwell in Sydney saw him sentenced to life imprisonment. Later that same year Kocan was transferred from Sydney's infamous Long Bay jail to Morisset Hospital for the Criminally Insane. Kocan’s first books of poetry, Ceremonies for the Lost (1974) and The Other Side of the Fence (1975), were published while he was at Morisset. He was released in 1976 and began rebuilding his life by writing about his experiences. Two autobiographical novellas, The Treatment and The Cure, told of his harrowing life in the asylum. The Cure won the 1983 NSW Premier's Literary Award for Fiction. Kocan lived for many years on the Central Coast of New South Wales, teaching, acting, and writing drama, poetry, and fiction. He gained public recognition for his work and received regular support from the Literary Arts Board of the Australia Council. He graduated from the University of Newcastle in 1998 with a Bachelor of Arts (Honours), and recently obtained a Masters degree. In 2003, Kocan moved to Brisbane, Queensland. Fresh Fields, a fictionalised account of Kocan’s difficult youth, was named a Book of the Year by the Times Literary Supplement.

Review:

In Kocan's latest bleak novel (The Treatment and the Cure, 1985, etc.), a teenager, down and out in Australia, is sustained by his fantasies.Three people arrive at the train station of a large city: The woman, the youth and the boy. We don't know their names, nor that of the city. They are fleeing Vladimir, an abusive husband and father. The 14-year-old youth knows he doesn't have the will to fight him. What inner strength he has derives from Diestl, a German soldier in a war movie. The Germans have lost, and Diestl is on enemy terrain, but he still has his Schweisser sub-machine-gun. Diestl the self-reliant loner consoles the youth through thick and thin. The youth gets a job in the country, on a sheep ranch, while his mother finds work elsewhere upstate. He's a slow learner, and his boss is short-tempered; he's fired. He doesn't fare any better on a wheat farm, or as a cleaner at a movie theater (let go because he smells bad). Daytimes he's in parks or visiting museums; some nights he finds crummy hotels, others he sleeps on the street. His thoughts revolve around Diestl, the Anglo-Saxon King Harold (another outnumbered hero) and pin-up Grace Kelly. He cries a lot - the least thing sets him off - and he's never had a girlfriend. There are opportunities to explore his sexuality (with a girl on the wheat farm, with some gay guys he meets while clipping cotton), but Kocan's not interested in that coming-of-age story. That wouldn't matter if he replaced it with something else, but he doesn't, so we get a slow fizzle. One fellow lodger says the youth is "a young tiger that doesn't know whether to hide or kill," and the youth does buy a rifle, but Kocan, who in 1966 attempted to assassinate an Australian politician and subsequently spent time in a hospital for the criminally insane, must have a problem imagining his crybaby pulling the trigger, for he leaves everything up in the air. The youth doesn't have the spirit to carry this tale of woe. (Kirkus Reviews)

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