Recently a woman of my acquaintance, a woman who writes but is not, she insists, ‘a writer’, helped me to see something I could not recognise, though I have encountered it again and again since I came to Queensland. When I first fled north, I thought – perhaps naïvely – that in Queensland nothing was hidden. People’s bodies were always partly on display; their shady pasts – both personal and political – were worn with a certain kind of pumpkin-flavoured pride. Rakish, casual, be-thonged and benighted: here, everything was on display, everything could be bought and sold. It was a land of strip clubs and real estate, of glitz and glamour and shonk. It was the beginning of the ’90s: the age of grunge, when Queensland’s writers – led by literary lights such as Andrew McGahan and Matthew Condon – rolled the state’s great, white underbelly into the light and let it burn.
Perhaps I was stunned by the glare of that whalish belly. Prudishly southern, I thought there was nothing else to reveal, or at least nothing significant. But as any magician, writer or politician knows, the dramatic revelation of one secret is a flourish that can conceal a thousand others.
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