Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Albert of Adelaide by Howard L. Anderson
This is a western, set in the bush of Australia, featuring some very unusual characters, among them a Tasmanian devil, a platypus, a wombat, some wallabies, dingoes, bandicoots, and memorably, a raccoon from California. Strange though it may seem, this is not a book for children, nor is it a story written by an Australian. Together, all these facts weave a wonderfully strange allegory of life’s circuitous journey to happiness and fulfillment and some measure of wisdom.
When a book appears outside of the usual genres, it must be difficult to market. But my favorite reader/writers have been raving about this book since its arrival on the scene in the summer of 2012. And so it goes by word of mouth, and I add my own to the paeans of praise.
Albert is a platypus. Naked and alone in his cage in the Adelaide zoo, he dreams of escape—to a life without incessant examination by “faces smeared with cotton candy and jaws that dribbled popcorn.” He has heard tell of “old Australia” which he conflates with “the Promised Land.” He jumps a freight train, heading north carrying a soft drink bottle filled with water…
Many bad things happen, but there are good things, too. “Old Australia” isn’t quite what Albert imagined, but he’s made some friends and sometimes he still dreams of finding a shady riverbank populated by friendly platypussies. Life is a journey, and in this, we travel along with a thoughtful, civilized life form, slow to anger but fierce in vengeance, who can tell a story that makes us see what we might have done better when we ourselves came upon a band of marauding wallaby, terrorizing dingoes, or facing down the brown snake in a cave or in our office.
We come to admire Albert, and wish him well. We’d like to know him, and sit about the campfire trading stories. What more can we ask of fiction?
A word about the author: he is American who has lived as a general roustabout, a perfect background for a writer. He is currently working in New Mexico as a public defender, where he represents people from Mexico charged with crimes north of the border. He is one of the living writers I’d most like to meet.
When an author tries something completely unusual, and succeeds, we need to take notice and support them in their endeavor. Buy this book. You can pass it on after you’ve had a chance to ramble the Outback.
You can buy this book here: Tweet