BOOKS > MINI–MAGS > HALLUCINATION BEFORE
Written by Chester Eagle, incorporating what
is almost certainly the last story written by
Designed by Vane Lindesay
DTP by Karen Wilson
Cover painting is ‘Homage to Henri’ (Rousseau),
1991, by Geo. W. Bell
Cover photo by Rodney Manning
First published 2006 as a mini-mag by Trojan Press in conjunction with Avant
Card free postcards, Sydney
Ten thousand copies; 9,500 distributed by Avant
Card, 500 by the author
Circa 4,060 words
Electronic publication 2006 by Trojan Press
what it says on the cover:
may be true that artists are born, but they have to be made,
as well. The arts are handed on. Those who are young, and
aspire, need role models, close to them if possible, to show
the ropes, the tricks of what to avoid and what to do. This
brief memoir contrasts three men: a beginner, an artist in
mid career, and an ageing master, and it brings to the public
for the first time what is almost certainly the last piece
written by the late Alan Marshall, an utterance the reader
will not easily forget.
read some extracts from the book click here:
Alan Marshall, speaking for himself
read about the writing of this book click
was a photographer who had been a painter, but had put
that aside in favour of the camera. When he saw the places
in Gippsland that I frequented, he told me I had to get
a camera too. ‘You see places and things that urban
artists never know exist! You’ve got opportunities
most of them don’t even dream of!’ I was
impressed, and a little overwhelmed. Was it really so
got a camera. It joined my typewriter as a tool of trade.
I started to look at Gippsland in the ways
cameras looked. George tutored me sternly. ‘I
would say that that is a very good subject ruined by a bad way of taking
listened, I learned. George believed in the approach to a subject which was
self-denying, disciplined, the photographer subjecting himself to the nature
of the thing being
taken. ‘Walk all around the thing before you take it. Look for the
angle from which it’s most itself. Nine times out of ten, it’ll
be front on, or side on. Don’t try for clever angles. Let the thing
express itself.’ This
advice suited me because, immodest as I was, I was aware that the world was
a fascinating place, bigger and more interesting by far than I was. The world
I happened to be passing through it, no more than that. It was my privilege
to record what I saw.
also wrote. I produced vast and complex dramas that tried
to do too much. For the camera, George had a simple rule,
often enough, which said: ‘Select
and isolate.’ This was more than I could do with my writing, which
aspired to say everything, to put things down as they’d never been
put down before. This, mistaken though it was, was also natural, so I shouldn’t
have despaired as much as I did when I was walking the paddocks and the
back roads, late at
night, trying to find a way through the problems I encountered with the
pages, often blank, that I was trying to fill. Talented artists, artists
great, seemed to know things, to have a certainty about what they were
was eluding me. When would things become simple?
paddocks to the west of my town were full of dead trees,
redgums that had been ringbarked and
left to die. They’d dropped their lesser branches over
the years. Reduced, and simplified, they’d gone silver-grey with
age and had sometimes rotted at their heart. Farmers wanting to clear their
piled fallen branches at the bottom of these trees, started a fire, and
hoped the flames would get into that central chimney. If they did, there
was no stopping
the blaze. It would roar night and day until the tree was no more. At night
the flames, or sparks, would fly from the trunks of trees on fire, a joyfully
sight as one came home from some trip into the mountains. The dead trees
had commanding shapes, and I loved to walk among them with my camera, remembering
George’s dictum: ‘Walk around the thing. You’re looking
for the angle from which it’s most itself. Don’t try to do
anything clever. Let it express itself!’.
Marshall, speaking for himself
experienced a great freedom as I ran along the flank of the
hill. With every
stride my arms reached for distance, pulling
it towards me in festoons of green shadow. My head rose and
fell with each stride.
joined me as I reached the crest, moving in just behind me,
his strides matching
mine. We ran together as one. He looked at me and smiled. It was a smile
that Pan would have given. It was a gateway to childhood;
to what childhood was.
It was clean and fragrant like the sea.
were the same age … about nine I would say. He was
lithe like a reed and as he leant forward to an increase
of speed he curved like a bow. His
arms moved like crankshafts on the driving wheels of locomotives,
moving with precision
and delicacy. And I matched stride for stride, breasting the flowing distance
that broke upon us in waves advancing to impede us.
beautifully we ran! How precisely we socketed upon our hips
as if we were both
sitting in some carriage of faery bewitched by motion.
no strain of muscle to hold us erect or brace or sinew to anchor us.
We had no conflict with our bodies; we moved to the bidding
of our dream.
me in the shadows from which I had emerged was the hospital
bed upon which I had been lying a few minutes
before. This slender boy had
a key to
the unimpeded movement I was now enjoying. It clicked a release in
me and the next moment I was running.
was hallucinating, so the doctor told me when explaining
my sudden escape into
a world that could only have existed for me in dreams.
writing of this book:
When I first
put Hallucination before departure on this website I had only
this to say about the writing: ‘I think this short memoir
adequately explains itself and how it came about.’
discovered that there was more that needed to be said about
the Alan Marshall piece which I’d incorporated in
my memoir. It had come into my possession via George W. Bell,
the artist and photographer friend discussed in the memoir.
Alan Marshall had sent it to George, and George had sent it
on to me. I read it a number of times before putting it away,
and I pulled it out of my drawer several more times in the
years between receiving it (1980) and writing my memoir (2006).
I wrote the memoir under the assumption that only George and
I, and perhaps one or two others, unknown to me, had ever seen
it: hence my concluding remarks about giving it to the world.
I was mistaken. Marshall himself had given it to the world
much earlier. A friend has recently shown me a copy of a collection
called Alan Marshall’s Battlers,
compiled by Gwen Hardisty, Hyland House, Melbourne, 1983, which
before departure’, and refers to an earlier publication
in The Bulletin for 23
December 1980. I apologise to The
Hyland House and to readers of this mini-mag for my error in
not having been aware that these earlier publications had happened.
to TOP > back
to WRITING BOOKS
BOOKS > MINI–MAGS > HALLUCINATION BEFORE DEPARTURE