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The Plains: Text Classics

3.9  ·  Rating Details ·  260 Ratings  ·  69 Reviews
A nameless young man arrives on the plains and begins to document the strange and rich culture of the plains families. As his story unfolds, the novel becomes, in the words of Murray Bail, 'a mirage of landscape, memory, love and literature itself'.
ebook, 192 pages
Published April 1st 2012 by Text Publishing (first published 1982)
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s.penkevich
Mar 25, 2016 s.penkevich rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Our inner plains
Recommended to s.penkevich by: M. Sarki
They saw the world itself as one more in an endless series of plains.

There is a basic human instinct to look for meaning in life, to open the door of reality in hopes to find of an elaborate clockwork beneath it all which we can investigate in an attempt at comprehension. This quest for meaning tends to be a journey trod through metaphysical landscapes more so than a shoulder to the wheel, making Art a valuable avenue for an abstract expedition into the heart of reality. If any of our art and
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Dolors
Oct 05, 2016 Dolors rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lovers of colorful inner landscapes
Shelves: read-in-2016
Can you imagine a film that would capture the inner and outer landscape of a remote region that only exists in the minds of its inhabitants?
To have this definite film produced is the upmost aspiration of the narrator of this enigmatic tale when he arrives at the borderless lands of The Plains.
Twenty years go by and the young filmmaker, secluded in the vast library of his patron and obsessed with the idea of revealing a landscape that nobody has ever seen, debates against himself whether plainsm
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Fionnuala
This book has startled me.
Nothing I have read before has prepared me for it.
And yet it contains many notions that are familiar; it is the angle of the viewpoint that is new.

My mind was teeming with a host of questions from the beginning of the reading: who or what exactly is the nature of the narrator? what does the word ‘plains’ mean in this piece of writing? who in truth are the plainsmen and women?

Not a soul in this district knows who I am or what I mean to do here..not one has seen the vi
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Garima
A man can know his place and yet never try to reach it.

Plains, Plains, everywhere...

To admire the beauty, to love the words, to enjoy the journey, to respect a talent and to retain the hope of finding a rare visual on the endless stage of nature is what one can aim for after reading a book like this. With every alternate sentence I encountered a sublime combination of bewildering revelation and an unremitting mystery that is usually found in the divine creations of the cosmos but what is seemin
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Brian
Oct 04, 2013 Brian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Brian by: M. Sarki
plain
“Anyone surrounded from childhood by an abundance of level land must dream alternately of exploring two landscapes – one continually visible but never accessible, and the other always invisible even though one crossed and recrossed it daily.”

Attempting to describe the magnificence of Murnane’s The Plains using language is futile.

Murnane writes of “bewildering vistas of vistas”. His protagonist casts a spooling line attempting to snare meaning; his catch is an illusion that can’t rightly be nam
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Ian "Marvin" Grayejoy
"The Man in My Mind Who Sits in the Fields of Grass"

"I watch the man in my mind writing with his pencil in his notebook while he sits in the fields of grass."

Gerald Murnane, "In Far Fields", 1995

"Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Plainsmen Fiction"

This is a beautifully written novella. Every sentence has been carefully and lovingly crafted. You don't often encounter writing as good as this.

Only it contains within it a hoax (view spoiler)
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Stephen P
Dec 12, 2012 Stephen P rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: re-read, interiority
Standing between the towering buildings of Musil"s two volumes of The Man Without Qualities I sat on a stone staircase . Having just finished the first volume I yearned for the second. I thought of a break, not due to boredom but as a matter of pacing, refreshment, so as to retrieve all the treasures awaiting me in volume two. I chose the thinnest novel off my shelves. A hundred and ten pages. A two day read.

I had not read Murnane before except for GR Friends M. Sarki's and Proustitutes intelli
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Jonathan
Jun 13, 2014 Jonathan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a hard book to write about, and that is a good thing. There are some wonderful reviews up here already and I suggest you turn to them for more of a sense of the text. I seem to be unable to do much but ramble a bit about the thinking it inspired for me, and this thinking (which is ongoing) has taken up more time than the reading itself. This is, once again, a good thing.

"Twenty years ago, when I first arrived on the plains, I kept my eyes open. I looked for anything in the landscape th
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Ian "Marvin" Grayejoy
Formal Review

My more formal review of this novel is here:

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

Overview

The purpose of these notes and comments (and they are really nothing more than that) is to help build a picture of the intellectual, cultural and political context and subtext of this unique and uniquely Australian novel, so that readers not familiar with the landscape or culture of Australia can get some additional insight into the novel.

Despite or regardless of its Australian origins, the n
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Lynne King
Oct 25, 2013 Lynne King rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, australia
I have read superb reviews on this book and it is a wonderful description of life in Australia but it is not for me. Purely words I'm afraid. Perhaps it is the stage of life I'm going through at the moment in that I'm not ready for it and maybe in the future?

I've tried skim reading through the book looking for that magical literary utterance but I'm unable to find it. Sad, especially for me as I was really looking forward to reading this book.

To me, there are words and a further collection of wo
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Trevor
Oct 18, 2008 Trevor rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
I started this in the mid-1980s and have finally finished it. You might think that this must be a very long book – whereas it is a very short novella. Murnane writes sentences. He writes one sentence, then he reads over that sentence to ensure it is as good as he can make it, then he writes another sentence.

Given that White Australia is a little over 200 years old it is probably not surprising that Australians aren’t terribly sure what it means to be Australian. Americans have had much the same
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Jimmy
God I love y'all. Only on Goodreads could a book like this one, from Australia, from the 80s, having almost no plot (and certainly no resolution), and mostly long forgotten, enjoy a minor resurgence. I actually have people to talk to about this obscure and elusive book.

Speaking of which, this is one of the most elusive books I've ever read. Consider that it is an allegory/parable and yet of what we will never know for sure, though there are some very strong theories. Consider also its slightly m
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Stephen
Jun 26, 2014 Stephen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
If everything that passed between us existed only as a set of possibilities, my aim should have been to broaden the scope of her speculations about me.

As admirers of Proust, Gerald Murnane, Anne Carson and W.G. Sebald are three of the brightest examples of how Proust's work might look in English in the 21st century. The three are remarkably similar in ambition, their strengths and weaknesses, and I am surprised no one from the major book reviews has pointed this out. But I shouldn't be... what d
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M. Sarki
http://msarki.tumblr.com/post/5529335...

The "annual revelations" that our narrator describes near the end of this fine book gives credence to what came before.  The evidence contained decanters of hard liquor, stiff-backed uncomfortable chairs, tents staked in tall grasses on vistas of windowless walls, and little said or exampled but more of the same in a serious study never concluded in which libraries remain for all students and scholars to be seen and read of the vast and mounting compilatio
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Vit Babenco
Oct 09, 2014 Vit Babenco rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“And the man who travels begins to fear that he may not find a fitting end to his journey. I’ve spent my life trying to see my own place as the end of a journey I never made.”
And the entire novel The Plains is this sort of a journey. By its ultimate futility it reminded me of The Castle by Franz Kafka but tinged in the colours of The Library of Babel by Jorge Luis Borges. The nameless protagonist does nothing but waits trying to sieve out the endless nuances of sounds, hues, emotions, patterns a
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Justin Evans
Feb 27, 2015 Justin Evans rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Many of my goodreads people have read and loved this and now I, too, have read and loved it. The good news is that we have all read and loved it, but I, at least, have a very different understanding of the book.

What we all agree on is that the only way to even begin to describe what's going on here is to reference other people--The Plains is so obviously taking part in a tradition, but, like the Plainsmen our narrator describes, it's very hard to see what that tradition is. Among others, I've s
...more
M. Sarki
The "annual revelations" that our narrator describes near the end of this fine book gives credence to what came before.  The evidence contained decanters of hard liquor, stiff-backed uncomfortable chairs, tents staked in tall grasses on vistas of windowless walls, and little said or exampled but more of the same in a serious study never concluded in which libraries remain for all students and scholars to be seen and read of the vast and mounting compilations of a history regarding these interior ...more
Mark Broadhead
Sep 15, 2013 Mark Broadhead rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like Kafka crossed with Calvino (particularly 'Invisible Cities'). It has the same weakness familiar to those two writers: characters are just vessels for communicating ideas/parables. But such wonderful ideas and beautiful writing.
Sean
May 29, 2017 Sean rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sean by: M. Sarki
Shelves: somewhere-else, 2017
Plainsmen are seldom won over by logic. They are too easily distracted by the neatness of its workings, which they use for devising ingenious parlour games.
This book is so wide open to interpretation that it's almost pointless to write about it. Nevertheless, a few notes are warranted. One can rehash the skeletal plot, but that can be read elsewhere. Murnane's prose is workmanlike while retaining just the right degree of opacity. The nearest comparison I'd hazard making would be to Blanchot's
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Proustitute
A combination of several things, but most notably J. M. Coetzee's recent article on Gerald Murnane in the New York Review of Books, made me realize that it was high time to revisit Murnane's work. In particular, because I found Inland to be a very repetitive work which was better fleshed out in the rather complementary Barley Patch, I thought that a more generous immersion into this enigmatic (and often elusive) writer's work would do me well.

The Plains is considered by many critics to be Murn
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Bruce
Dec 21, 2009 Bruce rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gerald Murnane is an Australian writer, and in this book he writes about the interior of the continent, the narrative being strange, almost surreal, vague in tone with few handles for the reader to grasp – no names, no specific locations, not even a definite time period that the narrative relates. It’s very odd and beguiling. In some ways, more because of the ambiance created than the details or even the genre, his writing reminds me to Sheri Tepper’s novel, Grass. One senses that Murnane was wi ...more
JM Schreiber
Jun 17, 2017 JM Schreiber rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Nothing you read or hear about this book can prepare you for the reading. I have to think about what I want to say about it, but, as it is an allegory, perhaps each reader should come to the "plains" on his or her own terms.

I thought about it for a while and decided to get some of my thoughts about this book down in a bit of a review. You can find it here: https://roughghosts.com/2017/06/28/co...
Edward
The Plains is a fascinating little book. There is a striking lyrical quality to the writing, and an elusiveness in the narrative that is close to poetry. The writing is beautiful and deceptively dense - I enjoyed this book most when reading it slowly and allowing each carefully-composed sentence the space to flow and breathe.

Ultimately though, beyond the prose itself, I cannot honestly say that I enjoyed the experience of reading The Plains. It has such a similar tone to Calvino's Invisible Citi
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Lauren
Sep 24, 2014 Lauren rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
From the blurb:
Gerald Murnane's The Plains tells the story of the families of the plains - obsessed with their land and history, their culture and mythology - and of the man who ventured into their world.

I picked this up the other night and started to read it to get an idea of what the writing would be like, and then I couldn't put it down. There's something hypnotising about Murnane's prose. And what really struck me while reading it is that it is a very funny book. I don't think I actually lol
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Jim
Oct 01, 2007 Jim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who don't think a book needs to be all about telling a story
The Plains is a dense story about a filmmaker who spends years researching a film on the seemingly featureless Australian plains country and its people. In place of the salt-of-the-earth sheep farmers one might expect to inhabit central Australia the narrator encounters an idealised world filled with aesthetics and intellectuals. Rather than explore the Plains that have inspired him to make the long journey from Outer Australia, however, the man barely leaves his hotel or his mentor's library an ...more
Cody
Jan 09, 2014 Cody rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Plains is a narrative of obsessive recursiveness situated somewhere between the hilarious awkwardness of Kafka and the compulsive interrogation of Bernhard. Akin to Kafka, too, The Plains operates as an allegory. Or, more accurately, it has the feel of allegory, though deciphering the lessons in its parables is no easy task. To quote the book, it often seems “…a convenient source of metaphors for those who know that men invent their own meanings.”

The Plains is a work of unknowing, a travelog
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Neale
May 12, 2013 Neale rated it liked it
Gerald Murnane was a teacher of creative writing. I find it hard to imagine what a class of his would have been like. His fiction is so anti-fictional, so private, so dismissive of the 'rules' of user-friendly writing (while obsessing endlessly over rules of its own invention) that I can't imagine what he would have to say to a young writer - except, maybe, "stop writing" (the theme of his latest book).

(I would like, even more, to have been a fly on the wall when he was teaching English to appre
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Text Publishing
Jan 22, 2017 Text Publishing rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
‘The Plains has that peculiar singularity that can make literature great.’
Ed Wright, Australian, Best Books of 2015

‘A distinguished, distinctive, unforgettable novel.’
Shirley Hazzard

‘… a piece of imaginative writing so remarkably sustained that it is a subject for meditation rather than a mere reading … In the depths and surfaces of this extraordinary fable you will see your inner self eerily reflected again and again.’
Sydney Morning Herald

‘Murnane touches on foibles and philosophy, plays with t
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Text Publishing
May 12, 2015 Text Publishing rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, australian
‘The Plains has that peculiar singularity that can make literature great.’
Ed Wright, Australian, Best Books of 2015

‘A distinguished, distinctive, unforgettable novel.’
Shirley Hazzard

‘… a piece of imaginative writing so remarkably sustained that it is a subject for meditation rather than a mere reading … In the depths and surfaces of this extraordinary fable you will see your inner self eerily reflected again and again.’
Sydney Morning Herald

‘Widely regarded as Australia’s greatest living writer,
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Adam Floridia
This little number has a "blow away" quality to it. Not a book I couldn't wait to pick up again, but one that blew me away when I did pick it up. Not a book that is particularly interesting, but one in which the ideas and craft blew me away.

It's actually fitting that I read this right after reading Our Town for the first time; both books do so much with so little; both books use a singular setting to speak for and about all the world and all humanity.

I actually would give this 4.5 stars if I co
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Murnane's first two books, Tamarisk Row (1974) and A Lifetime on Clouds (1976), seem to be semi-autobiographical accounts of his childhood and adolescence. Both are composed largely of very long but grammatical sentences.

In 1982, he attained his mature style with The Plains, a short novel about a young filmmaker who travels to a fictive country far within Australia, where his failure to make a fil
...more
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