Last year when I went to Melbourne Writer's Festival, I was pleased to listen to Kim Scott talk with Kate Grenville and Rohan Wilson in a session titled Native Title, where they talked about the challenges of writing about the settlement of Australia. You can read my summary of that session here.
That same day I went and bought That Deadman Dance, and since then it has been sitting on my shelves waiting for me to find the perfect time to read it, and now, that time is here.
Today I though I would share a couple of short sections. The first describes the traditional dance performed as part of a ceremony and comes from page 58-59:
Emu dance first: the men did it together, sat back and took turns, each man with his arm extended, bent at the wrist, and moving like the neck of an emu. No special dances, and not the Dead Man Dance, though many were thinking of that one, hoping this important friend might lead them in something like that. And after the dance where men show their strength, standing on one leg, almost motionless but for the muscles quivering under their skin, Bobby Started playing. He did his shipboard dance: the rise and fall. The boys caught on, bobbing like things floating in the water and the wave moving along them; and Bobby took little steps side to side, like on the deck of a ship. The men lay down, and Bobby walked across their moving bodies, like the boat in the harbour going from ship to shore. Walking on the waves, see? And hen he was staggering side to side and mimed lifting a bottle to his lips: that dance the sailors do.
The singers tried hard not to laugh, and sometimes took up the rhythm and sound of some other dance, some safe dance, to get everyone back to a less cheeky repertoire. Time and time again they took the dancers back to the test of strength, one man standing motionless with the muscles quivering under his skin while the others stomped the ground, releasing all their strength into it.
I kept on reading, not really with any view of finding another passage to share today, but then I read this short paragraph, and then I reread it again and knew that today I would be sharing two teasers! The second comes from page 106:
Me and my people... My people and I (he winked) are not so good traders as we thought. We thought making friends was the best thing, and never knew that when we took your flour and sugar and tea and blankets that we'd lose everything of ours.. We learned your words and songs and stories, and never knew you didn't want to hear ours....
It is my intention to post a review of this book later this week. We will see how we go.