10 January 2007

Eucalyptus: initial thoughts

I'm reading Murray Bail's Eucalyptus at the moment. There was a hubbub over it a while back when it looked set to be filmed not two hours' north of here, in Bellingen, NSW.

It's unfortunate that Nicole Kidman was slated to play Ellen. Unfortunate because that's who I visualise whenever she appears in the book: Nicole Kidman with that contrived pout and a few stuck-on freckles (a key aspect of Ellen's appeal is her bespeckled skin). It's horrendous enough that Kidman was chosen to portray Diane Arbus, not to mention her laboured performance as Virginia Woolf.

I've found Eucalyptus slow to get going, but now the 'hook' has appeared. At first I thought that the references to different eucalypts were simply atmospheric motifs; but Holland has just wedded them securely to the plot by proclaiming that only the man who can name every eucalyptus strain growing on his land shall win his daughter Ellen's hand.

It's all very "Theme of the three caskets" (Freud 1913), except the 'caskets' here are numerous and the chance of winning through sheer luck virtually impossible. Perhaps this makes it a (post)modern take on the whole storybook romance.

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