Friday, October 8, 2010

Australia, a post-colony

I am contacting you to see whether you can point me in the right direction. I have an (almost complete) manuscript of approximately 110,000 words which charts a year we spent living and working in Sydney as part of a decision-making process on whether to emigrate permanently.

The book offers an honest, thought-provoking and humorous insight into the trials of a British family trying to adjust to Australian life (don't all poms think Australia will be more-or-less like the UK?). It's presented in diary form and leads ultimately to the decision to go home, via periods of poignant reflection, deep joy and utter frustration (a large part of which is supplied by the staff of Australia Post). I feel this book has a wide potential audience in both Britain and Australia and would greatly appreciate any advice you feel able to give with regards to Australian agents or publishers who might be interested in receiving it.

I have bad news for you: Australians are no longer interested in what the British think of them. This can possibly be attributed to one or all of the following:

(a) That 1915 slaughter on a Turkish beach ordered by some English higher-ups.

(b) Those slaughters (1914-1918) on the farm fields of France, Belgium and Luxembourg ordered by some English higher-ups.

(c) That whole blaming-the-fall-of-Singapore-on-us thing (1942) ordered by some English higher-ups, specifically one W Churchill.

(d) Robert Menzies.

(e) The particular class of tourist/immigrant known as the 'whingeing Pom'.

We now look to a new master, as outlined in Harold Holt's 1966/67 foreign policy, officially titled 'All the way with LBJ'. Our commitment to be slaughtered, Agent Oranged and generally destroyed on the farm fields of Vietnam may have looked like a purely political stunt, but in truth it marked a turning in Australian culture as well.

Yes, I'm being (partly) serious. Australia no longer has the ties to the Mother Country it once had, to the point that many people probably forget - or never knew in the first place - that Queen Elizabeth II is still technically in charge. Still, as a nascent post-colonial organisation we need someone to trot after, and we've chosen the USA for the time being. Consequently, there aren't many folks in Australia who will necessarily want to read about British impressions of our land girt by sea, especially as the likely readers for such a book have probably already spent time in the UK and heard the impressions first hand. In other words: your manuscript would be a tough sell in Australia. I think the last non-Australian who successfully published a book of impressions about Australia was Bill Bryson.

The other reason why it would be a tough sell is that Australians are generally quite aware of their shortcomings (Kath and Kim, anyone? Muriel's Wedding?), and of the good stuff too. We're still struggling to get out from underneath our cultural cringe and if anyone points out bad stuff, we're likely to sink back down rather than argue; and, perversely, if anyone points out good stuff, the same thing may happen. We'd rather examine ourselves than have someone else examine us. (And I'm a fourth-generation Sydneysider so I'm feeling rather qualified to make the statement, but feel free to disagree with me.)

Still, that's no reason not to try. But I suggest you test your content on a blog first and see what happens. My instinct is that it will have readers from everywhere but Australia.

PS: Your comment about Australia Post marks you out as a member of the class identified in (e). Even if I agree with you. So there!


Anonymous said...

Hmmm... interesting.

Garrett said...

I'm so glad someone said it. Clearly colonialism is still alive and well in the minds of the British.