Brandl & Schlesinger, Australia, 2007
Marion Boyars, UK and USA 2008
Winner of the Australian Society of
Authors’ inaugural Barbara Jefferis
Feather Man, extracts
‘I walk up to my painting of Christine and a paper plaque tells me that I have won. It is an acquisitive prize worth $400.
Pamela is busy in the crowd, talking to a group of much older people. When she sees me she walks up, brisk. "Well, Doll, you must be pleased. I must say, it’s a good portrait. Who taught you?"
"I taught myself." I feel myself stiffen. "I’m not an art student."
She smiles at me as if she’s worked everything out. "I can see that. Listen Doll, come and meet this nice man over here. He’s going to put you in a book. Young Australian Art —something like that. Here, have a wine. Something to hold onto." She grabs a glass as she passes a drinks table. She has beautiful hands, long, boneless, tapering, with dark red nails. On one arm she wears a fat, tubular silver bangle. It gives me a twinge of envy and regret in memory of my thin, childish gold bangle.
I meet the publisher. He wears a collarless Nehru jacket and speaks with an English private-school accent. He is not unctuous but he holds my elbow as he talks. So tall that he stoops, he is a man in charge. He has a young woman in tow, whose dark hair is in a Hiawatha plait down her back. There is an older couple whose names I do not catch. The publisher mentions something about angels and treats the older couple with jovial deference. I don’t care about his books. But I feel my star rising. They won’t swamp me.
I catch sight of Redmond. He comes up to us and puts his hands on my shoulders. "What did I tell you, Clive? Isn’t she a beauty? My little protégé."
His words shiver through me. Some action of the waves is tapping and surging beneath my keel but already the boundless ocean that is Redmond has buoyed me up. While one part of me promises itself that it will watch the currents, the other drifts on the swell, hypnotised by the image of landfall, a long, long way ahead under the horizon line. At last I am riding on something I trust to carry me with it.’
(Chapter 29, The Prize)