The measure of a great novel is its resonance in the reader. Sometimes the reader remembers and never forgets very specific details. But when a sense of the whole story and the experience of reading that story endures, long after the book has been finished and put away on the shelf, long after more forgettable books have been read and replaced on those same shelves, that story has demonstrated its achievement: to live on in the life and imagination of the reader, the only place where any story ever matters.
This, it seems, sums up the deployment experience: the near-constant fear for your life, and that of the others you come to cherish and love, followed by a homecoming that is almost equally traumatizing because while away, serving your country in some capacity that involves this often present threat of sudden death, you fear that you will never go home again and then find, upon returning to that country you have served and the home you left to go off to war, that it’s almost as if everything you did and suffered through over there doesn’t matter at all, since “the world goes on without us.”
Dirt Music is a highly orchestrated chronicle of at least three lives that intersect the way roads in the vastness of Western Australia must intersect: at unlikely junctions that might be long anticipated but even longer, sometimes, regretted.
Boyd’s work is extremely competent, smart, well-wrought in every way, with fine writing too. Boyd is particularly masterful at employing very short sections to quickly establish and deftly and economically build up his narratives. Some of these stories are composed of paragraph-long sections representing distinct points of view that together produce a sort of pastiche of sensory data and information, and in this way lay out the drama involved.
It is a world of true revolutionary fervor and desperation in this country that McGrath recreates in the short space of sixty-one pages, as well as visceral and ideological animosity—the kind people are willing to kill and die for—towards the English masters, a time when Americans (that is, North Americans, or estadounidenses) were treated with the same brand of disdain that the European descendants in this country tend to reserve now, for example, for Latin Americans.