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GIBBONS by JAMES MORRISON
Or One Bloody Thing After Another
There’s a pox on the house of Gibbons. Successive generations of soldiers, writers and other such unfortunates have a terrible habit of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, copping the brunt of Australia’s most harrowing historical moments. From World War One to Maralinga to Cyclone Tracy, they bear witness. That is when they’re not falling victim. It’s difficult to stuff James Morrison’s debut into a literary pigeonhole. It’s probably too fragmented to be a novella, but the stories are too inextricably linked for a conventional collection. Whatever it is, though, it’s damn good.
Morrison has an uncanny eye for the peculiar. Each successive Gibbons is odd in his or her own way. Makers of artificial eyes. Fake mermaids. Writers of contraband erotica. And they’re the lucky ones. The more “average” Gibbons is doomed to an absurd fate, usually recounted by Morrison in a brilliantly inventive, utterly absorbing way. My favourite chapter follows, in minute detail, the trajectory of a bullet fired skywards in celebration as it reaches its apex, turns around and hurtles back down into the skull of an unsuspecting Gibbons. Combine all this with Morrison’s stunning art, and Gibbons is a trove of madcap delights.
Gibbons, or One Bloody Thing After Another by James Morrison
Orbis Tertius Press, 2023