Born in 1939, Gerald Murnane is an Australian author of 14 books of memoir and fiction, each of which is wonderfully unusual in that it takes as its focus the mental images Murnane sees while he writes, the scenery surrounding those images and the way one mental image will lead to another and then another ... An image in Murnane’s prose has the quality of an image in colored glass: One both sees the image and sees through the image simultaneously ... Reading Murnane, one cares less about what is happening in the story and more about what one is thinking about as one reads. The effect of his writing is to induce images in the reader’s own mind, and to hold the reader inside a world in which the reader is at every turn encouraged to turn his or her attention to those fast flocking images.
Perhaps we are fortunate, then, that Gerald Murnane has not lost this connection, for his writing is unlike anything being published today. It could be the way Murnane works his prose, filling it with repetitions and pulling out commas so the syntax shines like glass; or it could be something about all these nameless men and boys walking their small parts of Australia, dreaming about women and grass and clouds. In any respect, Murnane is one of the rare few actually working to alter the experience of reading fiction, and it is time his works are recognized more fully in this regard ... Murnane has a reputation as a highly solitary person, and this is reflected in his fiction. His characters are often solitary people who read a lot of novels, and they accordingly have a tendency to experience the world as this dire, shifting web of strings between images, thoughts, and narratives out of which a clean pattern may hopefully be extracted, or at least recognized.
To read Murnane at great length—to read, say, nearly 550 pages of his collected short fiction—is to feel as though you are reading some variation of the same story over and over again. Personages mull the ideal combination of colors for horse-racing silks. They stare at books on the shelves and try to recall the sentences within them ... The repetition is deliberate ... The sentences are laid on like varnish, coat after coat, until the text gleams with a high shine. Immaculate in its unadorned plainness, at certain moments his prose achieves a crystalline beauty.