Thursday, December 11, 2008

Dorothy, Dorothy

Dorothy Porter has just died, of breast cancer at age 54.
She was my first verse novel. She writes (she wrote) spare, telling novels that you can read in an afternoon and then again the next afternoon because you just don't want to leave. A lesbian detective genre set in Sydney, the grotesque, nightmarish reign of an Egyptian Pharoah, a madhouse run by the rapist doctor.

Like Borges (although the bar is raised here and how to compare anyone to Jorge Luis Borges?) Porter could deliver a novel in a few pages, tightly drawn, poetic, rhythmic - and yet as dense and as intricate a tale as 70,000 words.

My first time; The Monkey's Mask. It was an epiphany, that moment when I knew exactly how it should be done. This is how to write, this is how to deliver a tale. By cutting it back and cutting it back until the bare bones are released and bleached stark with the sun's light.

She is an Australian Great. I still feel a bit stunned to think there won't be any more words from Dorothy Porter.

Verse Novels

Akhenaten 1991
The Monkey's Mask 1994
What a Piece of Work 1999
Wild Surmise 2002
Eldorado 2007

Photo. Steve Baccon.


  1. And you can read The Monkey's Mask here.,M1

  2. link to a page linking to an interview:
    (i hope)

    couldn't believe she died. she brought my interest in lit back to life. and australia. the monkeys mask was amazing.
    love the basho quote:
    "day after day
    on the monkey's face
    the monkey's mask"

  3. Thanks chrissie. I might even put that quote on my stall tomorrow.

  4. Thanks for this post. I studied under Andrea G. ...Dorothy's partner...many years ago and together they made a dynamic duo...

    Dorothy was indeed something else...powerful and perceptive are two words that spring to mind...

    Good to honour her and keep the memory of her alive, I think.

    And, her work will live on.

    Feel too sad about this to say more ...except thanks.