To open the pages of a book by Peter Bowes is to enter a quintessentially Australian world, but one that is also universal.
We all know these people, see them on the streets, meet them, avoid them, want to know more about them.
There is a yearning here, for something else, something more, something lost. In In Among the Spectres, the writer becomes an appalled witness, mourning – not wholly without ambiguity – the overwhelming and irrevocable impact of ‘those who would defy creation’. There is personal loss here, too, promises made to a dying father in What’s Best: a lifetime’s love, respect, disappointment and hope distilled into 200 heartbreaking words.
Bowes is also adept at tragicomedy – a rare skill. In Carnage, the effects of a car crash on a local neighbourhood are bleakly hilarious. But we are also invited to watch the driver, Feeney, as he quietly joins some passers-by to witness the devastation he has caused – not only to the neighbourhood, but also, perhaps, to his life, for it, too, is a car crash.
That most Australian of sports – surfing – is explored here too. But as always with Bowes, there is more to this than meets the eye. Bowes is a surfing aficionado, but his take on the subject goes beyond surfing itself. It’s not necessary to be a fan, or even to know anything about this sport, to appreciate these glimpsed portraits of human impulse and the mystery of why we do what we do.
Bowes is a keen observer of life and he takes us with him into hotel lobbies, restaurants, and casinos. He is inquisitive, provocative and sharp-eyed, sharing his experiences with gusto and humour. He wonders at life, and we wonder with him.
Lineage is the second in a trilogy of works by Peter Bowes. The first, Bloodlines, was published by Bennison Books in 2013.