‘Rare Birds’ (Part 3) by Luke Carman

Luke Carman just might be the best Australian writer that nobody outside Australia has heard of. In this stretch of his long story ‘Rare Birds’, he performs the miracle of transforming a tawdry situation into something unexpectedly tender, then ripping the tenderness apart with even greater ferocity than Hemingway and Dylan Nice. The young man of the book’s title lives in the western suburbs of Sydney. One day, there’s a knock at the door and he finds a young woman looking for him. “[S]he blushed at my gaze,” he says, “and we fell in love on the doorstep like only two desperate twenty-year-olds can do.” They spend months working lowly jobs to scrape together enough money to buy a car, escape the suburbs, drive around Australia. The first days and weeks of the journey are blissful. Then the rot sets in. Eventually they arrive at a spectacular sight which, for the young man, has the feeling of a climax to an odyssey. It is sublime, it moves him profoundly and awakens in him “a strange awe,” and he turns to the young woman to gauge her reaction. No expression on her face, only a “pale look of indifference.” He wants to speak of the unnamable emotions he feels, but she has nothing to say about what she sees. He wants to search for words that are adequate to their situation, but she has none to offer him. “Motherfucker,” he spits at her. That’s the beginning of the end of something. The end itself arrives when the young woman speaks words that echo those of the boy in Hemingway’s story.

from An Elegant Young Man, Giramondo 2014