The Australian by Emma Smith-Stevens
The Australian by Emma Smith-Stevens
Publication Date: May 16 2017
Paperback: 184 pages
A young man known as "the Australian" journeys between New York and Melbourne on a quest of self-discovery in this poignant exploration of loneliness, love, and fatherhood
In her humorous and emotionally resonant debut, Emma Smith-Stevens follows the exploits and evolution of a young man - known only as “the Australian” - over the course of a dozen years, from his time posing for tourist photos as Superman to his life in New York, chasing fame and fortune. Married to a woman he barely knows and struggling to forge a relationship with his son, the Australian travels between the U.S. and Melbourne, seeking to reconnect with his deceased parents through his father’s Australian Outdoor Geographic magazines and the Dreaming Tracks, sacred landmarks his mother longed to explore.
Through this quest for self-discovery, the Australian becomes both more and less enigma: “the idea of this guy you could find in any city, a hostel anywhere in the world, smiling, suntanned, hauling a backpack.” A poignant and at times satirical meditation on masculinity, fatherhood, isolation, New York City, fame, and loss, The Australian examines the human tendency to fall in love with the idea of another person and the importance of knowing one’s essential nature.
PRAISE FOR THE AUSTRALIAN
"Smith-Stevens' evocation of alienation is often profound and her prose is always beautiful..."
“One of the funniest (and smartest) debuts I have read in years.”
"The Australian is an astute, often satirical look at self-actualization and what it means to be a man, partner, father and son. Smith-Stevens writes in a marvelously voyeuristic style.... The nameless man, both hero and no-hoper, is a poignant and pointed reflection of the imperfections that vex us all."
"A kind of picaresque novel, one that is charming, affecting, and funny in equal measure...a thoughtful meditation on masculinity, identity, and making a space for yourself in the world."
—Black Warrior Review
“A hilarious debut novel about a smiling, suntanned, backpack-wearing Australian (you know the type) and his search for meaning.”
“The Australian by Emma Smith-Stevens proves that the picaresque will never die, not as long as there are characters like her titular, never-named fellow…Smith-Stevens keeps the irony coming even in the tenderest moments.”
“It's startling to finish The Australian and remember that this is a first novel: It's so wry, clever, swift, and assured that the reader senses immediately that she's in skilled and sympathetic hands. What a seductive voice; what a smart and charming book! And, most of all, what a wonderful new writer we have in Emma Smith-Stevens.”
—Lauren Groff, author of Fates and Furies
“Emma Smith-Stevens unmans the titular Australian in The Australian with a quiet, wise, sure-footed humor that is seductive.”
—Padgett Powell, author of The Interrogative Mood
“There are some writers—and Emma Smith-Stevens happens to be one—who seem effortlessly able to fill the page with life. This chronicle of an extraordinarily ordinary seeker is all wit and wonder, so tolerant of human fallibility, so respectful of mystery and complexity, so disinclined to demarcate the heroic from the foolish. I admire this debut for its style and stance.”
—Chris Bachelder, author of The Throwback Special
"Smith-Stevens writes with such a brilliant sense of language and humor, with such intelligent mystery and disarming intimacy, that the reader is compelled to follow the Australian in his absurd and moving journey through a baffling world, always wondering what could possibly happen next, until the character ultimately reaches a kind of transcendence. The Australian is an audacious debut novel."
—Michael Kimball, Big Ray
"Smith-Stevens' The Australian is a picaresque for the twenty-first century - beguiling, funny, and inventive, intermittently sad and always beautiful."
—David Leavitt, The Two Hotel Francforts
"The Australian is a sui generis mutation of the coming of age story that, like its protagonist, defies any easy categorization. Fueled by Smith-Stevens's trenchant eye, rollicking humor, and ceaselessly churning imagination, the book sweeps us along, bearing us into topographies that feel at once recognizable and remote, equipped only with a compass set in defamiliarize mode. The Australian himself comes to feel palpably alive, rendered in sinew and flesh but also achieving a kind of mythic grandeur—as does this superb debut."
—Tim Horvath, Understories
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Emma Smith-Stevens holds an MFA from the University of Florida and currently teaches fiction writing with the Bard Prison Initiative. She lives in New York.