Wayne Macauley, Caravan Story, Melbourne: Text, 2012 (2007)
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Reviewed by Ted Witham
The humour is Australian; the settings are banally Australian. There is a lot to like in this savage satire by Melbourne writer Wayne Macauley. Caravan Story was his second novel.
Since the original publication of Caravan Story in 2007, Macauley has published The Cook (2011)and Simpson Returns (2020). A book of stories Other Stories was released in 2011. He has received a number of prestigious prizes for his writing.
In Caravan Story, the writer, ‘Wayne Macauley’, wakes up one morning in a caravan being towed away. The destination is a country town on the footy oval turned into a caravan park.
He finds himself in an oval full of artists, carted here by the Government. They are instructed to make themselves useful members of society. They are fed and housed while they create.
The painters and the actors soon find ways of turning a dollar, but the writers are unable to be so enterprising. Their writing efforts are collected, but it turns out that the rejection slips have already been written. The plot shows ‘Wayne Macauley’ and his partner escaping home from this crazy world of disillusion, and on the way is extremely funny and bitingly serious about the state of the arts in Australian society.
As a writer, I revelled in this book, both for its questioning of the ‘usefulness’ of poems and stories, and for the loving attention to the details of footy clubs, high schools and caravan living. But it is a book for people other than writers, simply to have a laugh at Governments’ total incomprehension of the arts, and the importance of writers, and all of us, to ground ourselves, to have a place that is ours — a home.