Cyclonic book launched

As our first cyclone for the season forms off the north-west coast and the Bureau of Meteorology warns of a La Niña summer, Cyclone Country: The Language of Place and Disaster in Australian Literature has been launched at James Cook University’s Nguma-bada campus in Cairns.

Written by Dr Chrystopher Spicer, cultural historian and an adjunct Senior Research Fellow at JCU, the book explores the relationships between us, our place, our cyclonic weather, and our stories.

“The cyclone is a powerful element in stories set in our region, where we live in a paradise, but one that is frequently under threat of being ripped apart,” Dr Spicer said.

Works discussed in the book include the award-winning Carpentaria by Alexis Wright, Eye of the Storm by Nobel Prize winner Patrick White, and Vance Palmer’s Cyclone, about the 1934 Cape Tribulation cyclone which also struck Cairns.

Cyclone Country also considers Queensland’s literary cyclones in the broader context of literature featuring cyclonic storms in regions such as the Caribbean and southern United States.

“Just as our literature has explored broad themes in the context of the outback and the bush, the authors considered in Cyclone Country have used the cyclones as part of the language of place, strengthening the reader’s bond with a unique region,” Dr Spicer said.

“A fictional or poetic cyclone can also be a catalyst for action and an instrument of revelation, encouraging the reader to consider psychological and spiritual aspects of the storm. These authors are offering a deeper understanding of life in our region, by embracing the larger meaning and power of our weather and climate.

“These stories are important because they form a cultural heritage through which we maintain our relationships with our place and our community. They help us cope and heal from the trauma of the cyclone,” Dr Spicer said.

Cyclone Country was published by McFarland in the US in 2020. Chrystopher J Spicer has written extensively about Australian and American arts and culture in books including a biography of Clark Gable, Great Australian World Firsts: The things we made, the things we did, and The Flying Adventures of Jessie Keith ‘Chubbie’ Miller.

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