Huge, and hugely ambitious, Alexis Wright’s Praiseworthy is a book you don’t so much read but experience and inhabit, its densely packed pages pulling you into a world that is both ours and not. The story is set in the small, eponymous town of Praiseworthy, in the north of Australia, and the town is overhung with “a ghostly windstorm” that spells ecological disaster and potential doom. The resident ancestors gather to seek a solution (donkeys feature more prominently than you might expect).
What follows is an epic feat of allegory, symbolism, imagery, and poetry; Wright stretching the limits of language to convey the characters’ plight and the grim reality of the effects of climate change. If this makes Praiseworthy sound heavy, that’s because it is (both physically and figuratively), but it’s funny, too, particularly in its savage, satirical representation of clueless bureaucracy.
It’s a complex, uncompromising piece of work, and if the walls of text don’t deter readers, then the bagginess of the plot might, but stick with it and you will find that it contains more depth than most other contemporary novels combined. Praiseworthy says plenty worth saying, perhaps in the only way it could be said. Praiseworthy indeed.
Praiseworthy, Alexis Wright (And Other Stories)
Price: £18.99/£12.99 Ebook. Info: here
words JOSHUA REES