Book Review

In 1963, Michael Wilding left Oxford for Sydney, moving from an imperial center of British education to a far-flung colonial outpost beyond the daily reach of The Times, bringing with him “a generalised left wing politics” and “a working class resentment of exclusion from privilege” (161). In addition, his intellectual baggage contained a firm decision to become a writer. It was Wilding who would “in the smithy of his soul” help forge the literary conscience of the nation whose renowned man of letters he was to become.

Growing Wild is a memoir which reads like a Künstlerroman in postmodernist style, tracing the trajectory of intellectual awakening and artistic development of the protagonist as he negotiates relationships with his family and the politics and history of both his native and adoptive countries. Wilding’s memoir picks up where Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man leaves off the protagonist-in self-exile after he has left a restrictive environment for a freedom to become an artist, a writer. It begins in epic fashion, in medias res or “Among Leavisites” rather, landing the protagonist in the midst of F. R. Leavis’s acolytes at University of Sydney’s English Department and then, in broken chronology, takes the reader back to the first words on the slate in the English Midlands. ….

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