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The Vivisector

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Vanity Fair Penguin Classics. Doctor Thorne Penguin Classics. Philosophical Dictionary Penguin Classics. Elective Affinities Penguin Classics. In Patagonia Penguin Classics. It is also clear that Hurtle has a unique vision of the world around him and at this early stage in his life he is unable to come anywhere near to capturing it on paper as a drawing or painting. It is also apparent that his visions are disturbing.

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His images are already shocking his family and he is forced to hide them. Freda Courtney has become involved in a campaign against vivisection and it is the image of a dog in a shop window in London that causes her to bring her family's travels to an end so that she can return to Australia to become involved again. White is already telling us that Hurtle is the Vivisector. He dreams of his mother pulling the guts out of a sheep: Crool crool cool and crool she began to shriek 'nasty little boy' with 'eyes like knives'. By the time she began pulling at the big cushiony bowel, her lips had turned the colour of liver.

Her white neck all freckled with blood. Mr Courtney takes Hurtle out to a sheep station that he owns and there he meets Col Foster; a jackaroo. Col is busy writing and he says to Hurtle he is writing a novel but it is no good because he had not yet experienced enough. He laughs at Hurtle when he tells him he is going to be a great painter and Col Foster says: Fancy yourself don't you?

Well good luck to you kid! Some irony here I think. I read that little section about Hurtle's disturbing dream today.

Not really the spot I needed to be on over my lunch hour It was his physical reaction to his own dream that got me. Chapter 3 is a sort of linking chapter covering Hurtle's teen years before he enlists in the Australian Army to fight in the war. Hurtle must escape from his adopted family and going to war is his only way out. Chapter 4 - This is where the meat of the book really begins. Hurtle has survived the war, he has effectively cut himself off from his family and is now living the life he wants to live.

He eventually returns to Australia and meets the first of the women in his life; Nance Lightfoot. White now shows us Hurtle the artist, everything is sacrificed on the altar of his art. Nance says: 'What your sort don't realise' she wasn't saying, she was firing into his brain, 'is that other people exist. While your gummed up in the great art mystery, they're alive, and breakun their necks for love' Patrick White himself was a driven man, everything had to be put aside so that he could write.

It is interesting to ponder how much of himself he put into Hurtle.

The Vivisector | Tom Christophersen

White's attempts to get under the skin of the artist produces some fine prose; this is his description of Hurtle working on his self portrait: While working, he had to recognize the voluptuous love with which he carved his own cheek out of the paint, down to the board : his not convincingly ascetic cheek.

The nick to the corner of his not quite honest but human - he hoped - watchful eye produced the authentic shudder of love. Even the practice of mere skill, those weightless wet dreams of art, rejoiced his mind and refreshed his body. Hurtle burns so fiercely for his art that anyone who gets too close to him is liable to go up in flames - I fear for Nance. I've just got a little bit left to go in Chapter 4. In other novels about the period it is an intense experience that changes the soldier forever, but in White's writing it is more about escape and absence.

A bit of googling shows that D. Lawrence is considered a major influence on Patrick White, so I wonder if there is a deliberate similarity between the scene when Nance gets down on the floor and bends over to light the fire which Hurtle later obsessively paints and the memorable scene in Lady Chatterley's Lover where Constance assumes the same position drying her hair in front of a fireplace.

I like this passage: 'D'you think anybody's gunner buy this sort of art work? T'isn't exactly pretty, is it? Explain to me.

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All this about modern art. I'm enjoying following the discussions of The Vivisector , which I read earlier this year for the Patrick White group. I was most impressed by White's ability to convey the artist's mindset, and need to work to the exclusion of all else.