‘Are You for Magic?’ Patrick White and Camp


Here is one of Patrick White's jokes. The setting is the picnic at Point Piper in the third chapter of Voss: 'Such vitality Belle has,' sighed Una [Pringle], who was left with that Laura and the foreigner. 'Do you run and jump, Mr Voss?' she inquired with insipid malice. 'Please?' asked the German. 'I expect he does,' said Laura Trevelyan, 'if the occasion demands it. His own very private occasion. All kinds of invisible running and jumping I do.' (59) Secure in her upper-middle-class circle, Una feels she can make fun of that awkward stick-figure, Voss. Her question about running and jumping is at once facetious – Voss completely lacks the youthful vitality of Belle Bonner, a character classified by Simon During as one of 'White's bimbos' (95) – but it is also slyly political in the way that it reinforces the German's otherness: physically, intellectually and ethically. Laura can see the power play at work and, rather than counter the implied criticism, turns Una's words into a figure of speech that effectively disarms it.

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Published 1 November 2014 in Volume 29 No. 4. Subjects: LGBTIQ+ literature & writers, Ham Funeral, The, Riders in the Chariot, The, Shepherd on the Rocks, Twyborn Affair, The, Vivisector, The, Voss, White, Patrick.

Cite as: Kirkpatrick, Peter. ‘‘Are You for Magic?’ Patrick White and Camp.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 29, no. 4, 2014, doi: 10.20314/als.f6d66f3537.