Review of City Bushman: Henry Lawson and the Australian Imagination, by Christopher Lee
'For me', writes Christopher Lee in his introduction to City Bushman, 'Henry Lawson is intimately associated with ... memories of family'. Lee remembers the stories his mother told her children as they grew up in the city, stories of her rural childhood, and of her father who was a bushman, timber cutter, bullock driver, farmer, road worker—just the sort of figure one might encounter in a Lawson short story or poem. Family stories and Lawson's writing became comfortably and seamlessly entangled. Then, with the radical disjunction that university education often brings (and not always within the paradigm of enlightenment!), Lee learned an aesthetic which devalued his private memories and the 'Lawson' they generated. City Bushman is a rejoinder to that aesthetic. Although Lee's autobiographical voice is not heard after the introductory chapter, the entire book is permeated with a sense that the question embedded within the subtitle genuinely matters: what is the connection between Henry Lawson and the Australian imagination? In exploring the question and offering his own answers, Lee has written an intriguing book, which at times, particularly in the final chapters, becomes unexpectedly moving.
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