The Muse of the Maze—BryshaWilson Press

the-muse-of-the-mazeFirst published by BryshaWilson Press 17/9/2016

Hitch-hiking young tourists assailed by a ‘truly woeful Eagles tape’ and trapped in an ancient Merc carrying an impressive haul of hash and coke across the border of France and Spain, does not sound like the stuff of a literary adventure undertaken to meet a highly-regarded poet and man of letters. However, it sure smacks of the 1970s and as such, it deftly evokes the era in which young Australian poet Jack Driscoll sets out on an odyssey to Deya, Mallorca to meet literary titan Robert Graves and obtain a poet’s blessing from him. The unfolding surprise of the unexpected is one of the most striking qualities of Larry Buttrose’s novel The Muse of the Maze (eBook, BryshaWilson Press, Melbourne, 2016, $AU9.99 from Amazon and Kobo). The other is the delicately modulated prose delivered as a first person narrative by Jack, who assumes the dual role of major player and observer as his story unfolds.

The reader is gently lured to follow as Jack recalls in the first chapter:

…a shadowy world of taverns and cantinas, barbers and shopfront tailors, brothels and gaming dens, all shunted together in the tall and winding, sombre sandstone walls of the maze. Heat and humidity got trapped in here. Dust gritted between the teeth. The sea air which somehow penetrated brought with it the intermingled smells of diesel, sewage and rotting fish, and wafts of perfumes that caught in the throat. A pair of ragged children sat on greasy flagstones blowing bubbles from an old bone pipe. Women squatted on their haunches gutting fish, the tails left hanging in the teeth of drains. I passed down cobbled paths of scrawny cats and lousy pigeons, beneath drying sheets lacy with cigarette burns. Boys hauled handcarts piled improbably high with sacks of onions and potatoes. Babies yowled, whores yawned, and old women looked on from the windows above. Men clustered here and there—it looked like deals were being done, crimes schemed, political acts plotted. I liked it.

In its own cheerful way this beguilingly sensual passage is just as much a portent of potentially tragic consequences as the Rilke quote (from The First Elegy) that prefaces the chapter:

The beautiful is nothing but the first apprehension of the terrible

Jack grew ‘up an only child in a bookless house on a treeless street’ in an outer suburb of Canberra, then ‘took to the road’ after graduating from university with an arts degree. Subsequently his ‘grand tour’ was to give him time to make decisions about what to do with his life and find his way in it as a poet. Stranded in Barcelona, he appends himself to an English-speaking arty enclave of assorted foreigners, while simultaneously engaging in sequential relationships with three different women and straying into the seedy, dangerous side of Barcelona nightlife. Meanwhile, the journey to meet Graves makes little progress.

While Jack’s quest pays homage to Graves, the novel references Graves’s controversial work The White Goddess, a radically personal discursive exploration of the notion of the poetic Muse, whether in triple or single form, as female. The referencing occurs on various planes: in the storyline and its action, as well as in the ideas flowing through the work on both the literal and symbolic levels. All this makes it a satisfyingly intelligent novel, albeit one packed with intense action and tragic consequences. But in the context of The Muse of the Maze  even the notion of tragedy is fluid and multi-applicable, leaving the reader to consider if any or which aspect of the events depicted is actually tragic or merely unfortunate. In that sense, too, it makes for fascinating reading. In fact, The Muse of the Maze is that great rarity—a finely wrought literary novel that is also compulsively readable.

The Muse of the Maze had its beginnings in volume form as The Maze of the Muse (Flamingo, Pymble, 1998) and when BryshaWilson Press approached Larry Buttrose for the publishing rights to re-issue his novel as an eBook, he revisited the manuscript and revised it extensively. The changes are so major that the result is a distinctly new book and in recognition of that it was renamed The Muse of the Maze.

Interestingly, Larry Buttrose did go to Mallorca in 1976 to get a poet’s blessing from Graves and the true story of that is included as a Memoir in the Afterword of The Muse of the Maze. The image on the novel’s cover is a photograph of Deya that Buttrose took at the time of his visit.

Blazenka Brysha
Publisher, BryshaWilson Press

BryshaWilson Press—On Poets and Dancers as Heroes

Layout 1First published by BryshaWilson Press, 10/8/2016

The first blog written for the BryshaWilson Press launch was about a love of books but on reflection more burning topics presented themselves. The chief of these is the question of why you would spend the best part of a year setting up a book-publishing venture when the market place is buried in mountains of books being churned out by vast numbers of publishers all aggressively competing for every cent of the book-buying buck to be scrounged from the big wide world of readers.

The answer is as simple (and as complex) as that to why you would write a poem, or spend years learning to dance, hoping one day to share your dance on the public stage.

Economics and finance have a strangle hold on our world and although wars in all their horror still abound, the real conquests are now made in the financial sector and, for the most part, it’s only when you fail there that you go to war. This is the global reality and any enterprise of which the profit model is not essentially financial raises eyebrows of concern or bemused dismissal.

The people for whom no explanation is necessary are the ones who engage in the creation or the pursuit of the arts in their many guises and the ones who value and share in such activities when the writers, painters, performers, musicians and other dreamers offer their endeavours to the public.

When it comes to funding—government or other—the arts, like Blanche Dubois, have depended on the kindness of strangers but we all know what happened to Blanche. And while few would say no to receiving financial rewards, public accolades and the many other rewards of popularity, the great majority of those engaged in artistic creation pursue it regardless of such concerns.

Barry Kitcher’s memoir From Gaolbird to Lyrebird A life in Australian ballet (BryshaWilson Press, 2016 eBook) tells the story of people who did just that with astonishing results and significant historic impact. The eBook format has enabled the inclusion of much visual material from Kitcher’s personal archive, which would be prohibitive in hard print but makes an important contribution to the recording of Australian dance history as well as the enjoyment of what is a great ballet story.

The other book offered on our launch is The Muse of the Maze (BryshaWilson Press, 2016, eBook) by Larry Buttrose. This beautifully written novel about a young Australian poet’s quest to obtain a poet’s blessing from Robert Graves is simultaneously an adventure story and a study of life dedicated to artistic pursuits. The Muse of the Maze, like From Gaolbird to Lyrebird, has its origins in a previous incarnation as a volume—The Maze of the Muse (Flamingo, Pymble, 1998)—but has been so extensively rewritten that a name change was needed to distinguish it from the 1998 publication.

From Gaolbird to Lyrebird eBook has also been reworked but only to expand greatly on the original 2001 imprint and so the name remains the same.

We think our books very special and hope that they will find many readers who think so, too. Happy reading.