Review: The Ern Malley Affair by Michael Heyward

What could I give this book but a perfect score for the hoax poets James McAuley and Harold Stewart pulled off. A hoax in one hand and in the other the greatest modernist expression Australia has ever produced. Does that make this dada-ist poetry? The story is one of those stranger than fiction fish out of water tales that happen once in a lifetime or perhaps in this case once in all of recorded human history.

That being said, I don’t know if Michael Heyward nailed all of the important factors about the story. I honestly would’ve liked to have seen both Ern Malley authors’ other poetry and see for myself what exactly a joke is supposed to look like. After all, I’m sure Tennyson joking would look just like Ezra Pound. It’s also interesting that this is a trick nobody wants to admit is a trick just as Finnegans Wake is the real deal nobody wants to admit is the real deal. Also, the lives of McAuley and Stewart seem awful anemic in lieu of a rather anti-climatic case against Max Harris for obscenity. I wish it had talked more about the demise of the Angry Penguins itself as I heard it did run into issues outside the case that ultimately ended it over any ramifications thereof.

Final Grade: A-

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