Gerald Murnane: A Lifetime on Clouds


The latest addition to my website is Gerald Murnane‘s A Lifetime on Clouds. This book, Murnane’s second novel, is, quite simply, about the masturbatory fantasies of an Australian teenager living in the poorer part of Melbourne in the 1950s. Adrian Sherd lives with his parents and two younger brothers. About four times a week, he masturbates. His fantasies are based on Hollywood film stars, whose photos he has seen in The Argus, the paper his father takes for its sports coverage. Adrian has never seen these stars in films, as his Catholic parents will not allow him to see such films. He has a train set, whose tracks run on a large, crude map of the United States. He runs the train. Where the train stops is where he locates his fantasies, normally with three of these film stars. He shares these ideas with his schoolfriends, though many of them have seen the film stars at the cinema. He is worried about committing a mortal sin but not worried enough to stop masturbating and he regularly confesses his only sin. However, one day, at church, he sees a girl whom he nicknames Earth Angel. When he finds that she travels on the same train as she does, he makes sure that he is always in the same carriage as she is but is too shy to speak to her. However, his masturbatory fantasies stop. His fantasies are now wholesome fantasies about a Catholic life with the girl. Indeed, his Catholic fantasies go further. While this book is certainly amusing and well written and its mocking of teenage boys and Catholicism is entertaining, I do not share the enthusiasm for this book that others have. However, if teenage sexual angst is your thing, then this book may well work for you.

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