Sunday, May 15, 2011

Book Review - My Bike

My Bike is one of those books that is, despite a level of obscurity, a seminal piece of writing in the canon of cycling literature. Published only once, in 1975, the novella not only explores but also pushes the boundaries of a variety of social and cultural mores. It also had a little known yet profound impact on one of Australia's most dramatic political episodes.

Despite on the surface appearing overly simplistic, a closer reading reveals a litany of themes that force the reader to consider ideas of profound complexity and import. In fact, this story was initially a 1,000 word novel that would have no doubt found itself a place in history alongside such great works as War and Peace, The Catcher in the Rye, and Great Expectations. Alas, it was not to be.

Gough Whitlam, the prime minister at the time of the work's completion, was a big fan of the novel. In fact, he was partly responsible for its completion, as his government funded the author's expenses. Many believe his approval of the purchase of the painting Blue Poles in 1973 led to his downfall. What has not been widely publicised is the fact that his funding of My Bike was at least as damaging to his position. While it never created such a media storm and public backlash as the purchase of the painting, many politicians saw the themes of My Bike as too subversive and dangerous.

Such was the disdain for the book in the halls of Canberra that most political historians now see its imminent publication as the major catalyst that led to Whitlam's sacking by the then governor-general, Sir John Kerr. One of Malcolm Fraser's first acts as prime minister was to ban the book's publication under archaic censorship laws.

Incensed by this action, the author decided to re-write the book in the form you see below. The simple language and illustrations were successfully used as a ploy to have the novella classified as educational material. As a result, the work passed through alternate censorship channels. The educational censors failed to see that this work was in fact a re-write of the recently banned novel.

It was not until the novella was printed, published and sold to schools throughout the country that the relevant parties realised that the wool had been pulled over their eyes. In a rage, the government had the author sent off to a labour camp never to be heard from again, with all records of his identity permanently deleted.

Despite their best efforts, the authorities were unable to find and burn every copy of My Bike. Being the owner of one of these surviving copies, and despite exposing myself to considerable risk, I see at is my responsibility and duty as both a journalist and an Australian to release the novella on the internet so its contents may never be suppressed again.

So, it is with both a heavy heart and a sense of duty that I present the work to you. I don't feel it's necessary to elaborate on the themes as I trust you, my dear reader, will be able to decipher them for yourself.

1 comment:

  1. and here I was thinking that investigative journalism was dead... gold Laurence.