A collection of Gerald Murnane books - Australian, American and English editions - many inscribed by the author to John Baxter, together with correspondence between the two writers, copies of other letters from Gerald Murnane's fabled personal archive, together with related documents and printed ephemera about him, as well as two of John Baxter’s books where he details their friendship.
The two writers were born in the suburbs of Melbourne and Sydney in 1939. John Baxter has noted, “My interest in Gerald Murnane and his work began after 'The Plains' was published by Norstrilia , the Melbourne science fiction press operated by, among others, Bruce Gillespie, whom I knew from my s-f writing. 'The Plains' was the first modern novel to resonate both with the new visionary writing of the eighties, and with my love of the American cinema. Gerald, though neither a science fiction writer nor a screenwriter, created a world where an author like Russell Hoban and a filmmaker such as Andrei Tarkovsky might find common ground.”
John Baxter began collecting Gerald Murnane’s books, the two writers exchanged books, and a correspondence developed, “I have always disliked wine and spirits. Perhaps this is because I was born without a sense of smell. The pages about food in your autobiographical books made no sense to me. All food tastes the same to me, which is to say that no food tastes at all. I live on a breakfast of grains and nuts and pulses then two salads for lunch – the first of vegies and the second of fruits. For my evening meal, I eat either cheese and tomato on toast or sardines and tomato on toast. I prepare all my own meals. I sometimes allow my wife to steam a few vegetables for my evening meal, but in general I hate to have another person prepare my food.” (Gerald Murnane to John Baxter, 29 November 2006).
The collection contains,
• 'Tamarisk Row'. William Heinemann, 1975. First Australian edition. Inscribed by the author to John Baxter. Edgewear, front free endpaper clipped, else very good in dustwrapper.
• 'A Lifetime on Clouds'. William Heinemann Australia, 1976. First Australian edition. Inscribed by the author to John Baxter. Fine in very good dustwrapper with a couple of nicks.
• 'The Plains'. Norstrilia. 1982. First Australian edition. Inscribed by the author to John Baxter. The first issue dust wrapper, reputedly 50 copies published. “As soon as the distributor saw it, he rejected all copies of 'The Plains' until we produced a cover that could be put in a bookshop. I forget who Carey got to do the grey/plain lettering cover, but it was done and the replacement covers printed within a week. From then on, every time we sent out more copies, we had to pick off the old covers and put on the new ones.” Tipped in is a printout of an email, 21 December 2003, from Bruce Gillespie, the publisher, to John Baxter, continuing the story of 'The Plains' and on through Gerald Murnane’s early literary career. Fine in first issue dust wrapper designed by Josephine Brick.
• 'The Plains'. Norstrilia, 1982. First Australian edition. Inscribed by the author to John Baxter. Fine in second issue dust wrapper.
• 'Landscape with Landscape'. Norstrilia, 1985. First Australian edition. Inscribed by the author to John Baxter. Fine in dust wrapper.
• 'The Plains'. George Brazillier, 1985. First American edition. Inscribed by the author to John Baxter. Review copy with publisher’s promotional material laid in. Fine in dust wrapper.
• “Why I Write What I Write” and “Stone Quarry”. Meanjin, Volume 45, No.4, December 1986. Pictorial wrappers. Very good.
• 'Inland'. William Heinemann Australia, 1988. First Australian edition. Inscribed by the author to John Baxter. Fine in dust wrapper.
• 'Inland'. Faber and Faber, 1988. First English edition. Fine in dust wrapper.
• 'The Plains'. McPhee Gribble, 1990. Second Australian edition, revised. Tipped in is an autograph note, signed from Gerald Murnane to John Baxter, 24 July 2007, “I’ve included a bonus. Note that the text of the 1990 edition has been amended. That is to say, the early typos have been corrected. 'The Plains' has been published in seven (7) editions in Aust. the USA and Sweden.” Pictorial wrappers. Fine.
• 'Velvet Waters'. Ringwood, Vic: McPhee Gribble, 1990. First Australian edition. Edgwear. Very good in fine dust wrapper.
• 'Incredible Yet Enduring Lilacs'. Artarmon, NSW: Giramondo, 2005. First Australian edition. Inscribed by the author to John Baxter in 2006. Pictorial wrappers. Fine.
• 'Barley Patch'. Artarmon, NSW: Giramondo, 2009. First Australian edition. Pictorial wrappers. Very good.
• 'Barley Patch'. Champaign, Illinois: Dalkey Archive Press 2011. First American edition. Pictorial wrappers. Fine.
• 'A History of Books'. Artarmon, NSW: Giramondo, 2012. First Australian edition. Pictorial wrappers. Fine.
• Words and Silk. Melbourne: privately produced, nd. DVD. Autobiographical film by Murnane detailing his preoccupation with horse racing.
• John Baxter, 'A Pound of Paper'. London: Transworld, 2002. First English edition. Colour photograph, 9 x 11.5cms., of Gerald Murnane tipped-in to front free endpaper, signed by the author. Fine in dust wrapper with John Baxter’s bookplate.
• John Baxter, 'Paris Men’s Salon'. Paris: the author, 2019. Third edition. #70/100 numbered copies signed by the author. Printout of a passage from the book and relevant to Gerald Murnane tipped into to front free endpaper. Pictorial wrappers. Fine.
Correspondence and related items:
• Gerald Murnane, tls, 31 January 2004, to John Baxter, photocopy, 2pp. Annotated by hand by Gerald Murnane, also photocopied. ‘Your book [A Pound of Paper] was a pleasant surprise. I’ve read it already, which in itself is a tribute since I read hardly any books in the English language nowadays. I’ve reconciled myself to dying with at least half of my library unread. The cause of this is my having decided ten years ago, when I took early retirement from a hateful and oppressive university teaching job, to devote the rest of my life to learning to read and write and speak the Hungarian language. … I believe that I’ll be remembered a hundred years from now not for my eight books but as the compiler of a remarkable archive. I go on a lot nowadays about my filing-cabinets and their contents.”
• Gerald Murnane, tls, 29 September 2006, to Ivor, annotated by hand by Gerald Murnane “Indyk my publisher”, the remainder photocopied, 12pp. Single spaced literary adventures – talks, launches, modest travels – “I told my audience at Melbourne University also that the place where I did some of my best writing during the early 1990s was an ironing board in a corner of my wife’s and my bedroom. I extolled the benefits of the ironing board for a certain sort of writer.”
• Gerald Murnane, tls, 2 November 2006, to John Baxter, photocopy, 1p. “I’ve seen one film since I wrote the earlier letter. It was a good film about a man who fled a flock of parrots on a hill in Sand Francisco” [The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, 2003] Annotated by hand on the reverse, “John, read first the other letter, which I sent to you in Jan. 2004. This page I wrote on 2 Nov 06 as sort of update of the earlier.” And, by hand, in a stick on note, “The handwriting was not on the original of course. I annotate much of what I put into my archives. I do it for the benefit of future scholars, voyeurs, whatever”
• John Baxter, tls, 9 November 2006, to Gerald Murnane, 3pp.
• Gerald Murnane, tls, 29 November 2006, to John Baxter, 7pp. single spaced and 1p. handwritten. The most detailed tour of the Gerald Murnane’s archive that I’ve read. And ending, “Finally, my archives include at least a hundred letters even longer than this letter to you. Many of these letters, I would hope, are even more than interesting than this.” See the letter above to Ivor Indyk.
• John Baxter, tls, 4 June 2007, to Gerald Murnane, 1p.
• Gerald Murnane, als, 14 June 2007, to John Baxter, 2pp.” I travelled by train to Sydney recently to receive an award. (I thought of you while we passed through Junee!) At many points along way, the train would cause a mob of animals to gallop away from it. These animals were afraid of the train in the same way that I’m afraid of technology. Those animals know as much about trains, the people who travel in them, the books or the mobile phones in the hands of the people, as I know about computers or the internet. Those animals want only to have their green paddocks, left undisturbed by machines just as I want only not to have to try to grasp the complexities of technology but to stay in this quiet room and to tap away at my 1960s and 1970s typewriters and to stuff pages into my filing cabinets.” …. “I’m trying to arrange for my stuff to be valued by an independent valuer so that my sons will have some bargaining power when they negotiate with institutions after my death. (My stuff is so carefully catalogued and sign-posted that it could be put into a library just as it is.)”
• John Baxter, tls, 14 July 2007, to Gerald Murnane, 1p.
• Gerald Murnane, Untitled, typed, photocopy, 4pp. Annotated by hand, top of p.1, “John, This is the second part of my speech for the launching of Inland.”
• Gerald Murnane, “Text of speech by Gerald Murnane at the launch of the new, amended edition of Tamarisk Row in Adelaide on Thursday 6 March 2008” 6pp., photocopied annotation at top of p.1, “Nice (Nasty Later)”.
• Gerald Murnane, “On the Road to Bendigo – Kerouac’s Australian Life”. The Age Monthly Review, May 1986. Photocopied A3 sheets, 3pp.
• Jason Steger, “Murnane 33/1 for Nobel” The Age, 12 October 2006. Photocopied A4 sheet. [Orhan Pamuk received the prize for 2006].