This February marks the 112th anniversary of the most famous picnic in Australian history – one that never actually happened.
Despite many believing that Joan Lindsay’s Picnic At Hanging Rock was based on a real event, the best-selling mystery was wholly a work of imagination.
Even today Lindsay’s prose is so eloquent, so vividly alive you can almost hear the rustle of long skirts, the crunch of wagon wheels on the drive and the drone of cicadas as the party of schoolgirls set out on their ill-fated Valentine’s Day excursion.
That you can still go into a bookshop and buy a $9.95 popular Penguin copy of this Lindsay novel first published in 1967 owes much to Peter Weir’s luminous film adaptation.
So many other great Australian novels have – like the ethereal Miranda – vanished seemingly without trace.
It’s been no picnic for local publishers in a scene dominated by multinationals and driven by the all- pervading Neilson BookScan which monitors sales in minute detail.
But if today’s Twilight-obsessed teenagers are so quick to fall for a vampire with a heart of gold and a native American werewolf, surely the Nargun – an authentic home-grown Dreamtime creature made of rocks – can’t be that much of a stretch.
It seems credulity is less of an issue than access.
The National Year of Reading presents the perfect opportunity to buy local so to speak.
Text Publishing is preparing to release a series of affordable Australian classics which it is hoped will save the endangered literary novel from all-consuming genre fiction and sports star autobiographies.
Cricketing Zombies at Hanging Rock should do it.