Community radio host Ciara receives dozens of unmarked cassette recordings every week and broadcasts them to a listenership of none. Ex-musician Tom drives an impractical bus that no one ever boards. Publican Jenny runs a hotel that has no patrons. Rick wanders the aisles of the Woolworths every day in an attempt to blunt the disappointment of adulthood.
In a town of innumerable petrol stations, labyrinthine cul-de-sac streets, two competing shopping plazas, and ubiquitous drive-thru franchises, where are the townsfolk likely to find the truth about their collective past – and can they do so before the town disappears?
Shaun Prescott’s debut novel The Town follows an unnamed narrator’s efforts to complete a book about disappeared towns in the Central West of New South Wales. Set in a yet-to-disappear town in the region—a town believed by its inhabitants to have no history at all—the novel traces its characters’ attempts to carve their own identities in a place that is both unyielding and teetering on the edge of oblivion.
For admirers of Gerald Murnane, Wayne Macauley, Robert Walser, and Thomas Bernhard, this novel speaks to who we are as people and as a country, whether we like what it says or not.
LENGTH: 256 pp.
PUBLICATION DATE: Aug 2017
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Shaun Prescott is a writer based in the Blue Mountains in New South Wales. He has self-released several small books of fiction, including Erica From Sales and The End of Trolleys, and was editor of Crawlspace Magazine. His writing has appeared in The Lifted Brow, The Guardian, Meanjin, Australian Book Review, and other places.
PRAISE FOR THE TOWN
“This novel signals its author as someone who understands what literature is for. It is one of the strongest and strangest contemporary Australian novels I've seen...It's possible to see the influence of Gerald Murnane in this book, in its style and in its focus on the strangeness of banality, but it's not so much derivativeness as a similarity of vision.”
Kerryn Goldsworthy, The Age/Sydney Morning Herald
“This is one of those rare books that bothers your thinking by making you feel uncomfortable without necessarily knowing why or how. The aftermath is a kind of free-fall. It’s a remarkable achievement and a testament to how the small publishers rather than the big houses are producing Australia’s best and riskiest fiction.”
Ed Wright, The Australian
“a deep dive into weirdness that reads like a blend of Donald Horne and García Márquez ... a gentle, if gnawing, safari of the existential dread on which Australia is built.”
The Saturday Paper
“The Town offers an experience of profound estrangement, not only from place and landscape, identity and community, but from reading a book, and perhaps even from meaning itself. Prescott is commendably unafraid to wander in among the tangled paradoxes Murnane has left lying in the field for him, and to kick them apart in his search for meaning, even if that leaves him with nothing left to kick except himself.”
Jennifer Mills, Sydney Review of Books
“Shaun Prescott’s The Town is the best Australian book you will read this year. ... It is a hole dug in the middle of the outback; a door that leads to nowhere. And in its artful, brutal emptiness, it is one of the very best books you will read this year.”
Joseph Earp, The Brag
“A bizarre novel—a séance for Kafka, Walser and Calvino—that tackles the ever-disappearing boundaries between youth and aging, between music and silence, the past and present. In a spry and lonely voice, Shaun Prescott has written an ominous work of absurdity.”
Catherine Lacey, author of Nobody Is Ever Missing and The Answers
“Mind-bending, often hilarious, and sometimes heart-wrenchingly sad, The Town is one of the most original and exhilarating Australian novels I’ve ever read.”
Wayne Macauley, author of Some Tests, Demons, The Cook, Caravan Story, and Blueprints for a Barbed-Wire Canoe
“The Town reads like an underground classic it its own right, but whether it's a classic from the near past or from the near future is difficult to tell. In any case, Australia will never be quite the same again. Shaun Prescott has chipped off a bit from the withered heart of this country and held it up to the fluorescent light: the opposite of belonging to the earth is almost, but never quite belonging to The Town.”
Miles Allinson, author of Fever of Animals
“Prescott has a real skill of presenting the banality of everyday life in a way that is wholly original and strange, but his real achievement here is that each aspect of this novel is expertly balanced, and the distanced tone manages to make the story’s most bizarre aspects seem commonplace. It’s hard to imagine that we’ll get a more original Australian novel this year.”
Chris Somerville, author of We Are Not The Same Anymore, Readings
“The town is both vague and specific. Residents unmoored from meaning-making structures like family cling to what’s reliable, like new catalogue day at the supermarkets. One protests that the town can’t be in danger because the supermarkets are still operating as normal. ... There’s a small pleasure in seeing the minutiae of Australian life reflected in a book, when the kinds of books we’re used to reading that grapple with big ideas are set so distantly it’s hard to imagine how exactly those ideas fit into this landscape.”
Alex Gerrans, Overland
“The Town is a weird, compelling, unusual, and great book.”
Chris Womersley, Breakfasters
“The Town is a book about annihilation: not the explosive, memorable kind, but its exact opposite – the annihilation that comes from fading away.”
Alex Tighe, Neighbourhood
“The Town is understated but compelling; the narrator’s deadpan voice recalls the lone existentialist figures of Sartre’s Nausea and Camus’ The Outsider, but contrasts this with a dream logic reminiscent of Twin Peaks. This is hypnotic literary fiction for readers who make as much meaning from a McDonald’s car park as the Sydney Harbour Bridge.”
Sarah Farquharson, Books+Publishing
“If the point of good writing is to put into words that which has not been said before, Shaun Prescott’s The Town surely qualifies. ... It's a damning interrogation of what happens to a place when it forces its citizens into rituals hoping to make meaning from nothing, but it’s never didactic, and always entertaining.”
Cameron Colwell, Grapeshot Magazine
“Shaun Prescott’s début novel shares obvious conceptual territory with the fiction of Franz Kafka and Gerald Murnane”
Shannon Burns, Australian Book Review