Despite Johnno's assertion that Brisbane was absolutely the ugliest place in the world, I had the feelings as I walked across deserted intersections, past empty parks with their tropical trees all spilked and sharp-edged in the early sunlight, that it might even be beautiful . . . 'Johnno is a typical Australian who refuses to be typical. His disorderly presence can disturb the staleness of his home town or destroy the tranquility of a Greek landscape. An affectionately outrageous portrait, David Malouf's first novel recreates the war-conscious forties, the pubs and brothels of the fifties, and the years away treading water overseas.