581047_thumbnail_280_Tim_Winton_Breath_Tim_Winton

Having knocked over Breath in about four hours, I was more than a little inspired to write another blog entry.

The novel’s major concern is the need to each person to establish their own world through an encounter with risk. For some, that risk might have its dark side, as it does with Loonie and Eva. Winton suggests, however, that the adventure is essential, even when the results may be disastrous (as it is with Eva). Pike understand the dangers of feeling like an immortal, but also rejects the degeneration of Sando from surfing guru and hero into corporate suit. Even with the knowledge of the damage that his flirtation with the extremes have brought, Pike still knows that he is most alive out on the edge, away from the dreadful sameness of the suburbs.

Breath is the basis of everything for life. We hold our breath in amazement or to go to the depths. We breath deeply to inhale the scent of the world. Without breath, we are dead and yet we constantly push ourselves to the breathless limits to achieve what we think are necessary goals. Winton’s conclusion is a stark reminder that one can go too far, particularly when young; that the scars of failure or over-extension are sometimes not realised until much later. It’s hard, however, not to feel that the novel’s hero has somehow achieved a unique insight into the meaning of life at its dizzy boundaries. Perhaps his unwillingness to take the biggest wave, to participate in Eva’s attempts at erotic strangulation, to follow Sando everywhere, have their result in his inability to embrace marriage and fatherhood? Nevertheless, Bruce Pike pays a heavy price for his engagement with the universe. Is there not a sense that Winton recognises that we all have to do that if we are to embrace our humanity with something more than the mundane?

Of course, he starts and finishes his novels with memorable style. The novel resolves its paradoxes by showing that, in spite of his scars, the narrator:

My favourite time is when we’re all one at the Point, because when they see me out on the water I don’t have to be cautious and I’m never ashamed. Out there I’m free. I don’t require management. They probably don’t understand this, but it’s important for me to show them that their father is a man who dances — who saves lives and carries the wounded, yes, but who also does something completely pointless and beautiful, and in this at least he should need no explanation.

Incidentally (a Dominic word), this blog entry is written with ecto , a desktop blogging app. I think I may prefer it as a way of managing blog entries, particularly as one attempts to incorporate more and more complex formatting and media into one’s blog. Perhaps a later blog might deal with it.