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By David Scott

IR Rating:
STARGAZER is a book worth reading about a dear bloke worth knowing, and a treasure chest of an autobiography for insights into 20th Century Australian culture and movie industry history.
IR Approved
David Scott's STARGAZER is a memoir filled with stories about growing up in mid-century, rural Australia and its movie-theater industry.

Australian David Scott’s autobiography STARGAZER is a treasure chest of a trip. Journeying through it is like touring one of those rarities on TV’s American Pickers — a well-organized warehouse full of heart-tugging memorabilia from the 1940s to the present. Sure, there’s some clutter. In particular, the book would read more smoothly if the author’s poems and short story, interspersed in later chapters, were moved to the end of the book among other appendices. But STARGAZER nevertheless abounds with fascinating recollections.

Scott spent his early years in small agricultural towns. When his family began building a movie theater in the Victoria town of Cobram, its main street was gravel and the sewage system was based on outhouses. Scott developed an eye for detail and humor at a young age, recalling that the sanitation worker who lugged away “tar-lined cans of night soil” watched carefully for tripping hazards created by pranksters. Some of Scott’s memories paint riveting contrasts. For example, he describes his mother, Muriel, boiling laundry outdoors “in a large copper pot,” because the family lived in a bedroom-sized hut while constructing their Melba Theatre. But once the movie house opened, Muriel lent “Hollywood glamour” to her role of greeting customers by wearing “elegant gowns.” His handyman father, Jack, also dressed formally to meet patrons despite “cracked, dry hands and blackened thumbnails from his carpentry work….

Much of Scott’s young adulthood involved working for the family business. This included constructing and managing a drive-in theater after his father’s early death. Running it was a non-stop dash of duties, including prepping massive quantities of potatoes for French fry vats, in the days before frozen product was available. One amusing task involved waking patrons after all-night viewing marathons. It’s easy to picture this part of Scott’s story as captivating cinema vérité.

Scott is a novelist (Blood Tears of the Dead Heart) as well as a playwright (Butcher Birds Cry at Midnight) and STARGAZER covers a lifetime of major ups and downs, including a stint in boarding school that is made for movie drama about the terrors of being gay at mid-century. His memoir incites a broad range of emotions, from intense anger at bullies, to tenderness for the dogs and other animals he turned to for solace throughout life.

The author’s keen observations of Australian wildlife, especially birds, are a delight. In one anecdote, he recounts two bossy Lorikeets flying through an open window to deposit their chicks on his writing desk. The babies spent hours “timidly checking desktop items and then dozing until their parents collected them.

STARGAZER is a book worth reading about a dear bloke worth knowing, and a treasure chest of an autobiography for insights into 20th Century Australian culture and movie industry history.

~Alicia Rudnicki for IndieReader

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