Big is Beautiful?

I sometimes think that one could write an autobiography based on books that have had a significant influence at various points along the way in one’s life. For example, my years from about 9 to 12 were influenced by reading several of the “William” books by Richmal Crompton. (I just looked up William books in Wikipedia, and learnt that William possessed an “unfailing belief in his own ingenuity and righteousness”! I’ll have to think about that!)

Another book that I can remember being impressed by in the 1970s was “Small is Beautiful” by E F Schumacher. It was subtitled “A Study of Economics as if People Mattered”. In 1995, it was included in a list of “The 100 Most Influential Books Published since World War 2”, published in The Times Literary Supplement.

And here I am about to talk about Australians’ love for BIG THINGS. There are more than 200 big things, located all around the country. People have even been known to plan a road trip to take in as many big things as possible, with a photo taken at each one.

Big Axe

I was prompted to write about Big Things by two events:

1.       I was recently in Tasmania, and visiting the Longley International Hotel near Hobart, when I suddenly found myself confronted by a Big Thing, in this instance a Big Axe. Impressive!

2.      Returning from a recent trip to Quilpie in south-west Queensland (see Bobby Dazzler Newsletter #81), we passed through the small town of Dunedoo, about 60 km north of Mudgee in New South Wales. When later reading up about Dunedoo, I discovered that in the early 2000s, there was a proposal put to the good folk of Dunedoo to ginger up the flow of tourists to the town by building the “Big Dunny” there. (If you don’t know what Aussies mean by “dunny”, you can Google it.) It was to be a three-story building, featuring five-star toilets, a visitors’ centre, and even a radio station. But some po-faced locals thought it would be an embarrassment, and it was never built.

Some of Australia’s impressive Big Things are:

  •    The Big Cane Toad (Sarina, Qld)
  •    The Big Slide Rule (University of Tasmania, Hobart)
  •    The Big Worm (250 metres! Bass, Victoria)
  •    The Big Ugg Boots (Thornton, NSW)
  •    The Big Wheelbarrow (Port Hedland, WA)
  •    The Big Hat (Cradock, SA)

You can see a reasonably comprehensive list by going to Wikipedia (en.wikipedia.org ) and searching on “Australia’s Big Things”. Sure makes you feel proud to be an Aussie!

PS: How about writing a comment below to tell us about a book that’s been very influential in your life.

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About dazzlerplus

Writing about the things that interest me helps me to discover what I think. One of my loves is the Australian Outback, and I travel out there often, and when possible take friends with me.
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13 Responses to Big is Beautiful?

  1. Ken Hungerford says:

    There are a number of books that I read during my secondary school attendance but one in particular is worth mentioning. It was Reach for the Sky, a nonfiction book about the life of Douglas Bader, the English airman shot down over France during W II and ended up with both legs being amputated. Despite considerable resistance to the idea he returned to the war as an airman. I am not sure whether it was an original of his but one of his quotes has always stayed with me and I have adopted it as part of my life, namely “rules were made for the obedience of fools and guidance of wise men”. Yes, arrogant I suppose but in real life it is often the case.

    • dazzlerplus says:

      Good to hear from you, Ken. I really like the quote from Douglas Bader, and I think it makes a lot of sense. Rules are sometimes too simplistic to fit every possible set of circumstances.

  2. I loved “Small is Beautiful.” I recommended it to everyone I knew when I first discovered it — however many eons ago that was. (Shortly after reading that it was Prince Charles’s favorite book.)

    As for big things, we in the Midwestern U.S. seem to have a fondness for them, as well — big cow near a dairy, giant ears of corn in the middle of corn country (and a few other places), monster snake in front of Iowa’s Reptile Gardens, a huge bison — probably for the same reasons, to celebrate some aspect of a small town that would like others to notice. Odd but fun.

    • dazzlerplus says:

      Yes, they’re odd, but as you say, often provide a bit of amusement, and also usually provide a clue as to what is a significant part of life in that particular place.

  3. margymayt says:

    Albert Facey’s “A Fortunate Life” really affected me. Pity it’s not on the reading list for young people today. We just don’t realise how good we have it today, and how easy our life is in comparison.
    Marg

    • dazzlerplus says:

      Yes, indeed, a powerful story. and, as you say, in spite of the complaints you sometimes hear from people in a place like Australia, most of us have it relatively easy.

  4. Richard Kessling says:

    Disobeying the rule about influential, and hazarding conjectures of the effluvial, a diverting read is John D Gardner’s The Dunny Man, subtitled Taking Care of Business.

    The last Dunny man in Melbourne dumped his last can circa 1980 (I recall a newspaper article at the time).

    • dazzlerplus says:

      Ah, Richard, it’s a breath of (almost) fresh air to get your note about The Dunny Man! And who could doubt your credentials as a lover of good literature by the use of seven words of nine or more letters in your first sentence!
      Where would Australia have been for all those years without dunny men? In the poo, wouldn’t you say?
      It as indeed regrettable that Dunedoo didn’t go ahead with their visionary project. Where was Shane Jacobson when they needed him?

  5. Ros Bradley says:

    Looking back two books influenced me: The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder and Germinal by Zola. The former, written in 1927, won the Pulitzer Prize that year. A bridge collapses with all 5 travellers falling to their deaths into the gorge below. A monk witnesses the tragedy and wonders was it divine intervention or chance that led to the travellers’ deaths? Their stories are central to the book and I found them all mesmerising. In hindsight, the book triggered the start of my own spiritual journey. The final paragraph was very powerful – have just reread it now!

    Germinal was the first book which made me cry; the sadness and injustice of life in French coal mines in the mid1860s.

    My father was a Just William tragic and I recall him guffawing with laughter on Sunday afternoons. After he retired, the family gave him a surprise party with a Just William theme!

  6. Lavinia Ross says:

    I think it would be “My Side of the Mountain”. I read this book many times as a youngster.
    http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/41667.My_Side_of_the_Mountain

    • dazzlerplus says:

      Thanks for that, Lavinia. Is it a book that might interest an adult, or is it strictly a children’s book? Judging from the Amazon reviews, there are many adult readers who have enjoyed it (and gave it five stars!).

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