Praiseworthy by Alexis Wright

In a small Aboriginal town called Praiseworthy, locals confront the dust cloud of their ancestors and looming climate collapse in Alexis Wright's extraordinary experimental novel

Book Review by Marguerite Carson | 02 Nov 2023
  • Praiseworthy by Alexis Wright
Book title: Praiseworthy
Author: Alexis Wright

Some books you have to simply let happen to you. Alexis Wright’s Praiseworthy is one such book, filling over 700 pages with lyrical flowing prose almost without break. Set in a place named Praiseworthy, where an ancestor hangs as a dust cloud that can’t be removed, heating the place and clogging the lungs, causing problems and attracting tourists, Wright's strange novel follows the misadventures of a family closed off in this town.

From this, Wright summons a portrait of Indigenous knowledge, culture and colloquialisms that flies in the face of simplified and romanticised ideas of First Nationhood and aboriginal Australia. Instead we are taken, and not without difficulty, on a winding story where the blurry edges of fiction and telling, naming and accounting for meet in ways that entangle the digital and the Anthropocene with storylines and lived reality. Against the backdrop of an Australia that just voted No to changing the constitution in favour of an Aboriginal Voice to parliament, Praiseworthy packs a punch. Alexis Wright has written something which is often funny, heartbreaking and politically doesn’t hold back; First Nations literature should be allowed to speak for itself and this does, educating us as we trail in its wake.

And Other Stories, 2 Nov