These three forms follow the same despairing narrative, first written by an American short story great. This story was later retold through song by an Australian music legend, and in 2006 was adapted to film. Taught as comparative text, these can be compared and contrasted over the course of a week or month depending on what time allows. They can also simply be read, listened to, or viewed out of curiosity and admiration of great art.
This narrative contains deep themes of morality, identity, conflict, and isolation. Each form follows a group of small-town men, heading off into the rural hinterland for a weekend fishing trip. Removed from civilisation, they trek into the wilderness to a secluded river location. Upon arrival they make the grim discovery of a young girls’ body, floating face down in a stream.
Do they abandon the trip immediately after such a long journey? Or, do they go about their weekend and make the report when they return? The choices they make reverberate moral consequences that affect their conscience, relationships, and community.
Use creativity in your English classroom to compare two or all three effectively. Handy texts to have up the sleeve for the end of a semester.
So Much Water So Close To Home – Raymond Carver (1981)
Ray Carver doesn’t have a fan base, he has a cult following. Renowned for his economical writing style, Carver reportedly edited some stories up to 20 times to ensure the brevity and punch of his eerily realistic short fiction. Quirky, compelling and sad, Carver’s stories are inspired by his experience with the struggle, alcoholism, and dysfunction of rural American life. So Much Water So Close To Home appears as the dark center point of Carver’s much-revered collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. Claire, a humble housewife, grapples with the disturbing decision her husband has made on his recent fishing trip. She feels ever isolated and distant in her relationship as a result. A tragic, morbid but compelling story.
Everything’s Turning To White – Paul Kelly (1989)
Paul Kelly is an Australian music great, most known for his a phenomenal ability to engage the listener in story through song. His 1989 album titled So Much Water So Close To Home, is taken from Carver’s story and seems to pay homage to the writer’s death in 1988. Kelly uses spoken word to retell Carver’s story amidst a backdrop of lonely guitar riff. As he breaks into the chorus: “When he holds me now I’m pretending, I feel like I’m frozen inside,” the listener can feel the somber despair of a woman in the clutches of a failing relationship – forced intimacy with a man that she now repulses due to his immoral decisions.
Jindabyne – Directed by Ray Lawrence (2006)
Being the longest and most complex form (123 minutes), the varying characters allow Jindabyne to weave a deeper and darker web. The story is further furnished through the differing stances and moral grappling each man takes on the fishing trip. Set in New South Wales, the impact of the event is catastrophic to the community, as it is soon discovered the body is of a young indigenous girl. The men are chastised on the grounds of racial discrimination, which places further stress on already tense relationships at home. The layers of conflict at a personal, family and community level are intriguing.