NEWS of writer Bryce Courtenay’s death has come as no surprise, he has been preparing the public for this over some months, with extensive interviews in the press and an even more searching one with Fran Kelly for Radio National on September 19.While we have little to add to that, “CityNews” has noticed in recent months an extraordinary amount of activity from a man in such fragile health, as late as October donating signed copies of all his 21 novels to the Cranleigh School art fair.
When we covered a book handover by former ANU librarian Colin Steele on February 20, “CityNews” described Courtenay’s keynote address at the Menzies Library as “a whirlwind speech.”
In it he traversed the tale of his life as a storyteller, a talent discovered quite late in life. Abandoning the microphone to pace up and down the floor, he said, “I see words as people… I see them all as individuals… little creatures.”
With arms akimbo and eyes flashing, it was hard to credit that he would not be with us for much longer.
The same might have been said at the September 20 launch of photographer Heide Smith’s new book in the Canberra Museum and Gallery, when Courtenay, one of her subjects, found himself lionised by the celebrities present.
Anxious about his projected public image to the last, Courtenay asked this writer of his interview the day before on Radio National, “How did I come across?”
We should give him the last word. Back in February, he painted his own picture, when he described himself as “just Mr Tap Tap”.