WESTERN Sydney writer Luke Carman's debut novel is about life on the cultural frontier of Australia.
The title, An Elegant Young Man, belies a western Sydney that's tough and a self-conscious young man who's anything but elegant.
Carman was born in Auburn and grew up in Liverpool and said western Sydney is an Australia unto itself.
"Things are more intense there, they're constantly redrawn and redefined. It [the region] doesn't have much of a voice in the media but it certainly has a strong culture of its own," he said.
The novel, published by western Sydney publisher Giramondo, is a collection of short stories and monologues that explore the poetry of everyday experience in the west.
Carman said the region had its own mythology, codes and language that have rarely been explored in fiction.
"What we consider the everyday in western Sydney is different to the aesthetics and poetics elsewhere in the country. There's a background intensity, an objective sense of nervousness at times, that comes from the kind of frontier situation that western Sydney is," he said.
The novel's hero traverses a sometimes violent landscape with a fraught social world made up of "Grubby Boys", "scumbag Aussies", "Fobs" (fresh off the boat) and "Lebbos". "People have been shocked that there's so much violence in this book but I think the people who notice that never had to live with the kind of menace and violence that's a part of an ordinary everyday situation for people in western Sydney," said Carman, who is doing a doctorate at the University of Western Sydney.
The novel is a bid to revitalise our national literature, he said. "The only hope for Australian literature is the stories coming out of Sydney's western suburbia. People want to read stories that take them seriously," he said.