His Stupid Boyhood by Peter Goldsworthy

Peter Goldsworthy has laid himself open for inspection – like one of his cadavers from medical school – in this memoir.

Starting with his first sexual inclination, at age four, towards crank-handled cars (I recently heard a different explanation of ‘cranking’ which I won’t even go into), Goldsworthy meanders through his childhood memories, closing the book at the age of eighteen for the very sensible reason that: ‘The age at which I was obliged to take adult responsibility for any crimes I might commit makes a tidy end point for a memoir of childhood, and especially childishness. It also makes for a legally safe end point, given the various sins and stupidities that can be confessed under the cover of diminished responsibility.’

There are plenty of light-hearted sins and stupidities between the covers of this book. For me, the memoir really hits its straps once Goldsworthy and his family arrive in Darwin. Goldsworthy writes brilliantly and with immediacy about his years spent breaking into boatsheds; picking fights with, well, just about anyone; collecting butterflies, beetles, lizards; and perhaps boring the girls who spent any amount of personal time with the good-looking but slightly distracted Goldsworthy. His girlfriend Mouse gets special mention for her particular ‘handling’ of the young Goldsworthy.

The early university years were highlights also. Goldsworthy’s loneliness and uncertainty as he embarks on adult life are covered up by a Che Guevara beret and bravado. I loved the sweet clash of cultures where long-haired hippy Goldsworthy marches at anti-war demonstrations during the day and goes drinking with his army buddies at night.

If you adore Peter Goldsworthy’s novels (which I do), you’ll enjoy spotting familiar landmarks from his fiction. The clarity and honesty he brings to each of his books are clearly a direct result of his stupid boyhood.


Gabrielle Williams is a bookseller at Readings Malvern.

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His Stupid Boyhood: A Memoir

His Stupid Boyhood: A Memoir

Peter Goldsworthy

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