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Something for the Pain

Something for the Pain: A Memoir of the Turf

Gerald Murnane

  • awardWinner, Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction, 2016
  • I never met anyone whose interest in racing matched my own. Both on and off the course, so to speak, I’ve enjoyed the company of many a racing acquaintance…I’ve read books, or parts of books, by persons who might have come close to being true racing friends of mine if ever we had met. For most of my long life, however, my enjoyment of racing has been a solitary thing: something I could never wholly explain to anyone else.

    As a boy, Gerald Murnane became obsessed with horse racing. He had never ridden a horse, nor seen a race. Yet he was fascinated by photos of horse races in the Sporting Globe, and by the incantation of horses’ names in radio broadcasts of races. Murnane discovered in these races more than he could find in religion or philosophy: they were the gateway to a world of imagination.

    Gerald Murnane is like no other writer, and Something for the Pain is like no other Murnane book. In this unique and spellbinding memoir, he tells the story of his life through the lens of horse racing. It is candid, droll and moving—a treat for lovers of literature and of the turf.


    Senior editor David Winter on the Text blog
    Sydney Review of Books
    ABC RN Saturday Extra

    Gerald Murnane
    About the Author

    Gerald Murnane was born in Melbourne in 1939. He has been a primary teacher, an editor and a university lecturer. His debut novel, Tamarisk Row (1974), was followed by ten other works of fiction, including The Plains and most recently Border Districts. In 1999 Murnane won the Patrick White Award and in 2009 he won the Melbourne Prize for...

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    Text publication date:
    3 January 2017
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    Praise for Gerald Murnane
    andSomething for the Pain

    ‘Murnane, a genius, is a worthy heir to Beckett.’

    ‘Murnane is a careful stylist and a slyly comic writer with large ideas.’

    ‘Murnane is quite simply one of the finest writers we have produced.’

    ‘Unquestionably one of the most original writers working in Australia today.’

    ‘Murnane’s books are strange and wonderful and nearly impossible to describe in a sentence or two…His later works are essayistic meditations on his own past, a personal mythology as attuned to the epic ordinariness of lost time as Proust, except with Murnane it’s horse races, a boyhood marble collection, Catholic sexual hang-ups and life as a househusband in the suburban Melbourne of the 1970s.’

    Something for the Pain is Gerald Murnane at his best. His meticulous exploration of his lifelong obsession with horse racing is by turns hilarious, moving and profound. If Australian writing were a horse race, Murnane would be the winner by three and a half lengths.’

    ‘A treat—a rare glimpse into the mythology of a grand sport.’

    ‘Fascinating…Totally intriguing, utterly hilarious.’

    ‘A marvellous book about horse racing, one of the best this country has produced. It is full of fast and loose stories and colourful characters…and lots of laughs.’

    Something for the Pain bears testament to a lifelong obsession and further illustrates the breadth and depth of meaningfulness that Murnane can draw from a seemingly straightforward spectacle. Those who are totally unfamiliar with racing will learn much – both historical and technical – about the subject, and readers who have never encountered Murnane’s fiction will discover an approachable, if faintly eccentric, storyteller.’

    Something for the Pain is a pleasant late work, and there is much here for those who adore Murnane’s writing…It is wacky and rambling, a little like the long conversation you engage in during a soggy afternoon with the strange uncle that you have a genuine affection for.’

    ‘The best thing I’ve read all year…I have long admired Murnane’s difficult, somewhat defensive books, but I have never loved him until now.’

    ‘[Something for the Pain] vividly illuminates the arcane world of the racetrack over a period of some 70 years…It is clear that [Murnane’s] creative and spiritual life is supported by the colours, metaphors and personalities of the track.’

    Something for the Pain is not about great events. It is, however a great read.’

    ‘A memoir of horse racing that speaks of triumphs and tragedies, of the infinite shades of friendship and romance, of the precision and persistence of memory, and – it its characteristically calm, direct prose as much as its contents – of virtue.’

    ‘A perennial stayer in the Nobel Stakes.’

    ‘Murnane’s fastidious compositional style is matched perfectly with his comic genius.’

    ‘This book, this little volume, is an absolute gem. It’s literary, lucid, full of love for horses and racing and full of the strange highly-ordered madness of Murnane, full of a selfless disclosure. It’s marvellous. Funny, moving, beautiful. A brilliant book.’

    ‘Murnane recounts his life through his abiding obsession with horse racing. But you don’t have to care about horse racing—it’s the quality of the obsessed mind that matters.’

    ‘Yes, this is about Murnane’s lifelong obsession with horseracing, but it’s so much more than that. It’s a memoir that illuminates his deliberately unusual life and his exquisite fiction.’

    ‘This book is that rare thing (as, evidently, is its author): a true original…Hilarious, moving, unique: a step inside one man’s passion, a key to his rich imaginative life. If you read nothing else this summer, read Something for the Pain.’

    Something for the Pain works at several levels as a literary memoir with a difference…It has great charm and humour, and carries its author’s presence lightly and engagingly in a way that eludes many memoirs with similar aspirations…[It] is a significant achievement as both a social history and as a beguiling if indulgent act of autobiography.’

    ‘[Murnane’s writing] has a cumulative and strangely hypnotic effect…Something for the Pain offers poignant observations on a cavalcade of characters.’

    ‘Murnane is one very intelligent man – and his memoir is well worth reading…The turf does infuse it all, fascinatingly so, but it’s the mind behind it that shines through.’

    Something for the Pain should be recommended especially to those who shy away from literary modernism. Murnane is a writer of the greatest skill and tonal control. Reading his description of the death of a racehorse in the arms of its owner-trainer at Flemington racecourse, tears rolled down my cheeks.’

    ‘One of the outstanding memoirs of this or any other year…simply told, and yet with an elegance to do justice to his life long passion for horse racing…the most moving conclusion to any book I have read in a long time.’

    ‘Murnane, a genius, is a worthy heir to Beckett.’

    Other editions ofSomething for the Pain
    • Something for the Pain
      ISBN: 9781922253187
      23 September 2015
      Buy ebook