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McGirr takes virtually every roundabout way possible and in making so seems to propose that life’s journey is at its most interesting when one strays from the cardinal way. It is in the towns and remainder Stationss that McGirr encounters persons with interesting narratives to state – narratives that give McGirr’s narrative its indispensable assortment and ‘life’ . McGirr’s involvement is non merely in what lies off to the side of the ‘main road’ in a actual sense. He is attracted by the lives of ‘ordinary’ people who are non celebrated or even peculiarly successful. Even when associating incidents from his life as a priest he enjoys stating narratives that would otherwise ne’er appear in print: go toing the incorrect nuptials response ; seeing a bride answer a nomadic phone.

He does on occasion mention to celebrated or powerful people ; even here. though. his penchant is for the small known incident over the of import. nation-shaping determination – such as John Curtin’s midnight pot of tea in a Gundagai cafe . In short. McGirr suggests that. although the main road itself is valuable. we must non bury or pretermit topographic points and lives that the main road bypasses. for these excessively constitute the ‘life-blood’ of the state. And likewise. although the nation’s cardinal narrative or history is of import – that of. state. the Anzacs. the adventurers. the two universe wars – the narratives that lie off to the side of the historical mainstream are every bit deserving knowing. are every bit valuable.

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As storyteller and writer of this narrative. McGirr has a batch of control over how he depicts himself. Indeed. ‘the power of the individual who gets to state the story’ ( p. 19 ) is considerable. as he notes when discoursing Hovell’s power over Hume in that respect. McGirr is depicted as a reasonably amiable. if on occasion bungling figure whose determination to go forth the Jesuit order after twenty-one old ages is a life-changing 1. The determination prompts him to see a figure of ‘firsts’ : he buys belongings in Gunning ; embarks on an confidant relationship with Jenny whom he later marries and has kids with ; and decides to go on a motorcycle down the Hume Highway and document his advancement. McGirr might come across as something of an ‘everyman’ figure but his life-experiences grade him as person instead eclectic ( unusual ) .

McGirr displays a capacity for droll temper throughout the narrative. and besides a willingness to reflect deeply on his experiences and those of others. His brooding inclinations see him discourse his battle to unfeignedly continue the vow of obeisance when he was a member of the Jesuit order ( p. 173 ) . and besides his feeling of being entirely when he foremost joined the order ( p. 229 ) . It might be argued that McGirr is depicted as person who thinks a small excessively much: the treatment of his quandary about purchasing orange juice with the money allocated to new Jesuits for ‘emergencies’ ( p. 228 ) is an illustration. Fortunately. his capacity for contemplation does non do the text excessively heavy. McGirr’s histories of his developing relationship with Jenny and his self-deprecatory asides about his weight ( p. 31. p. 98 ) . saw wooding ( p. 227 ) . age ( p. 32 ) and inclination to talk others ( p. 142 ) depict him as a jovial. sympathetic chap.

Bypass. a intercrossed work of originative non-fiction is a memoir. travel narrative. societal history. love affair and route narrative. The literary devices used in Bypass enliven and enrich the authorship with scintillating humor. For illustration: ‘Hovell had been a naval captain. On land. nevertheless. he was all at sea. ’ ( p 19 ) ‘They were similar fishermen who were prepared to dam their ain river instead than allow it hunger them. ’ ( p 48 ) ‘A roadhouse is a topographic point where everything that can’t be eaten has been laminated. and non all the nutrient can be eaten. ’ ( p 66 ) ‘Guerrilla warfare is the antonym of God who. for some unknown ground. makes his or her absence felt even when nowadays. ’ ( p 81 ) ‘I came to Guning to conceal. but people kept happening me. ’ ( p 97 ) ‘Sturt went blind seeking to see what none had seen earlier. ’ ( p 170 )

McGirr’s choler at some societal jobs is frequently expressed in blunt metaphors. for illustration. when discoursing bet oning machines in Goulburn he writes: ‘They are butcheries of the human spirit. ’ ( p 90 ) His love for linguistic communication is reflected. for illustration. where the text is an drawn-out revery on arcane words and their significances eg panier ( p 98 ) . or in his gay effort to happen a word to depict a group of premier curates ( pp 153-4 ) . Humour is one of the most appealing characteristics Bypass. for illustration the treatment of trains with a fellow traveler ( pp 110-1 ) . Michael McGirr is masterly in making punch lines to stop his narratives. eg ‘I don’t believe in rinsing your dirty wash in public. ’ ( p 263 )

The Hume Highway: The Hume Highway runs for over eight hundred kilometers inland. between Sydney and Melbourne. Early colonists. such as Charles Throsby and Hume and Hovell. made journeys overland that eventuated in the Hume Highway being developed. The route. ab initio sometimes called the Great South Road in New South Wales and Sydney Road in what became Victoria. has been re-routed. extended and improved over clip. In 1928. it became officially known as the Hume Highway. A figure of towns originally on the Hume Highway have now been bypassed to cut down both travel times and the sum of traffic ( particularly trucks ) go throughing through town Centres.

The significance of beltway: The term beltway means to travel around something ; a route beltway usually goes around a town or the Centre of a town. There are many such beltwaies on the Hume Highway. leting the traveler to avoid built up countries and suburban streets. However. although Bypass is the narrative of a journey along the Hume Highway. the rubric makes it clear that McGirr’s chief involvement is in how the route goes around topographic points and people. and what the effects of this might be – both positive and negative. For more about McGirr’s battle with the impression of a beltway. see the subdivision on Themes. Ideas and Values.

The chief thought in the fresh Bypass is the thought of a journey. In actual footings. Beltway: the narrative of a route tells the narrative of a physical journey from one point to another: in this instance. from Sydney to Melbourne. However. McGirr makes clear that a journey can hold qualities that are more metaphorical. The literary mentions to Don Quixote and Anna Karenina. in peculiar. propose really different types of journeys. The citation from Don Quixote. ‘there’s no route so smooth that it ain’t got a few potholes’ . implicitly signals Sancho’s philosophical return on the nature of relationships and life more by and large. This attitude towards the vicissitudes of life clearly informs the text as a whole. For case. McGirr remarks about the grade to which his ‘silly adventure’ might impact negatively on his relationship with Jenny ( p. 137 ) .

Similarly. the remarks he makes about the truckies whose matrimonies can endure from their long hours on the route ( p. 52 ) . suggest that physical journeys and emotional journeys are closely intertwined. The frequent mentions to Anna Karenina besides signal McGirr’s involvement in the romantic and tragic dimensions of life. The coquettish remarks about McGirr’s relationship with Anna Karenina. his preference for releasing ( and so retrieving ) the text from clip to clip and the inevitable determination to put her in close propinquity to a railroad ( p. 260 ) work symbolically as a remark on life more by and large. every bit good as on the secret plan of Tolstoy’s novel. After all. Tolstoy’s Anna throws herself in forepart of a train. McGirr is all excessively cognizant of the breakability of life – both on the route and beyond it.

In this novel. decease and commemoration are besides an of import subject. The ultimate finish in life’s journey is decease. McGirr does non shy off from discoursing the breakability of life and makes much of the commemorations on the Hume Highway. Death is something that can non be bypassed and. like ‘the route [ which ] has no regard for individuals or status’ ( p. 158 ) . it comes to us all. As McGirr notes when reflecting on the graveyard in Gunning. ‘even a long life is short’ ( p. 7 ) . For McGirr the Hume Highway is ‘sacred space’ ( p. 15 ) ; it is ‘lined with infinite reminders of death’ ( p. 178 ) and memorialises both those who have died on it and those who have died at war. While McGirr is respectful and interested in the commemorations dedicated to the war dead. his chief precedence is to admit that decease comes to all and that the lives of all ordinary Australians – including soldiers – are deserving admiting and marking.

Indeed. this is clearly conveyed by his apposition of the near-death experience of Kerry Packer ( p. 40 ) and the funerals of the Queen Mother ( p. 255 ) and the Princess of Wales ( p. 256 ) with the experiences of less well-known persons. Packer’s blunt averment that there is no life beyond the grave is contrasted with the more positive contemplation of a adult female who believed that her hubby had ‘gone to the great swap-meet in the sky’ ( p. 41 ) . Similarly. the huge sum of coverage and ceremonial afforded the funerals of the Queen Mother and the Princess of Wales is diametrically opposed to the more affecting history of the burial of Anton. a alone old adult male whose funeral was attended by three people: the mortician. Anton’s neighbor and McGirr in his function as priest ( p. 256 ) .

McGirr says of those like Anton. ‘At least God knew this individual … even if cipher else did’ ( p. 256 ) . McGirr’s histories of decease or near-death experiences are most scarey when he considers those who have endured agonizing experiences on the route. His treatment of the slayings committed by Ivan Milat ( pp. 70–4 ) and by bushrangers ( pp. 77–83 ) brings place the fact that ‘the Hume has a dark side’ ( p. 70 ) . Not desiring to sensationalise – or warrant – the actions of these work forces. McGirr however provides some background inside informations to picture them in ways that are complex. non-judgemental and at times fazing.


Given McGirr’s work as a priest for much of his life. it is non surprising that this text is mostly bemused with issues of religion and philosophical ponderings about life more by and large. McGirr makes clear his continued belief in God ( p. 174 ) but is non bumbling in his treatment of religion. The gently humourous and respectful manner in which he recounts Jenny’s apothegms ( wise expressions ) about life is a instance in point. His remembrance of Jenny’s comment that he should ‘just accept [ the Hume Highway ] for what it is … you’ll enjoy it more’ ( p. 155 ) is model. His treatment of Jenny’s position that there is a concave ( negative and convex ( optimistic ) manner of looking at the universe ( p. 170 ) – and that he ‘might be right’ ( p. 170 ) in thought that he has a concave attack to the universe is likewise blithe in tone but relevant to the book’s overall involvement in signifiers of belief. The blithe raillery continues when McGirr discusses his acquisition of the Chinese philosophical text. Tao Te Ching. Its sententious words of wisdom are for McGirr redolent of the bumper spine expressions that he has liberally peppered throughout his narrative.

At times. McGirr’s treatment of philosophical affairs takes on a more sincere tone. His treatment of how. as a priest. he subscribed to the vow of obeisance in an attempt to ‘make up a sense of intent which I otherwise lacked’ ( p. 173 ) and his related anxiousness that he would make the ‘point at which you can no longer recognize yourself in the things you are get downing to state or do’ ( p. 173 ) signal his demand to be honorable with himself every bit good as with others. His remark that ‘the secret of being human is larning how to bask our limitations’ ( p. 301 ) suggests that honestness and humbleness are portion and package of a brooding being. McGirr is besides interested in the ways in which others concern themselves with religious affairs.

His treatment of the House of Prayer in Goulburn shows how prayer provides reprieve from the frenzied nature of mundane life and celebrates those similar Catherine who dedicate their lives to assisting others in demand find peace ( pp. 85–6 ) . In a really different and secular vena. McGirr recounts the belief Liz Vincent has in shades – of people and of the route. Although Vincent does non believe in God. McGirr seems fascinated by her narratives and sensitively recounts her belief that ‘the people we love can barely bear to go forth us and sometimes hang around as ghosts’ ( p. 59 ) . Possibly more interesting is Vincent’s claim that the old Hume Highway near Picton has a ‘ghostly presence of its own’ ( p. 59 ) . looking before unwary drivers’ eyes and juggling them into believing that the apparition route they are following is the existent thing ( p. 59 ) .


In some ways Bypass is a book about power – about who has it and who does non. As McGirr writes. ‘Roads are political. Constructing them is a mark that person is the boss’ ( p. 14 ) . McGirr’s treatment of the impact on Merri Creek of the F2 expressway into Melbourne ( p. 284 ) . the resulting tribunal instance and the finding of fact that finally endorsed the expressway undertaking. exemplifies the political nature of road-making. The really kernel of a beltway. for case. is a political act and McGirr makes this clear when discoursing the troubles environing the determination to make an internal or an external beltway for Albury in the late ninetiess ( pp. 203–6 ) . Concerns about the economic consequence of a path directing traffic off from town are weighed up with concerns about the impact of noise and pollution that a new route near or through a town constantly brings.

Hassles between federal and province authoritiess. as was the instance with the Albury beltway. surely highlight the political nature of road-making. as do statements between different involvement groups. The issue of the Albury beltway. along with the 1979 truck blockade staged between Camden and Picton on a ill-famed stretch of route known as razorback ( pp. 47–51 ) . illustrate power battles of really different kinds. McGirr besides points out that the sum of money spent on roads as opposed to public conveyance is a political act. He writes that ‘in the last 10 old ages. for every dollar spent on puting rail in Australia. eight dollars have been spent on highways’ ( p. 92 ) . This form of disbursement is. he continues. ‘a symptom of something deeper because authorities disbursement determinations merely mirror the involvements of voters’ ( p. 92 ) .

Beltway: the narrative of a route is peculiarly concerned with the manner the main road has been the background for assorted well-known and non so well-known facets of Australia’s history. From Hume and Hovell’s early markers of the Hume Highway. to the increased tea ration bargained for by Jack Castrisson when John Curtin visited the Niagara Cafe in Gundagai. to Ned Kelly’s exploits. to the jokes of the low. ordinary Australians who travel on the Hume twelvemonth by twelvemonth. McGirr celebrates the manner facets of Australia’s history are portion and package of the Hume Highway’s rich narration. McGirr’s involvement in Australian history is. nevertheless. non declarative of a desire to observe or back conventional representations of Australia’s yesteryear. In a figure of cases. McGirr wants to question the legitimacy of idealistic positions of the nation’s development. McGirr challenges the thought that Australia is an classless state. for illustration. and claims that this position is a ‘myth’ ( p. 200 ) .

He besides reminds readers of the fraught relationship between colonizers and Indigenous Australians when he discusses the life and decease of an Aboriginal adult male named Bill Punch who survived a slaughter as a babe and went on to contend for the Allies on the Western Front in World War I ( pp. 246–7 ) . McGirr’s willingness to anneal some representations of Australia’s yesteryear is underpinned by an grasp of the power of linguistic communication. He notes that those who are in a place to compose about the yesteryear can hold more bureaus in their lives and besides more control of history than those who don’t ( p. 19 ) . This consciousness allows him to chew over on the manner bushrangers and adventurers have been depicted over clip. and how being literate can impact on the type of single one becomes ( pp. 77–8 ) . McGirr is attentive to the thought that some histories are non told and that those that are relayed are non ever unequivocal.

Beltway: the narrative of a route offers a far-out geographic expedition of the Hume Highway and the personalities of the people whose lives have been touched by the route in one manner or another. At the age of 40. former Jesuit priest. Michael McGirr – armed with non much more than a transcript of Anna Karenina. some trim apparels and a less than state-of-the-art Chinese built bike – set out to sit the 880 kilometers ( 547 stat mis ) of the Hume Highway which links Sydney and Melbourne. While the drive forms the background to McGirr’s book Bypass: The Story of a Road. like all good travelogue’s the drive itself is truly merely a frame to hang the existent narrative around. which as the rubric suggests. is the narrative of the Hume Highway. From its low beginnings as a unsmooth path across the Great Dividing Range. to its current province as a modern double carriageway. the Highway continues to function as the major thoroughfare associating Australia’s two largest metropoliss. Bypass took me on a fantastic journey covering the history of the Hume. and the political relations that helped determine it. Along the manner you meet some great – and non so great – Australian characters that have helped form the name of the main road into the Australian mind.

Peoples like the 61 twelvemonth old Cliff Young ( great ) . who in 1983 won the inaugural Sydney to Melbourne pes race against rivals half his age. And work forces like Ivan Milat ( non so great ) who was convicted of the slaying of seven immature backpackers and hitch-hikers. all of whom he buried in the Belanglo State Forest. Then there are the adventurers Hamilton Hume ( after whom the Highway was finally named ) and William Hovell. who in 1824 along with at least six others. set of from Appin ( near the present twenty-four hours Sydney suburb of Campbelltown ) for the first successful pursuit to make Melbourne. Through the novel. I besides met truckies ; the bushrangers Ben Hall and Ned Kelly ; and the poets ‘Banjo’ Paterson and Henry Lawson. I attended a Catholic Mass in Tarcutta – officially the halfway point between Sydney and Melbourne – where apart from the priest and two parishioners. the lone other people in attending are the writer of Bypass and his comrade Jenny. who has by this clip joined him on his drive to Melbourne.

Reading this book. it seemed like I visited about every state town along the path of the Hume Highway. and larn something about each of them. Towns like Goulburn. celebrated for the Big Merino and Goulburn Jail ( where Ivan Milat is presently functioning seven life sentences ) . I visited Holbrook and larn why the outer shell of the Oberon Class pigboat HMAS Otway now sits in a public park in the center of town. In Chiltern we pass by the childhood place of the Australian author Henry Handel Richardson. and larn that Henry’s existent name was Ethel Florence. I learned excessively. that like other female authors have done throughout history. Ethel wrote under a male nom de plume because at the clip it was felt that adult females didn’t have what it took to be great authors.

And I besides visited the town of Yass. and bead by the Liberty Cafe for a repast before go oning on the journey. and turning page after page. Across its many short chapters. Bypass besides introduced me to some of the 1000s of bumper spines that adorn the rear terminals of many Australian vehicles. In fact. McGirr uses spines as chapter headers to present the readers to every facet of his journey. Therefore. the bumper spine THE OLDER I GET THE BETTER I WAS. allows him to explicate some of his ain personal narrative and the grounds for his determination to sit the Hume Highway.

In the chapter THE GODDESS IS DANCING. McGirr introduces us to his siting spouse Jenny. and in DEATH IS THE MANUFACTURER’S RECALL NOTICE. we pause to larn about some of the many wayside commemorations that mark the sites of fatal route accidents that line the Highway. To reason. the book is vastly clear. ever entertaining and enlightening. frequently surprising. and invariably filled with uneven facts and humourous anecdotes. These maintain the narrative traveling along swimmingly and effortlessly – which can non ever be said of Michael McGirr’s monumental motorcycle drive.

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