Australian places defined by music or books

That’s Nina Simone’s ‘Baltimore’, and when I was briefly there last year, the words kept going through my head. In fact, you can’t travel anywhere in the US without hearing music, since just about every place name has a song attached to it. Anyway, I was wondering about local equivalents, in either books or music, and so far have come up pretty well blank. There’s this, of course.

And a bunch of other Paul Kelly songs, obviously. But what else? And what about books? Are there any Australian suburbs you can’t visit without thinking about a particular novel?

Jeff Sparrow

Jeff Sparrow is a Walkley Award-winning writer, broadcaster and former editor of Overland.

Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.

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  1. There's a Sista She comic rap I think of every time I catch the Western Sydney line train. Can't remember the name of it but it's about being hassled by some meathead bogan on Gymea station.

  2. Skyhooks did When the Sun Sets Over Carlton and Balwyn calling. There's also all the Shane Maloney books which have a sense of place – focussing particularly on Brunswick and Coburg

  3. Monkey Grip and Honour & Other People's Children (Garner) and Nth Fitzroy. Much of Eastern Sydney and Patrick White, Surrey Hills and Dorothy Hewett. The Lost Dog (De Krester) and Richmond. Definitely Shane Maloney as Robert says. But yes, songs tends to do these things better. Impossible to walk through Randwick in Sydney without thinking of Paul Kelly's Randwick Bells.

    1. Of course – had forgotten about Garner. When I lived in Clifton Hill, everyone used to say, ‘oh, that house over there is where Monkey Grip was written’ Dunno whether it was true or not. Plus Aqua Profunda and the Fitzroy pool.

  4. The house was near the Edinburgh Gardens, cnr of Woodhead (where I lived also) and Falconer in Nth Fitzroy. Well, so everyone said . . .

  5. Christina Stead's Seven Poor Men of Sydney is an obvious one, heaps of still recognisable locations from the northern cliffs to what's now Chinatown and Sydney University. I read it when I was fairly new to the city and it prefigured the way I ended up getting some places set in my head.

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