The Australian named a "Book Club Best Bet" by NoveList. [learn more]
"The Australian by Emma Smith-Stevens proves that the picaresque will never die, not as long as there are characters like her titular, never-named fellow." [read full review]
-Lit Hub, Bethanne Patrick
"[A] mesmerizing debut... Readers are treated to a captivating and memorable journey." [read full review]
-Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Emma Smith-Stevens' brilliant novel The Australian is one of the funniest (and smartest) debuts I have read in years." [continue]
-David Gutowski, Largehearted Boy
"The Australian is an astute, often satirical look at self-actualization and what it means to be a man, partner, father and son. Smith-Stevens writes in a marvelously voyeuristic style... The nameless man, both hero and no-hoper, is a poignant and pointed reflection of the imperfections that vex us all." [read full review]
-Lauren O'Brien, Shelf Awareness
In her humorous and emotionally resonant debut, Emma Smith-Stevens follows the exploits and evolution of a young man—known only as the Australian—over the course of a dozen years, from his time in Melbourne, posing as Superman for tourist photos, to his life in New York, where he spends years unemployed before stumbling into fame and fortune.
Married to a woman he barely knows and struggling to forge a relationship with his young son, the Australian returns to his home city to tend to his dying mother and unlock the mysteries surrounding his estranged, deceased father. His journey leads him to the Dreaming Tracks—sacred landmarks across Australia—sites inspired by his father's Australian Outdoor Geographic magazines, and beyond.
A poignant and at times satirical meditation on masculinity, fatherhood, isolation, New York City, fame, and loss, The Australian examines the ways we come to know each other, and ultimately ourselves.
Excerpt from The Australian in BOMB Magazine:
On the streets of Melbourne, the Australian parades around dressed as Superman, paying his way through university by posing for photos, conscious of the bulge of his cock. Novelty, sex object, comic relief—it is all good. Radios across his nation have been playing a song that goes, "I've got the brains, you've got the looks, let's make lots of money." In his mind, the Australian is both of the people in the song. He is smart—smart enough to know when effort is absolutely required and when he can fake it—and he is handsome, with chiseled abdominal muscles underneath the chiseled abdominal muscles of his costume. He smiles widely, his teeth luminous, his canines threatening. All his life, he has been indiscriminate with his enthusiasm, invincible within the hedonistic splendor of the present moment, like some kind of inverted Buddha. [continue reading]
"It is startling to finish The Australian and remember that this is a first novel: it's so wry, clever, swift, and assured that the reader senses immediately that she's in skilled and sympathetic hands. What a seductive voice; what a smart and charming book! And, most of all, what a wonderful new writer we have in Smith-Stevens."
-Lauren Groff, Fates and Furies
"There are some writers - and Smith-Stevens happens to be one - who seem effortlessly able to fill the page with life. This chronicle of an extraordinarily ordinary seeker is all wit and wonder, so tolerant of human fallibility, so respectful of mystery and complexity, so disinclined to demarcate the heroic from the foolish. I admire this debut for its style and stance."
-Chris Bachelder, The Throwback Special
"Smith-Stevens writes with such a brilliant sense of language and humor, with such intelligent mystery and disarming intimacy, that the reader is compelled to follow the Australian in his absurd and moving journey through a baffling world, always wondering what could possibly happen next, until the character ultimately reaches a kind of transcendence. The Australian is an audacious debut novel."
-Michael Kimball, Big Ray
"Smith-Stevens' The Australian is a picaresque for the twenty-first century - beguiling, funny, and inventive, intermittently sad and always beautiful."
-David Leavitt, The Two Hotel Francforts
"Smith-Stevens' evocation of alienation is often profound and her prose is always beautiful."
"Smith-Stevens unmans the titular Australian in The Australian with a quiet, wise, sure-footed humor that is seductive."
-Padgett Powell, The Interrogative Mood
"The Australian is written so deftly, the exact right mixture of heartfelt and ridiculous, that I cannot count the number of times that a line from the novel absolutely floored me. Smith-Stevens lets absurdity do what it does best: to render the complexity of the world in such stark relief that it transforms you. This is a brilliant, beautiful debut—a contemporary Stoner or Speedboat."
-Kevin Wilson, Perfect Little World
"The Australian is a sui generis mutation of the coming of age story that, like its protagonist, defies any easy categorization. Fueled by Smith-Stevens's trenchant eye, rollicking humor, and ceaselessly churning imagination, the book sweeps us along, bearing us into topographies that feel at once recognizable and remote, equipped only with a compass set in defamiliarize mode. The Australian himself comes to feel palpably alive, rendered in sinew and flesh but also achieving a kind of mythic grandeur—as does this superb debut."
-Tim Horvath, Understories