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Rest of the time I've got to get some work done and take the opportunity to get some salt water over the gills." There's plenty of salt water in - some brilliant writing about surfing - and it's familiar territory for those who love Winton's work.In some respects it's a conventional rites-of-passage novel, narrated by the main character from the vantage of middle age. Bruce Pike - ambulance man now, then Pikelet, the uncertain son of slightly-too-old parents - looks back on the time when he and Loonie were best mates.Winton still has his distinctive hair, even if there is more grey - he's 47 now - and it's neatly corralled in a ponytail. No writers' festivals, at least not in this country.He's off to Britain for Hay-on-Wye and another reading in the Downer Room at Australia House, then to Dublin and the US. He rarely appears in newspapers or magazines other than when he has a book out.Over the next twenty years, they struggle and strive, laugh and curse, come apart and pull together under the same roof, and try as they can to make their lives.
Come Christmas, his wife Denise went to the bank to get a loan for 0 to buy some food and presents for the children. Since then it has sold hundreds of thousands and remains one of the most loved Australian novels.
When it came out in March 1991, he had no real expectations of it - "just another big, fat book about Westerners".
But banks don't like to lend to writers and Winton had to save up half the value of the home he bought. "In my 20s and 30s, I literally did have three desks because I was desperate and broke.
The Pickleses are gamblers, boozers, fractious, and unlikely landlords.
Change, hardship, and the war force them to swallow their dignity and share a great, breathing, shuddering house called Cloudstreet.
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He couldn't change what he did; writing was all he'd ever wanted to do. I couldn't afford to get stuck and give a project a week or two of mechanical diagnostics.