The typical, magical Murray Bail moment is this: a humorous, strange, near-slapstick incident is narrated in a contrastingly high scientific-philosophical language, and slyly worked into a powerful metaphor for something far more serious and intellectually engaging than you would ever have thought possible, let alone expected. He does it repeatedly in his short stories (see his marvellous collection, 'The Drover's Wife and Other Stories', the title one being a deserved OzLit classic), and this novel is chock full of them. They range from the surreal and savagely political - such as the Museum of Handicrafts, the 'pygmy collection', and the 'verification' of Lenin's corpse - right down to the simplest of incidents, like a tourist cart-wheeling down some steps, or a freak accident involving the American flag. As his thirteen ill-matched Australians tour through Africa, England, Ecuador, America and Russia, Bail treats the reader to a series of elaborately crafted metaphorical sequences illuminating his major theme, which seems to be 'museum culture' (for want of a better term), i.e. the contingency of reality in a postmodern world, and the difficulty post-colonial peoples such as Australians encounter in defining themselves and their nation within it. Time after time, Bail captures so beautifully the multivalence of the ordinary - that sense that the everyday is both absurd and profound, and in equal measure. The combination of high voice and low comedy I mentioned is perfect for this kind of story. It's a wonderfully destabilizing technique - the reader is never quite sure where Bail 'is coming from', as our American friends might say. It functions, too, as the approximate literary equivalent of that laconic deadpan irony we tend to associate with the typical Australian voice (quite wrongly associate, of course - which, for Bail, may well be part of the joke). I'd hesitate to say this is a novel only Australians could enjoy, because the appeal of Bail's gently surreal comedy is hopefully universal. But there are some moments, some characters, some finely observed turns of phrase, that only Australians will appreciate fully.