In 1910 the famed escapologist Harry Houdini made an ill-fated attempt to become the first person to fly an aircraft over Australian soil—yet while Houdini is remembered today for his failure, the true record-holder has been forgotten. This quirk of history becomes the focus for the obsessions of Bernard Cripp, world-weary scion of an ailing family circus, who tries to unearth every detail of Houdini’s flight in order to re-enact it. But why is Bernard so single-minded? As his manic testimony unspools, his story takes on a darker tone: he is, in fact, in mourning for a wife and child he has lost to the skies, and paralysed by the uncertainty surrounding their deaths. If his efforts to re-create history cannot bring back his loved ones, can they at least bring him peace as he struggles to live with his loss?
In Waypoints, his outlandish début novel, Adam Ouston embarks on a journey to reclaim a lost sense of awe and wonder from subjects as diverse as Victorian vaudeville and cutting-edge data storage, from the early history of Alzheimer’s disease to the immortality of human consciousness. Blending the solemnity of Sebald with the breathlessness of Bernhard, the result is equal parts rambunctious and ruminative, poignant and hilarious—a wild ride through a storm of grief, ambition, integrity, remembrance, and love.
“Artful, terrific, heaps of fun… Adam Ouston is hugely talented.”
– Robbie Arnott
“Waypoints is a novel of dragnet sentences that loop and repeat in a series of playful, Shandean digressions… beneath the thinly veiled techno-messianic belief that facts will redeem the consummate failures of humanity, is the dawning realisation that facts are actually what we cling to in the absence of all certainty…focused on the jouissance found in everyday acts of controlled demolition, in our ability to constantly reproduce a state of wilful failure so as to sustain the unfulfilled – and ultimately unfulfillable – promise of future success.”
KASUMI BORCZYK, Sydney Review of Books
“An exciting, adventurous debut novel from writer Adam Ouston. Using the story of “Handcuff King” Harry Houdini’s 1910 attempt to become the first person to fly an aircraft over Australia, exploring the idea that failure and loss forms its own kind of record…Cripp’s out-of-time eccentricity is not only a personality trait but a mode of narration, of seeing the world with wonder during a time when everything has become “routine, dull, mundane, everyday, completely unremarkable… Ouston has his own style, taking circumspect precision, combining it with due fondness for the em dash, and then, like Lil Nas X with a bad case of logorrhea, riding until he can’t no more.”
DECLAN FRY, ABC Digital