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Stargazing
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About the Author

Peter Hill was born to an Australian mother and Scottish father and grew up in Glasgow. Following a brief stint as a lighthouse keeper, he did a number of jobs but for the past twenty years he has focused most of his energy into his art and working as an art critic. He has written for many publications including the Sydney Morning Herald, London Review of Books, Artpresse and Interview and in 1986 founded the arts magazine Alba. He currently lives in Sydney.

Reviews

In 1973, Glasgow-born Hill impulsively dropped out of art school to train as a lighthouse keeper at a series of remote outposts off Scotland's coast. He was, he recalls, the very image of the teenage baby boomer: longhaired, scruffy, dragging his rock 'n' roll tapes around everywhere. Yet he appears to have enjoyed himself immensely, spending weeks in close quarters with a handful of much older men, listening to their anecdotes and learning how to cook huge meals. The biggest problem with this loose, digressive account is that that's pretty much all they did other than keep the lights on. There are some amusing scenes one lighthouse crew's obsession with the televised Watergate hearings; a game of Scrabble in which only nautical terms are allowed but the pace is otherwise slow moving. While that sometimes makes for remarkable character studies, the narrative is burdened by Hill's grandiose faith in the significance of his generational moment. As a result, the memoir reads more like an elegy for his lost youth than one for the lighthouse keepers who would soon be replaced by automated technology. Furthermore, American readers will struggle to make sense of the references to 1970s BBC programming, which serve as hooks to describe nearly everyone Hill meets (the book was published in the U.K. last year). At least it's easy to grasp the Scots dialect; the gruff men who speak it hold much of the tale's vitality. In contrast, Hill's more direct efforts to wax charmingly nostalgic sound too often merely pretentious, like the sort of pompous middle-aged prattle Hill would have fled from if he were still 19. (May) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

* What makes Stargazing such a beautiful book is that it is more than an elegy to a vanished profession. It is a elegy to youth and to the constellation of dreams, ambitions and anxieties that is more intense at 19 than it can ever be again. Sunday Herald * Both an elegy to an extinct way of life and a tribute to the spirit and expertise of the men who embodied this romance of sea and sky. The Observer * Few of these books, however, are as wistfully evocative or as thoughtful as Hill's Stargazing. The Independent * A passionate account and a fine commemoration of the first profession ever to be made totally redundant. -- Bella Bathurst, author of "The Lighthouse Stevensons" * excellent The Scotsman Magazine

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