“Mahood brings a formidable intelligence to her work as a writer and an artist, but also a sly humour here and an almost uncanny talent for observation…By charting these wanderings with such eloquence and scrupulous self-examination, she has created in Position Doubtful a true map of the heart.”
The Saturday Paper
“[Mahood] is a talented writer whose mastery of the language is absolute. The combination of an artist’s eye, a mapmaker’s precision, and a wordsmith’s playfulness makes for a work of captivating beauty…a significant and timely work.”
“There is something profound about the directness and clarity with which Kim Mahood writes about her art, and her life, in particular her relationship with the land she grew up in and on, and her relationship to the indigenous people who have lived on that land much longer than she. As Mahood writes of—quite literally—building a map that is both geographic, social and cultural, you feel that she has, ever so gently, shifted your view of the world. Position Doubtful is a remarkable, intelligent and mature work. I really loved it.”
Sophie Cunningham, author of Warning: the story of Cyclone Tracy, Geography and Bird
“Position Doubtful attests to an eye that is unfailing and a lifetime of looking…She sees what she sees, and comes to her own conclusions…Powerful.”
Australian Book Review
“Position Doubtful leaps straight onto the shelf occupied by the great accounts of inland Australia. Theatrical, confessional, masterly descriptive, it is hard to find one word to sum up the achievement. Possibly it lies in the word character: in the brave character of the author herself, and in the spacious, beautiful, and unforgiving character of the Australian landscape and the people who dramatically take on its shape in these pages.”
Roger McDonald, author of Australia’s Wild Places, When Colts Ran, Mr Darwin’s Shooter, The Ballad of Desmond Kale
“An immersive, emotional and intelligent exploration into the relationship between artist, landscape, and land.”
“Mahood is a writer of country. Her chapters unfurl like the ribbons of red dunes. She says “this is a kind of love story”, and so it is, a love of land, not purchased acreages, but country, birth country. Apart from family and close friends, she says, “there has been no other love in my life as sustained as the one I felt for a remote pocket of inland Australia”.
Country can get its fingers around your entrails, particularly if it owns them. That grip makes your movements cautious with the knowledge that, while you might move away for a time, the elasticity of your own gut drags you back.
Mahood is dragged back. It can be excruciating reading the words of a non-Aboriginal person recording their impressions of a brief visit to Aboriginal community, but Mahood belongs to country and it blesses her with that most refined human sensitivity, doubt. She is not tempted to improve or judge the communities of her country because she prefers to love them; the whole buckled, lovely and jumbled chaos of the land.
The rich pulse of country makes the heart quake with recognition. Position Doubtful has the scale and delicacy of desert and records genuine Aboriginal voice and emotion. Its breadth means that it is frequently visited by death but Mahood records those deaths with solemn grace while continuing to rejoice in the vibrance of the land with a calm and dignified joy.
A book for people who love this country as if it were their mother.”
Bruce Pascoe, award-winning author of Dark Emu, Fog a Dox, Convincing Ground
“With compassion, wit and elegance, Mahood takes us to a landscape known by white people only as a barren and alien place of no value—except to mine for minerals. She shows us another way to look at it, through the eyes of the traditional owners as well as the perspective of an artist…Position Doubtful suggests a way forward, beyond us-and-them, based on sharing across cultural boundaries.”
Rosemary Sorensen, Sydney Review of Books
“The beauty of the landscape is explored through…indigenous and kartiya perspectives…astute and compassionate.”
“Position Doubtful is entrancing and different; it is poetic, gritty, confronting, and inspiring all at once, and offers a rare and valuable window onto Aboriginal Australia.”
Tom Griffiths, Australian Book Review ‘Best Books of 2016’
“Sometimes lyrical, sometimes grumpy, sometimes elegiac, but always frank, Position Doubtful ranges across the wide meaning of country, extending past landscape into story, family, history, politics, geology, art, memory, and belonging. It is a vivid and memorable book.”
Lisa Gorton, The Age ‘Best Books of 2016’
“Position Doubtful probes through layers of understanding of the people and land where she was born, across the Tanami Desert to the East Kimberley; it is rich with insights delivered with sensitivity and honesty.”
Susan Lever, Australian Book Review ‘Best Books of 2016’
“This is a book for reading and re-reading, a revealing excavation of our place and times, grounded in the desert, but of broad relevance to all Australians who think about our relationship to country, to its Indigenous peoples, to our shared history and to one another.”
Kieran Finnane, Alice Springs News
“My book of the year…If anyone’s written more beautifully and modestly about this country and its people I’m not aware of it. I think it’s a treasure.”
Tim Winton, The Age ‘Best Books of 2016’
“Position Doubtful is delivered with such verve for accuracy that everything seems to have light in it—points of illumination enhanced by the light of the country. And the figure of the author, who often describes herself in the third person, is the guiding light, a pilot on her inland sea. As Mahood modestly maps her terrain, its inner and outer worlds at once fragile, transitory, enduring, Position Doubtful acquires the aura of a classic.
A book of extraordinary wisdom and subtlety…the writing is so good that nothing feels forced.”
Barry Hill, Sydney Morning Herald
“Kim Mahood writes with insight and without condescension of the indigenous community’s struggle to maintain traditions and cohesion in the face of marginal existence, poverty, health problems and rampant alcoholism. [Position Doubtful], despite containing a great deal of death and desolation, is a ringing affirmation of life in all its messy, muddled, half-resolved possibilities.”
Will Self, interview with The Sun