Looking for Pirriwee
We might have to ask Liane Moriarty, author of Big Little Lies, what’s still lies beneath, as Monterey, California, is again laid bare for a second series?
The original story by Morriarty is based on an apparent paradise she calls Pirriwee. Her setting is broadly recognisable as the upper Barrenjoey Peninsula, stretching over several communities, beyond the reaches of Sydney’s northern surfurbia.
The book and first series brings to the boil, the greatest pot-boiling cauldron of salacious gossip, spousal abuse and vengeful retribution since Payton Place unblocked the plumbing of the Pleasantvilles of the Eisenhower era.
In the century to come, Morriaty's prescient exposés of the self-focused comfortable classes of a collection of sea side communities, may rank her as a Dickens of her time...
In Big Little Lies, Morriarty skilfully peels back the protective layers that securely encases a teeth-sparklingly perfect couple and their gorgeously accessorised, perfectly-paired moppets. So perfectly perfect, it’s hard to believe they were actually farmed on site. They seem more made and delivered to order.
However, the family’s apparently flawless existence conceals an ambiguously consensual saga of degrading spousal abuse. It creates a vortex that draws the moppets into their own demonic world of dastardly deeds; all cruelly dispened with angelic mien.
In a mysterious and creeping process, the vortex eventually vacuums up the whole town to various degrees—before exploding in a single act of untamed, collective vengeance, resulting in a totally unregretted murder. It leaves the perpetrators with a satisfied sense of freedom and collective liberation...
In focusing on spousal abuse, Morriaty readily inflames a latent indignant rage, that for many readers, broils just below... as it festers behind fortified facades... To lance such rage, she needs to expose the conceits and concerns of the comfortable classes; that collectively serve to conspire, conceal and propel such abasement and abuse.
At this level, the story is a subversive and sardonic satire on the social moreș of a group of variously privileged people.
Having mined such a rich vein from Pirriwee the first time around , what else might Morriaty's offer up for a slow reveal in the upcoming, second series?
It's early February and it’s hard to tell what else is there. The upper reaches of Pirriwee are strangely devoid of visible life.
In the Southern Hemisphere, summer has passed its peak, yet is far from spent. A disquieting silence has settled over Upper Pirriwee. A sometime sea mist rolls in when the deep, cold ocean currents make their stabbing lunges at the surface, overwhelming the humid, sunlit airs.
Any sounds of human activity, like a distant chain saw or lawn mower, are smothered under the low drone of endlessly-rolling and crashing waves; eternally accompanied by descanting choruses of screeching cicadas.
Around the plunging hillsides, proud houses of every contortion, take their own protective measures against the sun’s rays, as they crowd out the original clapboards. They jostle and twist themselves into precarious positions in an effort to claim their own unique and unshareable views. Having staked their claims like a sponsored box at the opera, its hard to see if anyone is actually there, to take–in the endlessly reforming spectacles of sun, storms, swells and mists.
For all its apparent visible, human activity, Upper Pirriwee could be the abandoned set of the Truman Show.
But there are occasional stirrings. Occassionaly, a pure-breed dog wanders aimlessly down a road, meandering like drunken tumbleweed. Lingering lizards, fixed in inverted yoga poses, stretch indolently across lazy sun spots, while a quiet army of prosperous tradies provides the essential upkeep.
The general air of abandonment suggests that Upper Pirriwee could yet return to the embrace of nature. Maybe, like the medieval Amalfi Coast, one day it could all just slip into the sea...
Branded human hubs
But some peoples’ need for human connection is, in places, somewhat actualised... Across Upper Pirriwee, there is a string of coffee shops and eating establishments that miraculously and successfully manifest interactions at their strategically located human hubs. Collectively, these solitary but strategic human meeting zones suggest the café where Morriaty’s characters meet to connect and confide (strangely blind to the idea that the sensitive new-age male barista, is not necessarily gay!!)
Through carefully corordinated designs—featuring nonchalantly nautical stripings, whitewashed floorboards and marooned, decorator dinghies stuffed with succulented pot—they offer a breezy, re-assuring self-representation of how Pirriwee’s residents might imagine their own self-envied lifestyles...
The real deal
Despite the artificiality of the rusticated oceanic brandings, a few things in Upper Pirriwee cannot be commodified... If you are lucky, a canny old timer might take you aside, and tell you about the real boats shed of a nautical world, that lies beyond the mangrove swamps.
In the Australia iff the settled era, the archeological record is shallow for evidence of previous layers of existence. So, recognising authenticity can be difficult.
But beyond the mangroves, are the authentic old wooden boats—up on slips or lazing at their moorings. In a shaded workshop, shipwrights are busily carving away. On the sparkling waters, operational dinghies of every dimension happily bob away without the weighted encumbrance of potted succulents.
It’s an indolent sort of place..Kookaburras let off their unscheduled sirens; pelicans glide cheekily by, keeping one eye on the humans while a shaggy dog lay splayed-out on rough wooden decks, dead to the world.
Beyond the mangroves, time is gloriously slow.
So, what might Ms Morriarty reveal in the second series?... Surely Pirriwee is a gift that keeps giving. Then again, if she looks too hard, there mightn’t be much to see; and she'll have to cast her mind to predictable human nature.