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Foster, David

David Foster

Keyboardist, songwriter, composer, producer, arranger, record company executive

Fostered Reputation as Gifted Keyboardist

Reveled in Variety

Dominated Charts

1992 an Unforgettable Year

Selected discography

Sources

David Foster started his music career at the age of five in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. He began with piano lessons, and his talent quickly distinguished him from the other children his age. When he turned 13, Foster enrolled at the University of Washington to study music. He launched his professional career three years later when he joined the backup band of rock and roll legend Chuck Berry.

Foster moved to Los Angeles in 1971 with his band Skylark. In 1973 Skylarks song Wildflower reached Number Nine on the Bill board charts. Foster parlayed that milestone into a career as a session keyboard player. When Skylark disbanded and its members decided to return to Canada, Foster remained in Los Angeles. I had this overwhelming desire to meet all the great musicians and play with them. I was young and hungry, and a very positive thinker, Foster told Keyboard.

He played keyboards in the orchestra pit for the Roxy Theatres production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show for a year and eventually became the shows codirector. Rocky Horror garnered considerable recognition, and many producers and musicians noticed Fosters talents when they attended performances. The orchestra would play whatever the conductor chose for half an hour before the show. When people in the music industry heard Foster play keyboards, they began calling him to participate in their recording sessions during the day.

Fostered Reputation as Gifted Keyboardist

Foster built a strong reputation as a talented session keyboard player, working with such stars as John Lennon, George Harrison, Barbra Streisand, and Rod Stewart. He added his input to songwriting and arrangement in sessions and eventually worked his way into producing and writing his own songs. His early production clients included Alice Cooper, the Average White Band, Boz Scaggs, and Carole Bayer Sager.

The turning point in Fosters production career came in a conversation with fellow producer Quincy Jones. We were talking about the Average White Bands album, Shine, and I said, Its not bad, but its not a great album. The songs arent that good. He said, Who produced it? I said, I did. He said, Youve just messed up in a big way. Your names on there. Youre responsible for that record. Its got to be absolutely the best you can do. Foster realized then that he needed to demand the best from the artists with whom he worked to make the best album he could.

For the Record

Born c. 1950 in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada; immigrated to U.S., 1971. First wife named Rebecca; married Linda Thompson (a songwriter); children: (first marriage) four daughters, (second marriage) two stepsons. Education: Studied music at University of Washington.

Began playing piano with singer-guitarist Chuck Berry at 16; member of band Skylark; worked as session keyboard player; became producer, early 1970s; released first solo recording, Sound Design Records, 1982; released album David Foster, Atlantic, 1986; established David Foster Foundation, 1986; became senior vice president of A&R, Atlantic Records, 1994. Has produced music for films, including The Secret of My Success, St. Elmos Fire, Urban Cowboy, Summer Lovers, One Good Cop, If Looks Could Kill, and Karate Kid Part II; has produced songs and albums for numerous pop artists, including Whitney Houston, All-4-One, Céline Dion, Barbra Streisand, Color Me Badd, and Natalie Cole.

Awards: Grammy awards for (with Jay Graydon and Bill Champlin) best rhythm and blues song, 1979, for After the Love Has Gone; producer of the year, 1982, for Dreamgirls; producer of the year, for Chicago 17, and best instrumental arrangement accompanying vocals, for Hard Habit to Break, both 1984; producer of the year, for Somewhere, 1985; and for producer of the year, song of the year, and record of the year, all for Unforgettable, 1992; thirty-four Grammy nominations; named top singles producer and top R&B singles producer of 1993 by Billboard magazine; order of Canada.

Addresses: Record company Atlantic Records, 75 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10019.

Foster earned his first big-name producing credit with two albums by Daryl Hall and John Oates, and he continued to take Joness words to heart. He not only proved he could recognize good songs, he confirmed he could write them as well. In 1979 he won his first Grammy Award, for best rhythm and blues song, for co-writing Earth, Wind and Fires After the Love Has Gone with Jay Graydon and Bill Champlin.

Three years later he received his second Grammy, for producer of the year, for the cast album of the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Dreamgirls. The album climbed to Number 11 on the Billboard charts, the highest-charting cast recording since Hair in 1969. Foster gained further accolades when Chicagos Hard to Say Im Sorry, from Chicago 16, which he cowrote and produced, reached Number One on the Billboard charts.

Reveled in Variety

Foster released his first solo album, Best of Me, on a Japanese label. Then, Sound Design Records released it in the United States in 1982. The following year, Foster produced Lionel Richies album Cant Slow Down, which sold a whopping ten million copies. By that time, he had cemented his place as one of popular musics top producers. Yet he refused to rest on his laurels, relishing the variety his prominence allowed him. I know Ive done a little too much jumping around already in my career, Foster told Paul Green of Billboard. Someone once described me as a person who couldnt keep a job. But I love the fact that I can produce the Tubes and get a big AOR [album-oriented rock] hit and turn around and do a solo album that sounds like Love Story 83 and then also work with the R&B acts.

Foster continued producing and writing virtually nonstop. In 1984 he earned his third and fourth Grammy awards: for Chicagos Chicago 17, he received another producer of the year award, and for the song Hard Habit to Break, he was recognized for best instrumental arrangement accompanying vocals.

But his nonstop work pace started to take its toll; after a lifetime of 16-hour days, Foster reached a point of such mental and physical exhaustion that he thought hed lost his magical musical touch. He decided to return to Canada with his wife Rebecca and take a break. Just as he had settled in, Quincy Jones called and asked him to write and produce the Canadian answer to the English Band-Aid project and the American We Are the World efforts to raise money for hunger relief in Africa. He rose to the occasion, composing and producing Northern Lights Tears Are Not Enough. When a video about the production hit Canadian TV, Foster gained the recognition that had eluded him in his homeland. Indeed, though many Canadians knew Fosters work, they did not realize that he was Canadian.

Giving up on his hiatus, he went back to Los Angeles. Shortly thereafter, the magic touch clearly still with him, he produced the hit single Somewhere for Barbra Streisands Broadway Album, for which he won his fifth Grammy.

Dominated Charts

Beginning on May 5, 1984, when Stay the Nightthe first single from Chicago 17 debuted at Number 49, Foster had at least one single on Billboards Hot 100 chart every week until April 12, 1986. During most weeks of that two-year period, he had two or more records on the chart simultaneously. And in August of 1985 he had a remarkable five singles on the chart at the same time.

Foster released a self-titled album on Atlantic Records in 1986, which included a duet with Olivia Newton-John. Also that year he established the David Foster Foundation to assist families of children who need organ transplants, and the David Foster Celebrity Softball Game in Victoria, British Columbia, to raise funds for the foundation.

His next solo album, The Symphony Sessions, appeared in record stores in 1988. The disc featured Foster performing his compositions with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and included Winter Games, the song he wrote for the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics. A one-hour TV special, David Foster: The Symphony Sessions, aired on CBC-TV in Toronto to promote the album, and the video arm of Atlantic Records released it as a 36-minute home video. Also that year, Foster received the Order of Canada for his humanitarian efforts.

The Symphony Sessions showcased a reworked rendition of Fosters Golden Globe-nominated theme for the movie The Secret of My Success. It is just one of the songs Foster has penned for films during his career, among them St. Elmos Fire, Urban Cowboy, Summer Lovers, One Good Cop, If Looks Could Kill, and Karate Kid Part II.

1992 an Unforgettable Year

Foster released River of Love in 1990, which included the single Grown-Up Christmas, sung by Natalie Cole. Brian Wilson, Bryan Adams, Bruce Hornsby, Mike Reno, and others contributed both songs and performances to the album. The following year, Foster released Rechordings, which featured instrumental versions of Fosters best-loved compositions. He also wrote music to second wife Linda Thompsons lyrics for Voices That Care, the entertainment industrys salute to U.S. troops in the Persian Gulf War. The project raised more than $500,000 for the Red Cross and USO of America.

Foster received three more Grammy awards in 1992 for Natalie Coles hit album Unforgettable: producer of the year, song of the year, and record of the year. He also co-produced Streisands album Back to Broadway, which entered the Billboard charts at Number One on July 17, 1993. As if this werent enough, at the end of the year he released The Christmas Album, which featured some of his favorite vocalists singing their best-loved Christmas songs backed by an 80-piece orchestra. Understandably, Billboard named Foster top singles producer and top R&B singles producer in their 1993 year-end wrap-up.

Time reporter Charles P. Alexander noted in 1994, Over the past two years, Foster productions have held the No. 1 spot on Billboard magazines Hot 100 more than 25% of the time. The pop gurus domination of the charts was secured throughout 1993 and 1994 by Whitney Houstonss I Will Always Love You, Canadian pop singer Céline Dions The Power of Love, and newcomer AII-4-Ones I Swear, each of which spent several weeks in the Number One position.

Foster took his career in yet another direction in 1994 when he joined Atlantic Records as senior vice president of A&R (artists and repertoire), with a three-year production contract. Though his contract allowed him to work with artists on other labels, the position gave him an outlet to develop new artists. According to an August 1994 article in Time, Foster was also working with pop superstar Michael Jackson, producing tracks for the singers next album.

With a lifetime of writing, producing, and sometimes performing hit music, the 12-time Grammy-winning Foster summed up the purpose and theory of his career in one sentence of his Atlantic Records press biography, allowing, I gravitate toward tugging at heartstringsand I treat every day in the studio as life or death.

Selected discography

Best of Me, Sound Design, 1982.

David Foster, Atlantic, 1986.

The Symphony Sessions, Atlantic, 1988.

River of Love, Atlantic, 1990.

Rechordings, Atlantic, 1991.

David Foster: The Christmas Album, Interscope, 1993.

Sources

Billboard, July 30, 1983; October 26, 1985; May 24, 1986; July 26, 1986; April 23, 1988; October 5, 1991; March 14, 1992; October 9, 1993; December 4, 1993; December 25, 1993.

Keyboard, February 1986; September 1986; March 1988; January 1992.

New York Times, December 10, 1993.

Time, August 29, 1994.

Variety, May 21, 1986; May 11, 1988.

Additional information for this profile was obtained from Atlantic Records press material, 1994.

Sonya Shelton

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Foster, David

David Foster

Keyboardist, songwriter, composer, producer, music arranger, recording executive

David Foster started his music career at the age of five in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. He began with piano lessons, and his talent quickly distinguished him from other children his age. When he turned 13, Foster enrolled at the University of Washington to study music. He launched his professional career three years later when he joined the backup band of rock and roll legend Chuck Berry.

Foster moved to Los Angeles in 1971 with his band Skylark. In 1973 Skylark's song "Wildflower" reached number nine on the Billboard charts. Foster parlayed that milestone into a career as a session keyboard player. When Skylark disbanded and its members decided to return to Canada, Foster remained in Los Angeles. "I had this overwhelming desire to meet all the great musicians and play with them. I was young and hungry, and a very positive thinker," Foster told Keyboard.

He played keyboards in the orchestra pit for the Roxy Theatre's production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show for a year and eventually became the show's co-director. Rocky Horror garnered considerable recognition, and many producers and musicians noticed Foster's talents when they attended performances. The orchestra would play whatever the conductor chose for half an hour before the show. When people in the music industry heard Foster play keyboards, they began calling him to participate in their recording sessions during the day.

Foster built a strong reputation as a talented session keyboard player, working with such stars as John Lennon, George Harrison, Barbra Streisand, and Rod Stewart. He added his input to songwriting and arrangement in sessions, and eventually worked his way into producing and writing his own songs. His early production clients included Alice Cooper, the Average White Band, Boz Scaggs, and Carole Bayer Sager.

The turning point in Foster's production career came after a life-changing conversation with fellow producer Quincy Jones, when Foster realized that he needed to demand the best from the artists with whom he worked in order to make the best albums he could.

Foster earned his first big-name producing credit with two albums by Daryl Hall and John Oates. He not only proved he could recognize good songs, he confirmed he could write them as well. In 1979 he won his first Grammy Award, for best rhythm and blues song, for co-writing Earth, Wind and Fire's "After the Love Has Gone" with Jay Graydon and Bill Champlin.

Three years later he received his second Grammy, for Producer of the Year, for the cast album of the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Dreamgirls. The album climbed to number eleven on the Billboard charts, the highest-charting cast recording since Hair in 1969. Foster gained further accolades when Chicago's "Hard to Say I'm Sorry" from Chicago 16, which he cowrote and produced, reached number one on the Billboard charts.

Foster released his first solo album, Best of Me, on a Japanese label, and Sound Design Records released it in the United States in 1982. The following year, Foster produced Lionel Richie's album Can't Slow Down, which sold a whopping ten million copies. By that time, he had cemented his place as one of popular music's top producers. Yet he refused to rest on his laurels, relishing the variety his prominence allowed him. "I know I've done a little too much jumping around already in my career," Foster told Paul Green of Billboard. "Someone once described me as a person who couldn't keep a job. But I love the fact that I can produce the Tubes and get a big AOR [album-oriented rock] hit and turn around and do a solo album that sounds like 'Love Story' 83' and then also work with the R&B acts."

Foster continued producing and writing virtually nonstop, earning two more Grammy Awards in 1984: for Chicago's Chicago 17, he received Producer of the Year, and for the song "Hard Habit to Break" he was recognized for Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocals.

But his nonstop work pace started to take its toll. After a lifetime of 16-hour days, Foster reached a point of such mental and physical exhaustion that he thought he'd lost his magical musical touch. He decided to return to Canada with his wife, Rebecca, and take a break. Just as he settled in, Quincy Jones asked him to write and produce a Canadian version of the English Band-Aid project and the American "We Are the World" effort that raised money for hunger relief in Africa. He rose to the occasion, composing and producing Northern Lights' "Tears Are Not Enough." When a video about the production hit Canadian TV, Foster gained the recognition that had previously eluded him in his homeland. Indeed, though many Canadians knew Foster's work, they did not realize that he was Canadian.

Giving up on his hiatus, he went back to Los Angeles. Shortly thereafter, the magic touch clearly still with him, he produced the hit single "Somewhere" for Barbra Streisand's Broadway album, for which he won his fifth Grammy.

Beginning on May 5, 1984, after "Stay the Night"—the first single from Chicago 17—debuted at number 49, Foster had at least one single on Billboard's Hot 100 chart every week until April of 1986. During most weeks of that two-year period, he had two or more records on the charts simultaneously. And in August of 1985 he had a remarkable five singles on the charts at the same time.

For the Record …

Born November 1, 1950, in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada; immigrated to U.S., 1971. First wife named Rebecca; married Linda Thompson (a songwriter), divorced, July 11, 2005; children: (first marriage) four daughters, (second marriage) two stepsons. Education: Studied music at University of Washington.

Began playing piano with singer-guitarist Chuck Berry at 16; member of band Skylark; worked as session keyboard player; became producer, early 1970s; released first solo recording on Sound Design Records, 1982; released album David Foster, Atlantic, 1986; established David Foster Foundation, 1986; became senior vice president of A&R, Atlantic Records, 1994; produced music for films, including The Secret of My Success, St. Elmo's Fire, Urban Cowboy, Summer Lovers, One Good Cop, If Looks Could Kill, and Karate Kid Part II; produced songs and albums for numerous pop artists, including Whitney Houston, All-4-One, Celine Dion, Barbra Streisand, Color Me Badd, and Natalie Cole.

Awards: Grammy Awards (with Jay Graydon and Bill Champlin), for Best Rhythm and Blues Song, for "After the Love Has Gone," 1979; Producer of the Year, for Dreamgirls, 1982; Producer of the Year, for Chicago 17 and Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocals, for "Hard Habit to Break," both 1984; Producer of the Year, for "Somewhere," 1985; Producer of the Year, Song of the Year, and Record of the Year, all for Unforgettable, 1992; Record of the Year, for "I Will Always Love You"; Album of the Year, for "The Bodyguard"; Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocals, for "When I Fall in Love," and Producer of the Year, Non-Classical, all 1994; Album of the Year, for "Falling Into You"; Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocals, for "When I Fall in Love," both 1997; Billboard magazine, named top singles producer and top R&B singles producer of 1993; Order of Canada.

Addresses: Record company—Atlantic Records, 75 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10019.

Foster released a self-titled album on Atlantic Records in 1986, which included a duet with Olivia Newton-John. Also that year he established the David Foster Foundation to assist families of children who need organ transplants, and started the David Foster Celebrity Softball Game in Victoria, British Columbia, to raise funds for his foundation.

His next solo album, The Symphony Sessions (1988), featured Foster performing his compositions with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. This included "Winter Games," the song he wrote for the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics. A one-hour TV special, "David Foster: The Symphony Sessions," aired on CBC-TV in Toronto to promote the album, and was released as a 36-minute home video. Also that year, Foster received the Order of Canada for his humanitarian efforts.

Foster released River of Love in 1990, which included the single "Grown-Up Christmas," sung by Natalie Cole. Brian Wilson, Bryan Adams, Bruce Hornsby, Mike Reno, and others contributed both songs and performances to the album. The following year, Foster released Rechordings, which featured instrumental versions of Foster's best-loved compositions. He also wrote music to second wife Linda Thompson's lyrics for "Voices That Care," the entertainment industry's salute to U.S. troops in the Persian Gulf War. The project raised more than $500,000 for the Red Cross and USO of America.

Foster received three more Grammy Awards in 1992 for Natalie Cole's hit album Unforgettable, and he also co-produced Streisand's album Back to Broadway, which entered the Billboard charts at number one in 1993. As if this weren't enough, at the end of the year he released The Christmas Album, which featured some of his favorite vocalists singing their best-loved Christmas songs backed by an 80-piece orchestra. Billboard named Foster top singles producer and top R&B singles producer in their 1993 year-end wrap-up.

Time reporter Charles P. Alexander noted in 1994, "Over the past two years, Foster productions have held the No. 1 spot on Billboard magazine's Hot 100 more than 25% of the time." The pop guru's domination of the charts was secured throughout 1993 and 1994 by Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You," Canadian pop singer Celine Dion's "The Power of Love," and newcomer All-4-One's "I Swear," each of which spent several weeks in the number one position.

Foster took his career in yet another direction in 1994 when he joined Atlantic Records as senior vice president of A&R (artists and repertoire), with a three-year production contract. Though his contract allowed him to work with artists on other labels, the position gave him an outlet to develop new artists. Between 1994 and 1997, four songs he produced reached the top of Billboard's Hot 100 and stayed there for 42 weeks. While at Atlantic, Foster also produced albums for country singer Kevin Sharp, Irish singers the Corrs, and classical singer Josh Groban.

In 2005 Foster began filming a reality series about his own life, "The Princes of Malibu." However, the show began to reveal stresses in his marriage to Linda Thompson, and the couple divorced later in 2005.

With a lifetime of writing, producing, and sometimes performing hit music, the 12-time Grammy-winning Foster summed up the purpose and theory of his career in one sentence of his Atlantic Records press biography, allowing, "I gravitate toward tugging at heartstrings—and I treat every day in the studio as life or death."

Selective Works

Best of Me, Sound Design, 1982.
David Foster, Atlantic, 1986.
The Symphony Sessions, Atlantic, 1988.
River of Love, Atlantic, 1990.
Rechordings, Atlantic, 1991.
David Foster: The Christmas Album, Interscope, 1993.

Sources

Billboard, July 30, 1983; October 26, 1985; May 24, 1986; July 26, 1986; April 23, 1988; October 5, 1991; March 14, 1992; October 9, 1993; December 4, 1993; December 25, 1993; February 5, 2005, p. 48.

Hollywood Reporter, August 31, 2006, p. 16.

Keyboard, February 1986; September 1986; March 1988; January 1992.

Maclean's, July 18, 2005, p. 50.

New York Times, December 10, 1993.

People, August 8, 2005, p. 26.

Time, August 29, 1994.

Time International, March 24, 2005, p.50.

Variety, May 21, 1986; May 11, 1988; July 8, 2005, p. 8.

Additional information for this profile was obtained from Atlantic Records press material, 1994.

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Foster, David (Manning)

FOSTER, David (Manning)

Nationality: Australian. Born: Sydney, New South Wales, 15 May 1944. Education: The University of Sydney, B.Sc. in chemistry 1967; Australian National University, Canberra, Ph.D. 1970. Family: Married 1) Robin Ruth Bowers in 1965 (marriage ended); 2) Gerda Hageraats in 1975; has four daughters and two sons. Career: Research fellow, U.S. Public Health Service, Philadephia, 1970-71; senior research officer, University of Sydney Medical School, 1971-72. Awards: Australian Literature Board fellowships, 1973-91; The Age award, 1974; Marten Bequest award, 1978; Australian National Book Council award, 1981; New South Wales Premier's fellowship, 1986; Australian creative fellowship, 1992-95; Miles Franklin Award, 1997. Address: Ardara, Bundanoon, New South Wales 2578, Australia.

Publications

Novels

The Pure Land. Melbourne, Macmillan, 1974; New York, Penguin, 1985.

The Empathy Experiment, with D.K. Lyall. Sydney, Wild and Woolley, 1977.

Moonlite. Melbourne, Macmillan, 1981; London, Pan, 1982; NewYork, Penguin, 1987.

Plumbum. Ringwood, Victoria, Penguin, 1983.

Dog Rock: A Postal Pastoral. Ringwood, Victoria, and New York, Penguin, 1985.

The Adventures of Christian Rosy Cross. Ringwood, Victoria, London, and New York, Penguin, 1986.

Testostero. Ringwood, Victoria, and New York, Penguin, 1987.

The Pale Blue Crochet Coathanger Cover. Ringwood, Victoria, Penguin, 1988.

Mates of Mars. Ringwood, Victoria, Penguin, 1991.

The Glade within the Grove. Milsons Point, New South Wales, Australia, and New York, Vintage, 1996.

The Ballad of Erinungarah. Milsons Point, New South Wales, Australia, and New York, Vintage, 1997.

Short Stories

North South West: Three Novellas. Melbourne, Macmillan, 1973.

Escape to Reality. Melbourne, Macmillan, 1977.

Hitting the Wall: Two Novellas. Ringwood, Victoria, and London, Penguin, 1989.

Poetry

The Fleeing Atalanta. Adelaide, Maximus, 1975.

Other

Studs and Nogs: Essays 1987-98. Milsons Point, New South Wales, Australia, and New York, Vintage, 1999.

Editor, Self Portraits. Canberra, Australian National Library, 1991.

*

Manuscript Collection:

Australian Defence Force Academy Library, Canberra.

* * *

David Foster's background as a scientist is very much in evidence in his fiction, in his interest in concepts such as entropy and in his vast and eclectic vocabulary, which is full of technical words. For instance, his first book, North South West, contains sentences such as "We will fall before their arrows as before the nematocysts of a coelenterate." The stories foreshadow Foster's directions in other ways too, in their ambivalent dichotomy of country and city and in the writer's political conservatism: "I functioned as the opponent of all liberalism," one of his characters says. In "Mobil Medley," a kind of latterday Canterbury Tales, there is again a significant remark from the narrator which is applicable to Foster's fiction in general. "His words never settled fully about the object, but created a diversion to themselves, leaving the naked."

Foster's second book and first novel, The Pure Land, is an unusual and at times parodic example of that familiar Australian fictive stand-by, the generational novel. Divided into three parts, it tells the stories of three generations of a family, with only minor connecting links between the largely discrete sections. Beginning in Sydney it crosses to the United States before returning to its original base and finally petering out in a series of unanswered letters. The Empathy Experiment is set some time in the future and in a city something like Canberra, to judge from its obsessive bureaucracy. It concerns a scientist named FX and his experiments in harnessing the forces of empathic identification with his subjects. Although there are mad puns and various bizarrely comic incidents, the book is less playful than most of Foster's work. What emerges eventually from the novel's frantic improvisation is an angry satire of scientific experimentation which ignores the rights of its victims. Escape to Reality is Foster's only collection of short fiction to date. Like much of his work, it is concerned with outsiders or outlaws of some kind, and is written in a coolly objective, unjudging way, often in the first person. The collection is full of voices, the narrator's and other characters', in the many dialogues. In the longest and best story, "The Job," the narrator Billie is a petty criminal who is picked up on his release by another petty criminal, Brian. The story follows a familiarly circular pattern, with Billie waiting outside the jail at the end to pick up another released man, just as Brian had waited for him.

By now Foster had made a mark as a writer but still gave the impression of a talent of considerable, if somewhat cerebral, intelligence, deeply uncertain as to the direction in which it wanted to go. It is with the novels of the 1980s and especially Moonlite, still probably the best work, that he seems to find that direction and that personal voice. It is a less coldly written but still ingenious narrative of the picaresque adventures of one Finbar ("Moonbar") MacBuffie which amount to something like an allegorical account of the history of immigration to Australia. It is a wittily parodic novel, reminiscent in many ways of John Barth and especially of The Sot-Weed Factor. Foster displays his characteristic fascination with language, using arcane or self-invented words, punning vigorously, giving characters names like the Marquis of Moneymore and Grogstrife and employing a variety of dialects as well as a multitude of satiric targets, from academic scholarship and Christianity through advocates of temperance to Australian myths of heroism and identity.

Plumbum is written in a mode which Foster makes his own from Moonlite onwards, a self-conscious but also surreal, highly inventive but sometimes irritatingly cerebral comedy. It concerns a group of young musicians who form a heavy metal band, but the satiric targets are lost in the medley of competing voices and increasingly frantic pace. Dog Rock is a country town, population 776 of which the narrator D'Arcy D'Oliveres has been postman for ten years. A murderer known only as the Queen's Park Ripper is terrorising the town's citizens by progressively eliminating them. The novel is a parody of the detective genre, with an abundance of improbable clues and an impossibly complicated plot. Foster returned to Dog Rock and D'Arcy D'Oliveres later with the slight but genially witty The Pale Blue Crochet Coathanger Cover.

The Adventures of Christian Rosy Cross, which Foster has said he considers his magnum opus, is another picaresque novel, or parody of one. Its hero is born in 1378, the son of Comte de Rosencreutz who manages to finish off his own wife by immediately after the birth engaging in violent sexual intercourse with her. The novel recounts his adventures up until the age of twenty-three, after which, we are told at the end, "By judicious speculation he acquires a modest income, and spends the remaining years of his life, till his death in 1483, keeping fit, playing the harpsichord, cultivating bulbs, arguing with his neighbour over who should build the new boundary fence, and striving to improve the local breed of dog." Foster speaks in his introduction of his conviction that our present age resembles that of Christian Rosy Cross but the connections he claims with modern parallels are tenuous and much of the humour is built on simpleminded juxtapositions between modern and medieval ("Would you care to see some filthy woodcuts?"). Testostero is sub-titled "a comic novel" but is in fact a laboured, tedious farce involving Noel Horniman, talented but ockerish Australian poet, and Leon Hunnybun, limp-wristed English aristocrat, who discover in the course of the novel that they are twins. Hitting the Wall is actually two novellas of which one, "The Job," is reprinted from Escape to Reality.

Foster revived D'Arcy D'Oliveres for The Glade within the Grove, which chronicles the postman's tenure in the small town of Obligna Creek. There he discovers an intriguing manuscript, by a mysterious author named "Orion"and this later appeared as Foster's next novel, The Ballad of Erinungarah. Needless to say, the two books are meant to be read together.

On the face of it, Foster would seem to have an imagination as original and inventive as almost any contemporary Australian novelist, and he commands an astounding range of material. But that imagination seems difficult for him to harness, and like Barth and perhaps Thomas Pynchon, he reads better in bits and pieces than in toto. There are brilliantly original gags but no normative centre against which to place them. Perhaps he might do well to take note of one of his own witty scientific analogues from Plumbum: "You will sometimes see a middle-aged man holding the jaws of his mind open with every intellectual prop and pole at his disposal. In such a state he resembles a bivalve mollusc, constrained to sup whatever shit floats by."

Laurie Clancy

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