This is the first chapter of A Book That Opens, a volume containing story-based knowledge about river management by Barkindji people in outback New South Wales, Australia. Passing on vital understandings of how better to live in such environs, the book is also intended to provide a different sort of reading experience, and indeed time, by generating a form of writing that brings orality to the fore. Specifically, the book’s 13 chapters are each improvised on the spot, taped, and then transcribed. But nothing is really made up on the spot. The rivers of story and pre-given phrasing from which everyday speech arises, in European and indigenous cultures alike, contour this chapter, a university seminar dialogue serving as prelude to our conversations some months later in Bourke and Brewarrina. What is more, those rivers bring us to speak of reading, the kind of reading one does when open to Country.

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