Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Yale has got a whole bunch of open courses

You can access them via the Internet. There are all the lectures videoed and posted. For free. For real.

Biology, history, philosophy, English and many others.

Including a whole course on Hemingway, Faulkner and Fitzgerald.

Oh my fucking god.

I can't believe how lucky kids are these days to have this type of access. It is mind-blowing. Want to round out your course? Jump online and watch some of the best lecturers in America doing their thing.

It is extraordinary.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Publishing process in gif form

This is from Nathan Bransford, agent extraordinaire in the US who is linked to the right in my blogroll (click on his name to watch at his blog).
This pretty much sums it up. I'm still at the editors from publishers saying no (although it's still with two biggies and they have said no once but are looking at it again and the longer I don't hear from them the more insistent the voice that is saying 'it's gonna be a no' but so too the greater my inclination to NOT follow up with those two editors because then I'll just nudge them to the no a little quicker).
I tried the agents step but no, no, no.
One thing I'm wondering with MS #2 which I'm still on second draft of so very early days, do I do the agent thing or straight to publishers? I'm thinking maybe straight to publishers because I now have email relationships with some of them...

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Ulysses cracked

This is how anyone is ever going to be able to read this fucking book. Audiobook. But be warned, I estimate there are about thirty hours of it.

Having said that, it's is amazing and brilliant and an unbelievable achievement.

I drove to Adelaide on Friday and back today. I'm half way through. I think maybe MAYBE I'll be able to read the paper version after this. Or read it while listening again.

Extraordinary stuff and now I want to know more about his background. I wonder whether his marriage was happy, how much of a sensualist he was. How he worked, how he worked on this.

Hope everyone had a good weekend. I did.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

I can't help it but I like these people

I know I'm meant to be outraged by the 'go-go' juice and other examples of bad mothering in this show, but I can't help warming to Honey Boo Boo and her family. Is it just me? It's not just the car-crash effect a la the Osbornes or the vicarious fly-on-the-wall effect that you enjoy watching the Kardashians.

There's something about these people that is charming and touching and admirable. I need to think a little more about what it is though.

Saturday, August 18, 2012


After a coupla glasses of the widow I am celebrating the sale of my funky Secret-Life-of-Them pad. Had it for a while. On a windy September day we took Princess back there from hospital, our little bug in a rug who charmed and delighted both me and Ali. It was the place that we fucked in and fought in, the place Ptook her first steps* and the place where I would lie in the bath with her, when she was only weeks old, one of my swollen breasts bigger than her whole body it seemed. It was the place I cried when we split up, the place I laughed and clapped hands at my special birthday when the jangling belly-dancer danced for all and then we drunkenly stumbled down the street to Topolinos all talking too loud at about one in the morning.

It was the place I watched Seinfeld and the place I wrote my first book. It was where I cooked myself simple lunches of pasta and chilli, with a sneaky glass of wine. I sat on the back step and inhaled the sunshine and beauty of the skyline; the red brick roof and gargoyles of next-door.

This was a place where I scraped midnight blue paint off the scalloped plaster walls; where I Japan-blacked the kitchen floor myself after ripping up the old lino. Where I painted a flower mural onto the terrazzo shower wall so that lying in the bath with my book, my baby, I could trace the outlines of the petals with my toes.

This was the place I leaned out of the windows on various nights telling drunks to fuck off, telling men beating up on their women to stop, telling idiots pissing in our front garden to begone. And declining their offers of putting their dicks in my mouth by way of restitution.

This is the place where most of the neighbours were awesome but there's always one, or two and you just have to learn to get by.

Where when we bought it one room was fuschia, one the dark navy blue, one sun burnt orange.

* This is technically a lie. She took her first steps in England. But it makes a better story to have it above thusly.This is creative nonfiction, right Lee Gutkind?

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Oh dear

Just finished a book.

It's got a lighthouse in it, which annoyed me because 'one day' I would like to write about a lighthouse. Or about a person who lives in one.

But then, but then...

It all goes deliciously wrong. The writing is overdone. So many exclamation marks, so much yelling and berating and shouting and pleading. Wooden characters. Much praying and goddy stuff. A child who is so unlikeable you want her to wander too close to a cliff and die. A father so wet that you want him to put a noose around his neck. Or throttle his demanding wife. Or have her take some poison, or kill herself or stab him. Or something. The writer clearly did lots of research and so has to resort to various clunky means to 'get it all in there.' It's melodramatic and overwrought and nothing exciting happens at all. It's insipid and flat and bland apart from the occasional passages that describe nature which are okay.

I had read negative reviews so I wasn't expecting much but I still wanted to read about the lighthouse. I'm glad it wasn't brilliant because that means there's still room for a good lighthouse book.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Tidying my desk and here are my notes on the raft of Australian books I've read recently

All That I Am (these are additional to the ones I wrote when I first tried to read the book; those early comments are on this blog somewhere):

TICK p30 'I had a love affair with a girl whose sweetheart was at the front. When he was killed she lost interest in me.' - these are a terrific couple of sentences

CROSS p33 'How about I go get us some sandwiches?' - Clara is speaking, this is WWII time in NYC, would this speech pattern be accurate? Just seemed too modern to me

TICK p33 Ruth: 'his war'

CROSS p33 boy lying injured on the front, calling out (cliche)

TICK p33 'Why is it famous people are so much shorter in real life?'

TICK p34 'had already been inside them'

DOUBLE TICK p37 'Scheinbild and Gott sei dank' - like it that she doesn't translate the German

TICK p40 Ruth's POV - well done

p55 Toller POV - second reference to Clara's shorthand as 'strange curly marks' (so that's a CROSS)

CROSS p74 Toller talking about Dora (as love?) unconvincing. Not enough room for 2 love stories here. So far only enough room for Ruth's private life and Toller's public/professional life

CROSS p74 Clara chews the inside of one cheek. Is C the only person to be doing all these actions? [Late note: I wonder if Clara is Anna F?]

CROSS p74 Clara sitting = hands together under her chin. All these mentions yet they are insignificant and detract from the story. Is it because Toller POV and therefore the male gaze is noticing these things? Funder, being female, expects males to notice all the actions and mannerisms of a pretty woman?

TICK p89 'the soft black eyes of a Labrador'

CROSS p 100 Clara - more body stuff

TICK p147 'Sometimes making love is making love and sometimes it is other things, a homecoming and an attack - stabbing to get back into the life that was nearly taken from you.'

TICK p174 cherry blossoms as 'extravagant explosions'

TICK p175 'her blouse snaffles the light into its deep magenta folds'

TICK p176 'People often have to be alone to think or write, but being with Dora wasn't like being with another person.'

TICK 183 'A fly was making its way around the rim of a teacup, throwing a surreal, leggy shadow into the bowl.'

TICK p186 'a short blond boy with waxy skin who was always hungry and whose name I forget.'

BIG TICK p293 lovely writing: 'coughed out of the earth'

Anna Funder's Miles Franklin acceptance speech via youtube

I think it's her acceptance speech, or more a clip that was obviously played at the MF awards because she couldn't attend.

What a speech, my new hero I think.

I think I shall also have to read Stasiland now.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

How we respond to books

My last post I was talking about rating novels. I put All That I Am at the top but only because I think it deserves every prize it wins because of the type of book it is. It's a large book. But this doesn't mean I loved loved loved it. More I was impressed by it and impressed too that an Australian had written it. Makes sense that she lives overseas and has spent a lot of time overseas. This book did not come out of the brain of a person with a small backyard, so to speak.

Foal's Bread made me feel more than ATIA, so while I've ranked it below the Funder-wunder, in terms of heart I think it has more (however one major bone I have to pick with that book is that most of my momentum in reading it came from a need to find out what happened to the baby in the river. We never do, so that was disappointing.)

Just finished Jasper Jones; it doesn't have as much heart as Past the Shallows BUT it has some of the best cracking dialogue, and humour as well, which Past didn't have. ATIA didn't have much humour. Foal's - can't remember. Past the Shallows was lovely, will be interested to see what she does next. Now that story is out of the way.

I like heart and beauty but it doesn't mean it can't be dark. But with the darkness I'm sick of cliches. I don't want dead mothers, or horrible mothers (a la Jasper). I don't want dead fathers or horrible fathers (a la Jasper and Past the Shallows). Probably that's why ATIA worked for me (apart from the incidental things I've mentioned several times) - there are none of those parental cliches.

I'm going to re-try The Man Who Loved Children because I've just re-read Franzen's essay on it.

I'm also going to re-read the first novel of the woman in my writing group. The other night, she reminded me I'd said something about it (I'm terrible at reviewing books to their writer's faces, just terrible).

You said it kind of went nowhere, she said.
Did I? I don't remember saying that. (I didn't.)
Yeah. You said something like it trailed away at the end, or was disappointing or something.
I can't remember. Why didn't you ask me what I meant?
I didn't know you as well. I would now, but not then.

So I'm thinking I owe it to this woman, to read it again and give her a proper response. She has been very good with me and with helping me, ie putting me in touch with two big editors (editrixes?) who have my book, again, looking at it (after revisions.) Which sounds more impressive than it is, really I am not expecting anything (other than deep in my heart of hearts...)

The other thing is I have now put this blog link on a writer bio I had to submit. I asked the friend above whether I should clean it up, remove anything defamatory or nasty about other writers and she said 'nah, leave it. That's the good thing about blogs, they are out there.'

Hmmm. I don't know. I'm not sure about the baggings of various books, eg the piece of excrement about the sister of Jesus, um was the there anything else? It's not good form to be critical of books is it? If you are wanting to gain entry into that world yourself? Don't you have to suck up to everyone and be all bland?