Saturday, September 29, 2012

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Faith in Australia, gangnam style

When you are in small despair about something like this on a Sunday in Melbourne (yet heartened because it was just a small gathering of dickheads):

You can comfort yourself that in the exact same spot, just the day before, there was this:

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Not a review of Don DeLillo's Cosmopolis

I hate having to do a spoiler alert because readers should be able to work it out themselves. But let me hold your hand... don't read if you don't want to know what happens, 'kay?

I'd like to start by saying I didn't realise this was a movie with R-Pat in it. Not that it would have made any difference to the reading of the book but I might have tried to find a copy of the book with a different cover.

It's a good cover, perfectly fitting but knowing it's R-Pat somehow diminishes it?

Now that I've read the book I'm confused about whether to see the movie. You see, I loved this book and seeing the movie will risk a shift in my feelings. It's rare that a movie complements a book properly. Hell, they're not meant to complement; a movie is meant to stand separately to the book and sometimes the book is devoured by the existence of a film version. But R-Pat is a bit cute if a little too skinny. Maybe it's a good film, maybe it's sexy and sharp and true to the book? Dilemma.

DeLillo is such a skilled writer I now want to read his oeuvre. I'm going to look up what he wrote, research his best and read them. I have heard him referenced, along with Thomas Pynchon, as one of those seminal American contemporary writers whose spheres of influence are enormous. Influence in terms of other writers, I mean. I think David Foster Wallace dug DeLillo big time. Or was it Bret Easton Ellis? Both? I forget.

Cosmopolis was the perfect entree into DeLillo's writing. It is deliciously-sized; packed full of action and interior 'idea-scapes' - it's a genius work. To have the limo as a mobile office. To have Eric Packer (the protagonist) hopping in and out of his limo as it inches its way through Manhattan, driving him to get a haircut.

I read the first few pages then put the book down for a few days. When I went back to it, I started again from the beginning. And this is what I wrote note-wise:

- cancer? the haircut and sleep failing him (p1)
- he's dying. Missed it the first time I read 1st 4 pages.

As it turned out, he wasn't literally dying from cancer - he just has an asymmetrical prostate - however he is dying (as we all are) throughout the novel. The ending is ambiguous; the reader doesn't find out whether the kindly assassin Richard Sheets pulls the trigger or not.

As Packer careens like a pinball through the streets of New York - having sex here, having sex there (but not with his wife of 22 days); eating, talking and methodically buying more and more Yen that will perversely lead to his financial ruin - there is much 'outside' action going on. The US President is in the vicinity (thus accounting for road blocks and even worse traffic conditions); there is some bizarre rat protest unfolding and there are credible threats to Packer's security (he has bodyguards, one of whom he himself kills).

Reading this book was electrifying; I found myself uttering exclamations of 'wow' and 'fuck'. I also found myself reaching for scraps of paper to write down the small 'literary' surprises, that in such a dynamic, action-packed story were like manna and balanced the reading beautifully for me:

He liked paintings that his guests did not know.

He'd thought about surfaces in the shower once.

... masturbatory crouch

Her poetry was shit (big LOL at that one)

Packer is like a modern-tech flâneur, wandering the streets, travelling along, seeing 'what happens' on his way to a haircut, but the pace is not that of a typical wanderer; it's edgy and sharp and there are things around the corner on the next page that will make you jump. At times I wondered where we were. Were we in the limo? Were we on the street? I had to concentrate to keep up - this is no idle read - but at the same time, it's not a hard read. You don't have to concentrate and keep yourself in the action, you go there naturally.

I loved the set up of this novel (novella? I reckon the wordage is around 53K); there is no back-story it just begins. Slowly, more characters are layered in, some staying for a while, others just popping in and out, but the question that makes him an interesting character is introduced very early. What's wrong with him, why isn't he having sex with his wife. Why doesn't she know that his eyes are blue?

The car-as-office is a clever device as is the setting of New York City. Anything can happen in New York and the pace is fast. I had to keep up, noting the line breaks which indicated a shift in scene and possibly location. There wasn't always a 'he got out of the car' indicator to inform the dullard reader of a change in location and this added to the pace; there was no extra stuff padding the prose and therefore slowing it down.

I've noted the scene on page 49-50 as being 'very interesting.' It's an erotic scene between Eric and one of the women-not-his-wife  who he has a sexual encounter with. This is where the cover image of Edward Vampire got into my head a little. I couldn't imagine Rob Pattinson talking about his erection and bondage:

This is the woman you are inside the life. Looking at you, what? I'm more excited than I've been since the first burning nights of adolescent frenzy. Excited and confused. I look at you and feel an erection stirring even as the situation argues strenuously against it...

All the same. Days like this. I look at you and feel electric. Tell me you don't feel it too. The minute you sat there in that whole tragic regalia of running. That whole sad business of Judeo-Christian jogging. You were not born to run. I look at you. I know what you are. You are sloppy-bodies, smelly and wet. A woman who was born to sit strapped in a chair while a man tells her how much she excites him.

And Judeo-Christian jogging? Snort.

I have some criticisms but there are only two (and one of them I feel dissolving, though, as I've processed the novel in the day since finishing it).

Towards the end of the reading I made this note: Eric is too young for all this wisdom and awareness. Why have him young?

I can probably answer my own question. Having a young man in this context with this story is more compelling than an older man. The idea that youth is not the answer to everything; that a large life can be lived in a short time; possibly the idea that money and power do corrupt so absolutely. But you never get the impression that Eric is superficial. He is a deep thinker and he's working it all out.

My other problem, and it was tiny, insignificant amongst all the wonderfulness: on page 206 I felt De Lillo was flawless until he explains the reference to Male Z. He has already mentioned all the accoutrements of a morgue: the sliding compartments, the sterile room, the bodies with tags and one of these tags is 'Male Z'. It's all fantastic up until he writes: He knew that Male Z was the designation for the bodies of unidentified men in hospital morgues.

Oh Don, why? You have written until now,  until page 206, refusing to explain, refusing to indulge a less-evolved reader by spelling things out. You have written bravely, putting the words on the page, catering only to yourself, not pandering to a reader. Why these words? Why explain? If the reader can't work out it's a morgue they don't deserve the explanation. You have lowered yourself and it stings me.

Oh, there is another criticism. There is a section where the point of view shifts from close 3rd person to a first person voice for a total of about six pages towards the end of the book. This is 'Benno Levin' ('real name' Richard Sheet)  the man who is preparing to kill Eric. I see and accept the purpose of having his POV inserted in the narrative in this way but it is jarring and is not a seamless addition. Perhaps this jolt in the narrative 'works' alongside the other jolts the reader experiences. Certainly, those six pages are densely packed with personal information, the life of a man who is getting ready to kill another man. The mind of the disgruntled assassin. Perhaps I should re-read those pages, they would make more sense now because at the time I wasn't sure who it was.

The final scene is brilliant, particularly the dialogue, and there are still a few more jolts for the reader. When a work is unpredictable it is an achievement these days. There is so much that is banal and ordinary in writing and in life; to have a scene with two men discussing the reasons why one of them wants to kill the other one, and the intended victim - Eric - is calm and measured which unsettles the 'baddie', a self-confessed 'violent smoker'.

The man fired a shot into the ceiling. It startled him. Not Eric; the other, the subject.

It's writing like this that makes me admire DeLillo. It says so much with so little.

When Eric shoots a hole in his own hand, Sheets bandages it up for him and stops the bleeding. He still intends to kill him, but he helps him. It's details like this that make this book so real. That detail reminded me of a story about Ned Kelly walking to be hanged, and even though he was going to his death, he made sure the hood on his head (piled up, ready to be pulled down over his eyes) was be neatly arranged and wouldn't fall off as he walked. This is what's beautiful about fiction. I don't remember where I read that Kelly snippet and I can't remember if it's true or whether I made it up based on something I read.

So, goody goody gumdrops. This is DeLillo's 13th book and you know what, I read somewhere there are 14 books in total. I canner wait to get my hands on another one. Wonder whether I should read chronologically. I think I shall.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Catherine Deveny

I've never really taken to Deveny (might be something about her being a comedian?) but I do support her right to be 'loud and mouthy and opinionated' about things like homophobia, same-sex marriage, marriage, atheism, religion, immigration. I like this approach (probably cause it's my own) but I know that most people don't like this type of person (read woman). Her recent appearance on qanda last Monday (I just caught up on iview) has caused a bit of controversy it seems, re the way she took on Anglican Peter Jensen. (It's not only women who are called shrill and strident; Richard Dawkins gets it a bit, apparently).

This is a defence of Deveny and it makes for interesting reading, including the comments. It reminds me of the reaction Germaine Greer gets every time she opens her mouth including a couple of weeks ago, and I'm seeing whispers of it about Naomi Wolf too, about her new book Vagina, A New Biography. (That's maybe a whole other post. I'm thinking there's probably stuff I'd agree with, criticisms that is, however everyone just seems so fucking bitchy about everything and everyone. Is this the effect of twitter and blogging? Where everyone is just so out there about their opinions? So critical, so argh).

Connected to this story, is the issue of gaslighting. I'd never heard the term before but boy, I know the process. I read the open letter to Catherine Deveny and realised that it described perfectly what I'd experienced in a previous relationship. Wow. Just wow. I wonder if they really do know they're doing it? (the 'gaslighters'.)

What a find

Just came across this blog, Letters of Note; a compilation of letters between and/or by famous people.

You could spend days on it.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Is Tony going down?

It's not often I do politics on here. I used to a bit, when it got me riled, before I got jaded and old. Before I realised what a time waster it is. It's like people going on about trolls. Time wasting. People who leave comments on the online newspapers - time wasting. People who get into back and forth and arguments with trolls in the comments on online newspapers - time wasting.

It's taken me ages to realise that when people talk about Mr Rabbit they are talking about Tony Abbott. This is how far I've taken myself out of political thinking/discussions. My poor mother, when she tries to talk about Julia, I cut her off saying 'Meh, I'm not into politics any more. So boring.'

But a couple of things lately have caught my interest. First, Anne Summers wrote and delivered a speech entitled 'Gillard: Her Rights at Work' about the sexism/misogynism that the PM's been dealing with - it's worth a read. There's the R-rated version and the vanilla version, as well as today's response on The Drum, answering people who have said 'yeah, but it's no worse than anything male politicians have had to put up with, Larry Pickering's been drawing dicks on pollies for yonks.' [Anne Summers' website]

Then there's the current 'Tony threw a punch' story which is delighting me - that old schadenfreude tinged with very real hope that it will fuck him up so much he just fucks off, right out of the picture and takes his abortion/contraception views with him, along with his attitudes towards women.

I'll never forget what his daughter said about him:

Well, what would you know dad? You're just a lame, gay, churchy loser.

To be fair, these could be the words of any teen or young adult child about their parent and while there is something refreshing about it, the use of 'gay' in it to emphasise the 'loser' qualities of Tony Abbott is something I don't tolerate or support. Apart from this though, this is a testimonial about someone who wants to become PM by someone who knows him well. The church bit is probably what worries me most as an atheist who fervently believes church and state should always be kept separate. ALWAYS. But it was funny and it still is.

So now he's accused of slamming his fist into a wall either side of a woman's head back in uni in 1977. He's accused of being intimidating and violent. Someone else has come forward and backed up the woman's story. The response from the coalition is predictable: he has no memory of this; it's incorrect; it's an ALP set-up.

I really really hope he goes down:

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Bridport Prize 2012 - short list

So other people are announcing, I might as well too. I entered two short stories in this year's Bridport Prize (a UK writing competition).

Both my stories were short listed (again, like the Voiceless Prize, it's a long shortlist). They won't proceed any further but out of 6100 entries, I made the top 100. I am feeling pretty happy about this as it's the first time I've entered and it's my second run on the board in my recent efforts to get published and all that jazz.

I plan to submit both stories to another couple of things to see how they do. And of course, I will let you know if anything happens.

In other news, it's P's BD - SWEET 16. Unbelievable how did that happen etcetera etcetera. Have to go now and make a huge cauldron of chicken, mushroom and pea risotto for twelve people. Might also be time for a glass 'o wine after a huge day teaching.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Brontes and their world

[Taken from p88, author Phyllis Bentley. This book was on my mother's book-shelf since I was a little girl. Now it's on my book-shelf but I probably should give it back.]

Emily Brontë was a 'space-sweeping soul' to use her own phrase about a philosopher; her thoughts on life, death, immortality, imagination, liberty, deity had a depth and breadth of vision compatible to Wordsworth or Shakespeare.

It has been the fashion to speak of her as a metaphysical poet, but I prefer to call her a pantheist; she saw the universe as a whole, and her vision comprehended the lark, the woolly sheep, the snowy glen, the nature of being and God Himself as all part of the one great harmony. Nor can her thought be called speculative. She writes with a majestic, almost casual certainty. These tremendous themes, these minute observations, are both conveyed with an absolute simplicity of language; no purple patches of metaphor or simile, no elaboration of construction, no experiment with metre - one feels Emily would have thought any artifices contemptibly vulgar. She merely says what she means in the clearest, hardest hitting terms she can find. But if her metres are conventional and her words austere, her rhythms have a poetry so intense as to be deeply thrilling, in the most literal sense of that expression.

Fabulous stuff.

I can't believe that Emily wrote Wuthering Heights between October 1845 and June 1846 and had it published in July of the following year. How much editing? How many drafts? How many copies were sold? Who read this type of novel? Would it get published today?

WH remains one of my favourite books, evah.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Old Hem snippet - he was terribly clumsy

One biography on Hemingway by Jeffrey Meyers has an appendix which covers all accidents and illnesses. It is quite a read:

Childhood - falls with stick in throat, gouges tonsils; catches fishhook in back
1916 - 17: boxing injuries; football injuries
Spring 1918: fist through glass show-case
July 8, 1918: concussed and wounded by trench mortar and machine gun
June 1920: cuts feet walking on glass
July 1920: falls on boat cleat, internal hemorrhage
April 1922: burns from hot-water heater
Sept 1925: tears ligament in right foot
Dec 1927: son cuts pupil of good right eye 
Mar 1928: pulls skylight on forehead, needs stitches
Oct 1929: tears muscle in groin
May 1930: cuts right index finger on punching bag
Aug 1930: lacerations from bolting horse
Nov 1930: breaks right arm in car accident
Apr 1935: shoots himself in legs while gaffing* shark
Feb 1936: breaks big toe kicking locked gate
?1937-38: dropkicks foot through mirror
Aug 1938: scratches pupil of bad left eye
May 1944: second concussion when car strikes water tank in blackout
Aug 1944: third concussion jumping from motorcycle into ditch; suffers double vision and impotence
June 1945: car overturns; head goes into mirror, knee injured
Sept 1949: clawed while playing with lion**
July 1950: fourth concussion; gashes head while falling on boat
Oct 1953: cuts face, sprains shoulder falling out of car
Jan 1954: two plane crashes in Africa; fifth concussion, fractured skull, internal bleeding, paralysed sphincter muscle, two cracked spine discs, ruptured liver, right kidney and spleen, dislocated right arm and shoulder, first degree burns
Jan 1954: severe burns fighting fire
Oct 1958: sprains ankle, tears heel ligaments climbing fence
July 1959: car goes off road

Infancy: left eye defective from birth, mysterious minor operation

Oct 1918: jaundice
Early 1919: tonsils removed, operation of injured leg
1920s: appendicitis operation
Oct 1922: malaria
June 1927: anthrax in cut foot
Sept 1927: swollen, itchy hands and feet
Dec 1927: grippe, hemorrhoids, toothache
Oct 1929: kidney troubles from cold stream
Summer 1931: eye trouble, needs glasses
April 1932: bronchial penumonia
Oct 1933: throat operation
circa Jan 1934: amoebic dysentery; prolapsed large intestine***
1934: blood poisoning in right index finger
Jan 1935: recurrence of dysentery
Dec 1938: severe liver complaint
Dec 1944: pneumonia, coughs up blood
Aug 1947: hypertension
Dec 1948: ringing in ears
Mar 1949: erysipelas, hospitalised in Padua
Feb 1950: skin infection
Sept 1950: ?skin cancer from sun at sea
May 1950: leg pains from encysted shell fragments
Aug 1953: second dysentery
Jan 1955: rash on face and chest
Nov 1955: nephritis, hepatitis, anaemia, swollen right foot, 40 days in bed w hepatitis
Nov 1956: hypertension, high cholesterol, arteriosclerosis; strict diet, not alcohol or sex
July 1959 - July 1961: skin rash, alcoholism, eye troubles, diabetes, suspected haemochromatosis, nephritis, hepatitis, hypertension, impotence, mental break-down, electroconvulsive therapy, loss of weight, loss of memory, severe depression

* gaffing: seizing or impaling with a gaffe

** as you would expect

*** from p263 of Meyers's book: 'His large intestine became infected and swollen [amoebic dysentery which he'd contracted on voyage to Africa] and three inches of it dropped out of his body. "He was passing nearly a quart of blood daily." ... He soon had 150 bowel movements a day and a prolapsed intestine that he had to wash with soap and water, and put back into his body.'

[Source: Hemingway, A Biography by Jeffrey Meyers 1985]

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Princess comes back tomorrow

Apparently the weather will be stormy and windy and she flies in from Broome. She's been away on a 'school camp' but none of the school camps I've heard of involve a 3-week Kimberley experience where they live and work with local kids from Fitzroy Crossing and community areas up there.

Or is it over there?

They've been doing community projects (building a fire pit and a basket ball court) and working on a cattle station, learning about the local languages and flora/fauna and art. Swimming in water holes, tough life. Going to footy games, staying up til 'whenever' and lying around on the decking outside discussing different types of learning.

I haven't heard much from her about how it's been other than she's 'loving it' and 'doesn't want to come home'. But home she comes tomorrow and it will be a massive catch-up and I can't wait to hear it all.


Today I tried again to get my copy of Big Issue. Vendor wasn't in Acland Street either but I went into Readings to ask about him - Dennis is his name - and I accidentally bought two new books.

Fuck I just can't resist. It's like some compulsive addiction thing. Seriously.

I got a Dom de Lillo for cheap (hah just checked, DON) for $19.99 - Cosmopolis. It was the blurb that got me:

Eric Packer is a twenty-eight-year-old multi-billionaire asset manager. He lives in Manhattan. We join him on what will become a particularly eventful day in his life.

When he woke up, he didn't know what he wanted. Then he knew. He wanted to get a haircut.

As his stretch limousine moves across town, his world begins to fall apart. But more worrying than the loss of his fortune is the realization that his life may be under threat.

Now there are several things about this that I like, and one thing I don't.

I like the correct adjectival hyphenation in that first sentence.
I like that he's in Manhattan. It wouldn't be as attractive if it were, say, Auckland. No offence.
I like the bit about him not knowing what he wanted, and then knowing he wants a haircut.

I don't like that it's got Edward the Vampire on the cover (it's a movie, shit, why didn't I notice that before I bought it?)

But then the bit about the potential loss of his fortune and the life under threat bit, hmmm. Is it going to spin off into freak-out territory with over-dramatic plot twists? (I hope not) or is it him descending into some drug-induced paranoia or psychosis? (I like this idea much much better.)

We shall see.


The other one is The Memory of Salt by Alice Melike Ülgezer.

This has:

A beautiful cover
A blurb that gets me in but not for the details or storyline, for the fact it's got Turkish characters in it
Her middle name - Melike - is one of my Princess's names (Princess has many names and there was a rumour at her school in Year 7 that she was a Turkish princess. She is half Turkish but not a real princess, just a pretend one on here.)
It's got a circus in it
It's got Australian outback in it, so it's a melange of different settings: Kabul, Melbourne, Aus outback, Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, London.

I have to see how this is done. I'm half scared it will be fantastic, half scared it won't.

Again, we shall see.

Monday, September 03, 2012


This pic is attached to an article that is about a father whose boy likes to wear dresses and so the German dad showed his support by wearing a skirt.

I thought it was fitting considering we've just had Fathers Day, not a big deal in my books with the commercialised push that goes on but still, it's nice when you come across a dad who rocks.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

So a technical problem

It's like this, Alex. (I know it'll be you who helps me but that doesn't mean other people who know what they're doing can't jump in and assist)...

In the old days, at the bottom of my posts page, I used to have something like 'more posts' or 'next page' and this is gone now.

I'm not sure it's because the blog has grown OR whether something has happened with my settings. But I would like to be able to go to a month on the side list and trawl through all the posts in that month.

Just can't seem to be able to do this.


Also, does anyone remember the '80s diaries and how my dad was caught up in a moider? And I don't know if I mentioned on here but I got a couple of comments from a woman purporting to be the killed woman's bio-daughter. Well, it was a cold case and it is now heating back up. All sorts of police interaction (not with me, with my dad). Oral swabs, official statements. At one stage I said to Clokes 'maybe they think he did it?' (not wanting to say 'maybe he did it') and then dad said recently, when I said 'maybe they're saying that to everyone', ie 'we are close to an arrest, we know who did it we're just getting our stuff together' as a way to make people nervous?? and I said 'maybe they think you did it' and dad said 'well I know I didn't do it!'

Anyway, Happy Fathers Day, Dad (don't know if he reads this anymore).