Saturday, October 19, 2013


I went and saw Anna Funder talk at Melb Uni the other night. She was gorgeous, and I loved her story about a bear and a family camping holiday. She also talked about ex-Stasi men and how they use a lot of Brycreem. She also talked about imagination, that of the reader and that of the writer. I bought her book Stasiland and got her to inscribe it to my daughter. I told her my daughter is doing IB History - Oh, how is she finding it, she asked. I didn't tell her about my daughter's obsession with Nazis in general and Aryans in particular.

I just finished reading Toni Jordan's Addition. For some reason for a long time I thought this was a memoir or NF. It's a novel and a bloody good one I thought. It surprised me, I don't know why. I expected something light a la The Rosie Project, but it is much much better than Rosie. (I draw comparisons though because they each have protagonists with conditions - OCD 'counting' in Addition and a strongly-insinuated Aspergers in Rosie. While TRP, I thought was trite, lacked credibility in many ways and had unconvincing characters who you couldn't connect with or care about, especially Rosie I have to say, Addition was the complete opposite. The cataloguing of compulsions was fascinating but also sad, but the writing was matter-of-fact, never over-wrought. But the thing is, the important thing is, it's FUNNY. It's a while since I've read a book and been so compelled, laughed several times, grinned to myself a lot and cried TWICE towards the end. Jordan has also written Nine Days which is historical fiction, not my usual choice but I might have to check her out because I was seriously impressed with her style and management of her prose.

Now I'm back on HHhH (which I'd put to the side, and which my daughter consumed; see above reference to Nazi obsession.) I also have Eleanor Catton's The Luminaries which I started about three weeks ago mostly to see how she's constructed her form for the story (and it's since won the Booker Prize. Remember I said if she won I'd hate her because she's 28 and it's her second book. I may not have said that here.) Well, she won and I don't hate her, I think yay for her, yay for bigger books, yay for being experimental and writing what you love, not tailoring books to what you think will sell. So yay.)

Also Alice Munro won the Nobel and I had never read anything of hers so I looked up a few articles to get some info of how to work into her oeuvre, and came across a short story (she only writes short stories, but they're long) and it was pretty interesting. I don't think I've ever read a story like that and how she manages time shifts is interesting - she can pack a novel worth of stuff into a long story. She also breaks the 'rule' of show-don't-tell; she is pretty much all tell with some show. But who cares? It works. I look forward to exploring more of her stuff.


The last two weeks I've been teaching a lot and not doing much of my writing. But I have to finish my best version of the second book to get to the agent in November. I had said early, it might be mid. I'm getting it to my reader on Monday and that is a freaking freak-out sort of situation.

And then, and then I've been having thoughts about the first one. Once the second is off to Brooklyn I'll go back to the first and rejig. I have ideas, I have notes, and it's true as Tim Winton said in recent radio interview with Fran Kelly:

'You don't really finish books, you give up on them I suppose.'

I think they're aren't finished until they are published and then there's no more you can do. But you probably would if you could.

Sarah, how goes your book? I think it's out soon?


sarah toa said...

11 sleeps! I've been trying to get a post up about it for a few days now but I've been so busy teaching, like you, and organising the launch and publicity and then and then ...
It's really quite lovely how different people in town are stepping up to help with the launch. The library are catering, local bookshop are doing a window and a huge ad in the paper, launcher is getting his big bro to do a welcome to country free of charge.
And there is a fisheries officer reviewing the book for the state newspaper, which is quite delicious considering my chapter on fisheries officers in the book.
I liked the Winton quote, so true. My friend Cathy, whose paintings I've been posting lately, says the same thing. At some stage you just have to abandon them.
Well done on the second book!

Melba said...

Oh how exciting!! I got an invitation to the launch via email which was very wonderful to see. Wish I could go, but I do hope it goes very very well. I'm sure it will. I look forward to buying it, will it be in the shops here?

Printed out second ms yesterday, delivered to one reader (my mother) and will go to less-biased reader tomorrow as well. It's a bit nerve-wracking but that's okay. You have to stand by it don't you.

Anonymous said...

I didn't tell her about my daughter's obsession with Nazis in general and Aryans in particular.


'You don't really finish books, you give up on them I suppose.'

At some stage you just have to abandon them.

I think this is an old adage. I first heard it in relation to painting, but I guess it applies to almost any creative work. A lot of the time, when I look at my own stuff, all I can see is the bits I'm not happy with. I'm guessing that's true for a lot of others too.

Good luck with your book, Sarah. And good luck with that second book Melbs; as well as your re-working of the first.

sarah toa said...

yes, handing out your work to anyone is hard.
God, my Mum?
Well done Melba. And your Mum. Jeez.

sarah toa said...

Hey Alex, last week I went to the fund raiser at Cranbrook where they auctioned off a trailer load of cow poo, sheep poo, mallee roots, 8 ton of sand and a horse.
My mates played mandolin and drums to accompany them.
It was probably one of the better afternoon/evening/driving home 100km at midnight I've had in years.

(Jen, any town in WA is at least half an hour from the next, or 50km. Its quite different to the hamlet hop on the east coast, so the culture here is probably more introverted and stay at home, but given to longer desert drives to get out.)

sarah toa said...

Sorry Melba, that was a clumsy comment when I look on it again. I guess I was thinking about my Mum reading my work. Much as she is an awesome, gorgeous woman, getting her to read my writing would scare me a bit. I've just spent half a lifetime trying to protect her from my worst proclivities! So you must have a relationship with yours, for her to be your reader.

Melba said...

Hi Sarah, fret not! My mum is my reader more for her than for me. Meaning she is interested and if I left her out of the loop she would be hurt. And she does have really good feedback. I didn't think you comment clumsy at all, rather it makes sense considering mother-daughter thangs.

So I guess I'm lucky but also it's a good litmus test in other ways; to see if she doesn't follow/like then I know in some ways I'm on the right track. I don't bend to her sensibilities cause she needs things spelled out, and I don't like to spell things out.


Melba said...

And that sounds like the best party. Mandolin and drums. Hope we can get some mandolin and drums when I'm over there???

Melba said...

Alex, the Nazi obsession, and the Aryan thing: just because they're blond 'and hot' is all. For her. She's 17. She's not condoning or whatever...

Ya know?

Melba said...

Fuck I worry about bring pedos here with other comments and then I leave the ones like above. Let's see what happens... Do Not Want Aryan Nation people arriving in hoards to be mean and racist. But we can tell them to fuck off, yes?

Anonymous said...

I'm not exactly a social butterfly, but that does sound like a wonderful party, especially after the bloody weird, uncomfortable night I've just had (am happy to share, but it's a long story with little pay-off and bugger-all to do with anything else in this discussion). And big congratulations on your book. Go you!

Melbs, yes we can tell them to fuck off if they come here. The Nazi obsession didn't seem that strange to me. Lots of people are like that. There's been so many movies and docos about them. I think there's a channel on Pay TV now that just runs WWII docos, or something. It certainly is a big deal in modern history.

It was the "Aryans in particular" thing that caught my attention. I guess what you say makes sense though. I seem to remember one white girl from school who was "dead in heat for koori boys" (fuck, that sounds so nasty when I say it now, but I suppose we were nasty little sods).

But I thought you might have meant something different. I've known a few girls of "mixed race*" who've gone through stages of a kind of "white obsession", where's it's all like "Oh, I wish I could do something about my big ugly boong nose", etc. I got reminded as a lass that I had "a bit of a boong nose" too, but I was always fine with it, as far as I can recall (Now it looks like it's been busted a dozen time. On account of it having been busted a dozen times. I'm still fine with it).

But anyway, we're a lot further away from the White Oz policy now. And a lot of that was before all the affirmative-action, indigenous-pride stuff you have these days. Also, there was no Imparja/NITV back then. If you got TV, it was usually just pommy shows on the ABC. I think that probably makes a difference, too.

However, I look at all the negative press surrounding the middle-east, Islam, etc, now, and I wonder if kids/young-adults with that sort of appearance might not be going through the same sort of shit. In any case, I'm glad to hear that is not what's going on with Princess.

*Question for writers: When I'm using a term that I don't feel properly articulates the thought I'm trying to convey, I usually attempt to signal this short-fall with quote marks. Which makes them look like quotes. Is there a better way?

Melba said...

Yes it's just that she simply goes for blond guys; she herself has brown hair, blue eyes and olive skin. She doesn't 'look' Middle Eastern or Turkish - whatever that looks like - so it's nothing more than her just liking a certain type of look in guys. The way I always have liked guys with dark hair, she likes fair.

It's funny, I forget she is mixed race. She doesn't really look it, she's not really marked as 'other' to the dominant group; but there is something exotic about her that I find compelling, and others have commented on, but she can't see. I guess it's because I am so Celtic with my fair skin, (originally) fair/light-brown hair, blue eyes and freckles. BORING.

Tell the story of your day, I'd like to hear it?

Anonymous said...

Since I don't believe that race is a real thing, "mixed-race" is a bit of a nonsense for me anyway. But I understand that the belief in race amongst a whole lot of other people means that it causes real world problems that can't just be brushed off. I guess race is a bit like God, for me.


I suppose for just about everybody, looks are one of those things where the grass is always greener somewhere else.

Anyway, since you asked -- about last night...

This will require a bit of back story. So there's this bloke that I've done some work with and we're a bit chummy. Let's call him Marty. Marty's been with one woman his whole life. She has recently left him. Now he's looking for a replacement. In the meantime, to keep him company, Marty's rented a room to another work-friend. Let's call this one Sammo. Sammo swings both ways and has an incredibly filthy sense of humour with a mean, twisted, little barb on the end of it. He's also introduced Marty to recreational drugs.

Anyway, after quite a bit of effort, Marty's finally met a woman from his neighbourhood whom he considers a reasonable prospect. We'll call her Shirley. Marty's invited Shirley to a BBQ at his house. He's invited a bunch of other people too, but they've all said either no, maybe, or yes, but then cancelled. He's worried it's going to be himself, Shirley, Sammo and Sammo's boyfriend (Wazza), which would be awkward. So he asks me to come. I say no-thanks, but feel bad for the bloke, and allow myself to be talked around (It's a bit of a trip, so I'll be staying the night).

Marty puts on an absolute feast. Shirley turns up, WITH HER BOYFRIEND. There is one other woman there. I spend the whole night sitting between Shirley and the other woman, listening to them talk about their adorable little dogs, the pictures and videos of adorable little dogs they share on FaceBook, and then looking at pictures and videos of their adorable little dogs. Seriously. One subject. The whole fucking night.

After Shirley, her boyfriend and the other woman leave, Sammo and Wazza start absolutely taking the piss out of Marty.
Sammo: You reckon those two are rooting right now?
Wazza: You better believe it mate. Did you see the arse on her? I'd be hittin' that every chance I got.
Sammo: Fuckin' oath. I'm surprised we can't hear 'em from here.
And on and on. Marty gives a weak laugh, goes away for ten minutes and comes back smelling of weed. Sammo and Wazza continue.
Sammo: I'm so fuckin' glad I gave the weed away.
Wazza: Yeah, it fucks you up. Gives you all these stupid fuckin' plans and ideas that never materialise because they're all just fuckin' bullshit.
And on and on. I help with clean-up and go to bed.

This morning, I'm having breakfast with Marty and he starts asking me all this shit about "What did you think of Shirley?", "Do you really think she was that into the bloke she was with?", "Do you think she looked interested in me, at all?". I tell him not to be stupid and come home. End of story.

Moral: Fucked if I know. Be more forceful about saying no to things maybe.

The one good thing to come of it all: Shirley's boyfriend mentions there's a shitty remake of the 1976 movie "Carrie" out. I rewatch the original this afternoon. Really good movie that one.

sarah toa said...

Alex, I hope you are writing these stories down (other than the comments section). They are just great.

Jen, I'm having a word about the mandolin and drums for you. x

Anonymous said...

They are just great.

... Really?

Melba said...

Yeah mixed race does sound weird. It's something whiteys say I suppose. All those inelegant and even racist terms. Um, she's a hybrid, is that better? Or a halfie. Maybe we don't think like that because it is irrelevant and talking like this is weird and clumsy. She is her own good self.

That *was* a good story Alex. But what I don't get was Sammo and Wazza going on about how they'd 'hit that' are they both 'bi' and at the moment with a dude, so what's that about? CONFUSED.

If it makes you feel any better the last two nights poor Clokes and I have been at obligato dinners where the food has been delicious and the company has been a tad complicated. And today we have his father's 80th birthday lunch and I need to go and get ready for it and that will be a bit of a tedious trial as well. So THREE obligatory meals in three days. Hate it.

Original Carrie is good and the book was good too. Love early King stories.

Mandolins and drums: really Sarah? Oh exciting... And btw, am going to Winton tomorrow night to hear him talk about his book and I am really pretty excited to think that I am going to Winton Country next year. Wow.

I've got your launch date in the diary. Not far now. Is it private invitation? Can I mention it on my other blog?

Have to go and get dressed. Spose I should have a shower too.

Anonymous said...

Maybe we don't think like that because it is irrelevant and talking like this is weird and clumsy. She is her own good self.

I think that hits it on the head nicely. When you discuss these issues, you have to use some term or other, and everyone has their own politics about what words are racist and who can say what under what circumstances and whatever else. Personally, I'm not bothered, so long as the intent isn't malicious. But yes, in day-to-day life, I think it would be marvellous if we could all just be our own good selves and never mind the rest of the bollocks.


As far as I understand it, Sammo and Wazza are both bi, and their relationship is not monogamous. I guess they are like best mates with benefits.

I don't know Wazza that well because I've never worked with him, and I don't normally spend much time with any of these people outside of a work-related context.

Sammo has pictures of nude women wallpapered on everything, but he seems to much prefer the company of men. He cracks a lot of "women are only good for rootin" type jokes. He's the sort of bloke where, if someone (male or female) asks him to do something, the standard response is "Are you gonna suck me dick?" So yeah, absolute fuckin' charmer. On the flip side, when he turns his cuntiness powers on someone who deserves it (that sounds weird) it can be quite funny and impressive to watch. He's also very, very good at his job. And he's not grabby, or two-faced or sleazy in that way. Just mouthy and vulgar and monotonous.

I suppose, since I grew up around woolsheds and that, I've got skin a mile thick when it comes to that shit. It does make me think sometimes about boys-clubs and hostile work environments for women and all that and wonder if it's worth saying something. But really, what's it going to achieve?


Good luck with lunch. By the time you read this, I suppose you'll be able to fill us in on how it went. In the future, maybe it would help to promise yourself a rewatching of a good old film when you get through something like that. Or something. At any rate, I hope nobody pulled out a phone and assaulted you with a video of their dog.

Melba said...

Hi Alex thanks for the extra info on Sammo and Wazza. Appreciated.

The lunch was ok, but I tell you, for a while there a few days ago I felt like I was running on empty. I am hermetic, and like it that way, so when I had a run of things I had to do, which stretched for like 8 whole days, it was a tad tedious. Back to the cave now. I think I'm a bit of a man in that way.

Anonymous said...

I also like my tiny fortress of solitude ... when it's not full of rellies and what-not.

Maybe it being a "man thing" is just more baseless gender stereotyping?

Melba said...

Prolly Alex. I'm as good at pulling out stereotypes as the next man/woman.

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