Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The thing, it be done


Well, I sent off my manuscript to the agent. She said she'll take about a week to ten days to get back to me. Am I shitting myself? Yes. Do I feel relieved? Yes. Can I stop checking my emails? No. Will I die if she doesn't like it. Yes.

On another matter, the act of reading. I am learning more and more that reading is such an intensely personal thing. For a long time I didn't really think about it, or if I did, thought the above sentence meant that people will choose different books to read, and like different books, based on individual taste. What I'm learning is that even when people read the same book, it's a different experience for everyone.

Exhibit 1: all the reviews I've seen for Barracuda are either glowing (Peter Craven) or reasonable.

Exhibit 2: yesterday on twitter I saw a thread of people BAGGING Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch. When the week before I'd said how much I ADORED it.

I told my mother about the second thing.

Oh you don't have to read all that, do you?

(Maybe she thought the twitter people were conversing with me, and disagreeing with my take on the book. I don't think she gets twitter. Fair enough, many don't.)

They weren't talking to me, mum, I said. They were talking to each other and I was eavesdropping. Twitter is public like that.

Oh, she said. (We had just been to a talk on the Cult of Wagner, ft. The Ring Cycle, more about that later) and I was in her place borrowing some hideous '70s stuff for a themed party coming up. I was also having two spoons of Maggie Beer's Passionfruit ice-cream, which mum had in the freezer and had mentioned as we were driving hom.

Back to the twitter thing. It's true that if I say I don't like eating fish, and you do, neither of us find it an insult. But if you say you hate The Goldfinch and I say I love it - because somehow it's connected to either intellect or judgement - it's possible to get your nose out of joint. Yesterday, reading the thread, didn't bother me but it did fascinate me. They used the word 'hate', they said it read like a first draft and was filled with 'howlers'. I was too scared to ask what a howler is. Is it a mistake? Is it something that is cringingly badly written? Both?

I wanted to intellectualise my response, and theirs. All of them were young, under 30 I reckon. Whereas me and Tartt are of a similar era. Actually just looked her up, I'm precisely 3 weeks older than her. So we're twins.  The books we've grown up reading, particularly the maximalist 19th century novels such as Dickens, whose works her book echoes and who she read as a child and young woman, and for John Irving, reading him as a teenager/young woman, and Irving was influenced by and loved Dickens, I wonder whether that context has something to do with it. We love to read what is familiar and comforting. If we can have comfort food, why not comfort reading? I like different and new but the books I can really get lost in and forget I'm reading, are books like The Goldfinch.

And so, to The Ring. Last night the Wheeler Centre hosted another event (I've been to a bunch lately) and it was Julia Zemiro talking to a bunch of people about Wagner's The Ring Cycle. (Bunch of people being director Neil Armfield, foodie Maggie Beer, poet and writer Peter Rose and arts-theatre person Robyn Archer.) It was a chat about the cult of Wagner and how some people (like Rose) are just nuts about The Ring Cycle. Mum is going, she got last-minute tickets after thinking it had all been sold out. So she's thrilled and excited and I'm wondering how she could possibly sit through 18 hours of opera when I have fallen asleep in a normal show (Carmen, late '80s, not my bag baby.) What fascinated me was the way people talk about this production, and the stories attached. Rose spoke of seeing it in Germany and the performers almost staggering around on-stage, swilling from water bottles as they performed. Archer spoke about the audience applause - for the performers, for the orchestra and also for themselves for enduring the thing. Characters like Brünnhilde and Siegfried, and Valkyries. Well, I do have a thing for German characters and the language, and while I don't have a thing for opera, I am going to find out more about it. It appeals.

If anyone is interested in reading more of what Peter Rose has to say about it, here is an article in the Australian Book Review. 

But it will have to wait, because for now I move onto the next project, a novella which is Bladerunner mixed with Helen Garner's The Spare Room. I'm excited because it's not like the previous two (let's call them my 19th century lyrical novels). This is realist and short and in the first person. As Borat would say, wa wa wee wah.


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Anonymous said...

You're writing a short sci-fi story that poses philosophical questions about mortality and medical ethics? Oh, please do tell me you're going to let me read that one!

The thing about differences of opinion and that:

I think it helps if you try to make a distinction between an (attempted) objective judgement of merit and personal taste. I don't begrudge anyone loving Blue Poles, but I do begrudge them describing it as an example of elite craftsmanship. I remember coming out of Burn After Reading thinking, "Wow, that was a pretty good movie -- that I didn't really enjoy at all". On the other hand Death Race 200 isn't a great film by any stretch of the imagination, but I absolutely love it.

For me, one of the fun things about discussing this stuff with other people is untangling and examining the two things, to see where one ends and the other begins -- both for myself and others.

But, when it comes to online discussion at least, I don't think many people are interested in separating the two. If they didn't like something, it was obviously shit, and if they did, it was a work of genius. If you disagree, you're either a jealous hater or a rabid fangirl.

Also, I am with your mum as one of those people who don't get Twitter. How nuanced can a literary discussion get when you're limited to 140 characters?


Finally had to break out the fan here. It is warm. Hailed too. And there's been savage house-wrecking winds. How's the weather in Melbourne town?

Melba said...

Ooh that gives me an idea, Alex. No, really it's the rain from Bladerunner and a house-guest idea from garner. Nothing too elaborate or sciencey though I like your suggestions. Euthanasia in the rain with hovercrafts?

Yes I think sometimes we just have to love what we love and leave it at that.

On twitter there are no nuanced discussions. For me it's about making connections and that's all. Genuine ones, but also potentially helpful ones.

Weather now is nice down here, today and yesterday but over the weekend it was pretty blech. Ya know, Melbs is fucked like that. Hopefully now we are settling a little. HAH!

Can you tell me where you are in terms of city? I don't think I know. Come on, we've known each other for years now, can you give me that?

Melba said...