Sunday, November 03, 2013

Tim Winton's EYRIE





So what do we think of Winton generally and has anyone read Eyrie? There seems to be a bit of Winton-bagging that goes on in this country, I'm not wrong am I?

I'm trying to work out what it might be about him. Is it the ponytail? Is it the success? The blokeiness and the fact that he doesn't seem to give a rat's arse about celebrity and fame.

I'm wondering whether we need our heroes to be failures? A la Kelly, Burke & Wills, Eureka. Sports people who always come unstuck (off the ground is okay, on the ground is not.)

What is it about us as Australians that makes us want to tear successful people down? Are other nationalities like this?

What's the deal?

And in other news, went to the beach yesterday god it was lovely and quite surreal to be there in the warm sun, in bathers, while today back in Melbs it's cold, wet and 16 degrees.

14 comments:

sarah toa said...

It wasn't the ponytail, it was the first ten pages.
However, after I got past both of them, I stayed awake until 4 am finishing off the book.

Melba said...

Yes those first few pages were a bit meh but then it got rool good. Am reading The Goldfinch now and loving it (Max Smart voice.)

Alex said...

I don't know anything about Winton or his books, but to your broader point:

This is one of those things that I hear getting discussed from time to time that I don't really understand. To illustrate what I mean, let me highlight some examples.

• At different times in my life, I've been enthralled by the works of H.G. Wells, Frank L. Baum & Rudyard Kipling, but I couldn't tell you a bloody thing about who they were.

Platinum Grit is probably one of my favourite comics of all time (despite being unfinished). And I think Oglaf is very good. So I guess that makes Trudy Cooper one of my favourite cartoonists (I see she's also done some work on an ABC short called Barnacle Bill's, something, something (you can find it on iView) that I think is alright). However, regardless of how much I like her work, I just can't bring myself to be particularly interested in Trudy herself.

• I really like the band Rammstein, probably have all their albums, and think some of their music videos are amongst the best I've seen. But I couldn't even tell you the band member's names.

It's not that I actively avoid information on the people who create the things I enjoy. I just don't feel compelled to seek it out. I don't desire to feel close to these people. And I guess, when I admire or enjoy a work, I form strong feelings about the work itself, but not the person who created it. I only form those sorts of feelings if I happen to get to know the person. And don't get me wrong, it's not like I don't feel anything at all about people I don't know; I'm the sort of person who frequently gets upset hearing about unjust things happening to people I've never met, and that sort of thing; it's just that I don't really care about them more than any other person that I don't know personally.

It's probably also why I can't get into celebrity gossip or feel passionate about sport; and I don't feel compelled to lionise historical figures like Kelly & Co, either. Using the people I know as a yardstick, I guess my position on this is the unusual one, but I just don't "get" the alternative. Anyone want to have a go at explaining it?

Melba said...

I get what you're saying Alex. I suppose for me it's more thinking about why people don't seem to like Winton, the person or his persona. As you say, what does it really matter? It doesn't affect (or shouldn't) how you feel about a person's work/art. But I'm interested in it anyway.

Maybe it's about finding connections and working out stuff about ourselves and our own responses, when we can hold well-known people up to the light to see the pin holes. I don't know. You do realise I just crap on mostly here...

And hey, saw on Sarah's you might go west (young man). Can you go west when I'm there? we could have such a loverly time. Me and Sarah boring you about Tim Winton and his ponytail.

PPPPPLLLLLEEEEEAAAAASSSSEEEEEE

Alex said...

You do realise I just crap on mostly here...

Good. It makes me feel better about the torrent of tiresome shit that I'm rambling on with.

***

Of course well-known people are going to have pin-holes when you hold them up to the light; they're people, right? Sometimes the holes are going to be massive and gaping. The question I stumble on is, why are well-known-people problems somehow more fascinating than regular-people-problems. Why is famous-writer-X's arrogance, or substance abuse, or marital issues, more significant and, I don't know, "personally affecting (?)" to people than, say, their local butcher's? Maybe that's a reflection of my having lived for a lot of years in places where you knew all the local butcher's problems (as well as everyone else's), but my question still stands.

I think the one that boggles my mind the most are the people who seem to want to defend Roman Polanski by talking about how great his films are. Aren't the two things (the greatness of the work and the crimes of the man) completely separate? Same goes for Richard Wagner and, well, any controversial artist you care to name.

***

I don't know what's going to happen, regarding the move. While I do want to go back to WA eventually, I don't really want to flee there with my tail between my legs. I dunno. It depends on how much of a witch-hunt this whole bikie thing becomes. If it gets walked back, or if they decide to double down. At the moment, it's just some people I know being hassled by police, so no real biggy.

As you probably know, there's no upper house in our parliament. If Newman dismantles/cows/co-opts the CMC & the CJC, he can pretty much do as he pleases. I didn't spend much time in QLD during the days of Joh, but I've heard the stories from friends and rellies. Scary stuff.

When are you going West, again?

Melba said...

Well known people problems are more fascinating because it makes them human and makes us 'mere mortals' feel better about our small lives to know they are as flawed as we are. ? I don't know. I think people talk about Polanski (and maybe Woody Allen) in that way because art is seen to come from within, from the same place that a person's character and essence are stored, so somehow it seems weird that a dickhead creep can produce such beautiful or intelligent or impressive work. People can't reconcile it, but I think it's a naive view.

Am going west next Feb for the Perth Writers Festival which runs 20 - 23 Feb. Then I think there's another local writers festival in Albany which Sarah mentioned. We haven't worked out dates yet but somewhere around there.

Your mention of bikies is interesting. I'm not reading the papers and avoiding anything political - I just fuzz my eyelashes and edit Abbott et al out of my life. Have seen some mention of things in QLD that are horrendously undemocratic but don't know any of the particulars. BUt sounds like stupid stupid stuff. People being arrested for writing on the pavement with chalk. It's back to the Bjelke-Petersen feel. I remember that feel even from down south. How wrong and anachronistic it was; how unAustralian (and that's a term I've always hated and never used.)

So it might be affecting your business or your 'life style'? Do we get some Alex inside info?

Alex said...

But being well-known isn't even really something you do, is it? It's to do with how much other people take notice of what you do, right? In any field -- acting, writing, singing, painting, etc -- there are unknown people who are much better than the well known people. There are people who are top of the field in fields that nobody outside of the field really cares about. There are people who are well-known, seemingly, for having done nothing remarkable at all. And what about people who only achieve notoriety after they die?

I think the point I'm trying to make is that, to me it seems, being well-known isn't directly related to achievement or any sort of "specialness"; it's just a measure of how many people are looking at you at a particular point in time.

So, where does the fascination at the difference between well-known people and the little lives of mere mortals factor into it again? I'm sorry, I think I might be losing track of things a little bit.

Alex said...

Do we get some Alex inside info?

Sure. Why not? I'm too young to remember some of this, but as the story goes:

After Vietnam, Dad, along with some of his mates, left the army in disgust and formed an outlaw motorcycle club. You probably wouldn't know the name if I said it; I think they were subsumed into one of the more notable clubs in the 80s, or something.

Anyway, for the first few years, they were all about racing speedway. I guess, after being in combat, it was something about the danger and adrenalin or something. I dunno. As time went on, the club grew, and the drug culture took over. Dad, and some of the other originals, threw in their colours, and our family went bush and worked on various sheep stations and such.

But Dad never lost his interest in bikes; and, growing up in the country, I became quite involved with them as well. Personally, I still quite like bikes. They're cheaper to buy, cheaper to run, cheaper to register, cheaper to repair, easier to repair, and easier on the environment. In fact, the worst thing about being on a bike, from my perspective, is that you're always in danger of being run over by dickheads in cars.

Anyway, after we became townies again, Dad connected with other Vietnam vets. It turned out, a lot of them had similar medical problems (both physical and psychological), had health problems with their children, miscarriages, etc. He got into the vets' support and advocacy circles, and, as it turns out, a lot of Vietnam vets had also become bikies. I got to know some of those fellas, and, as you do, met other people through those people.

Look, I'm not going to sugar coat it. Some of those blokes are violent, selfish, thuggish criminals, and I completely agree that the police should go after those particular individuals.

On the other hand, what we've ended up with is these wierd laws that, as far as I understand them (and I'm not a lawyer), say that if you've ever had an "association" with a group (formal or informal) of three or more people, who've been involved in criminal activity, there are special rules, and special mandatory sentences, that apply particularly to you. One of the rules being, that you're no longer allowed to "associate" with that (formal or informal) group (???)

Presumably, this was all meant to give police the widest possible powers when dealing with the criminal elements within the bikie culture. But, since a lot of the bikies have responded to the new laws by taking off their colours and dissolving their clubs, now everybody on a bike is apparently considered a potential suspect.

I don't know where this is going. If it's a short term stunt, I guess it doesn't matter. If it's an indicator of what's to come ... I dunno. This whole thing about criminal "association" has me worried. At what point would I be considered an "associate" -- at which point these special rules and mandatory sentences kick in? How would I even know?

Alex said...

I agree with both your sentiments on "UnAustralian", but to make a small side example on the point of being "undemocratic": If you're a homosexual who lives in a place where a majority of your countrymen feel that you don't deserve the same rights as them, that's unfortunate and unfair for you, but it's not really undemocratic. Not if my understanding of the word is correct. Perfectly democratic processes are capable of producing appalling results. This is where you get into the topic of why leaders need to "lead" and the problems with populism and demagoguery.

In fact, at the moment, we have judges up here making public explanations as to why it would be wrong for them to factor in "the will of the people" when making rulings. This is in direct opposition to the government, which is buoyed by the knowledge that nobody ever lost votes for being "tough on crime"; regardless of how counter-productive their actions were, or how many innocent* people got damaged in the process. Everyone loves tough-on-crime, so long as it doesn't mean tough on them.

*(And, like the drunk rape victim in the short skirt, how many of us can say we've never done "anything" to deserve it.)

Alex said...

*blech* I really should have put a little more thought into -- or at least done a proofread on -- that mess before I posted it. It reads like it was written by a drunk.

Sorry about that.

Melba said...

Thanks for the low-down & the family stuff Alex. And I get what you say about democracy, or democratic process: definitely. Don't worry about the comments - not a mess. Understood. I get where you're coming from about celebrity as well, I'm not arguing with you about any of that. Celebrity or notoriety isn't always about ability; in fact usually not to do with ability.

Alex said...

This week's Qld state 7.30 Report is well worth checking out for their interview with the attorney general on this topic. The title of the page says it's about sex offenders but that only comes up at the end. But on the subject, did you know we now have laws up here in the deep dark wilderness that say the state government can keep you imprissoned indefinitely (yes, beyond the period of your court sentence) if they think you're "dangerous"?

Also, I think Leigh Sales might do well to take some notes on interview technique from this bloke. Or go back and look at some of her own, older work. I think she's getting too soft and "chummy" with the pollies these days. My Mum reckons it's probably 'cause she's had a bub, but I wonder if it's all that innocent. After she humiliated Abbott about a year ago, he stopped doing interviews on the ABC, and has only just started again (I noticed the other night, he was scolding her for using "negative terms", too). If being a nice girl gets you all the big-name guests and being a hard bitch gets you nothing but angry letters about bias, which way do you reckon you're most likely to (subconsciously?) skew?

Maybe it's a management thing at the ABC. I don't know how the office politics works there. Whatever it is, I hope it passes. I'm pretty sure I used to like Sales.

little hat said...

Hey Melba and Alex - I really enjoyed this exchange. Felt like I was in the pub sitting across from you both or perhaps in the next booth eavesdropping. As a Queenslander who was here thru the BJP days it has an uncannily familiar feeling including the targetting of the arts. I was part of a small community theatre company who had our schools touring show blacklisted because one of the characters was advocating for his character mates to go on strike. It was just too hot for the high school kids to handle apparently. They might have gone out and firebombed police stations after seeing our show. The power of art! I'm going to get out my trusty piece of chalk tonight and really create havoc on the streets.

Alex said...

Hey Little Hat. I have rellies who were considered "undesirables" in the Joh days, who reckon the police would regularly come and trash their homes -- under the pretense of looking for contraband -- but mainly as an incentive for them to "move along".

I used to know one old bikie who was a cop in those days. He reckoned he worked directly under Hinze, and spent most of his days shaking down sex-workers for protection money.

I don't think we're there yet, but it's early days and I tend to think the unicameral nature of the parliament here makes the slope slipperier than it is in other states. And after Power-Point-Pete and Captain Bligh, I can't say I've got much faith in the other mob either.

I say get out there with your chalk Mr Hat. Make something lovely.

***

Melbs, remember when we talked about OITNB, and about how I didn't really relate to the "white bread world" (as you nicely put it) of the main character? Well, I saw this story on the ABC last night and thought you might find it interesting/illuminating.