Friday, March 28, 2014

Friday report

1. The rugs are gone
2. The ex is gone
3. He got his visa but only for a year
4. Which means he will be back, within a year
5. The weather has gone dark
6. I don't like that
7. My mum's dear old school friend's dog died. I wrote her a card to say how sorry I was (I knew how upset she was, because my mum told me. This is a woman without a partner and without children. Her dogs are her family. You know the type.) In the card I said I'd written a poem about her dog, but that I wasn't enclosing it because I didn't want to presume. But if she wanted it, now or in the future, I would send it to her. The day she got the card she rang and left a message saying she would love to have the poem. I sent the poem, it took me a few days because at the moment everything is taking me longer than I'd like. The day she got the poem, yesterday, again she rang and left a message on my phone. She was sobbing, saying how much it meant to her, how beautiful it was, that even though she was crying, the poem helped. And that she loved it, and loved me for writing it. This filled my heart.
8. I have been sick for months now but am starting to feel better. Coughing up less gunk, coughing less generally. Feeling less sinus'y. But headaches still. Chest x-ray clear. Nose swab for whooping cough clear. (Fuck, just on that, the doctor measured my index finger length against the probey stick, then shoved it up my nose to that length. It was horrible.) Also sputum sample, tested for parasites: clear. (A friend of mine had a gut parasite, he's the airline dude who gave me his flying benefits. Has been to Hong Kong a lot, thinks he got it there. But he was using tap water to brush teeth and rinse. We didn't.) So next is blood tests. I'll do those next week. Also am seeing naturopath again next week, to do more work with healthful living, ie maybe a liver cleanse thing. My liver has never been cleansed/detoxed; I'm sure it needs it. I've been avoiding alcohol, and am feeling good about that. Sleeping really well. Waking up feeling good especially when I remember I didn't have X glasses of wine the night before.
9. Am going to P's school musical production tomorrow night with my Mum. P will be there as well, not sitting with us, but with a friend. Looking forward to that.
10. Need to get back to the walking, plus Alex has given me some exercise tips for strength building. Will start on those as well. Did I mention my bone density test? Spine = fine; hip not so. Haven't been back to doctor about that yet.
11. While on health issues, my daughter has got Supra Ventricular Tachycardia. It's basically the heart's electrics oversupplying and she can get palpitations. There are three options: do nothing (it's not dangerous); go on medication for the rest of her life; have a procedure called a catheter ablation. We are seeing doctors at the moment and looking into the ablation. There are risks. This scares me shitless. But one doctor said that they could get worse, and she could have episodes that go for days, and if she is travelling overseas like all good Aussie-backpacker-younguns, and is somewhere remote or somewhere with hospitals you would avoid, it could be problematic. He also said with pregnancy,  it could be another strain on the body. I went back to see him yesterday to clarify a couple of things and talk to him about getting a second opinion. So we will do that.
12. Nothing has happened with the MS.
13. I have gone back to the first one and am radically revising it, just playing around with it to see what it would look like with major changes. It's a bit exciting and scary cause I really liked it as it was. But it needs a contract. Also it's years since I wrote it and came up with the story/structure. My question to myself was: How would I write this story now, with the development I've had since I wrote it. It's an interesting question.
14. Then I have a Plan A and a Plan B depending what happens with the current MS (let's call is SUGAR). If it gets a contract, I go to Plan A, which is writing a new book which is 'in the style of' the first two MSS. If SUGAR gets shelved, then I go to Plan B which is one of two project ideas, that are different. Different in voice, in focus and in aperture of the lens. One I have about 30,00 words of what will be 49,000 words (this is the one I described earlier as Helen Garner's The Spare Room meets Bladerunner, which is a very poor description and got Alex a bit excited.) The other one is something completely new, which I've done nothing on other than collect news clippings. Let's call this one GOD. Then there's another project idea which could fit into Plan B, called BIG, but unlike GOD it would be very long and very complex. GOD is pretty simple, the idea of it in my head. Sorry. This is boring but it's helping me process it all.
15. TGIF
16. On Monday, my work partner and I are teaching a group of Year 12 girls, and the topic is sexual assault. With this school we were running sessions on pornography at Years 11 and 12 (as well as another session at each year level, Year 11s on contraception - yes, we do do contra earlier, then we recap) and Year 12 the other session is all things pregnancy. We realised two sessions on porn wasn't necessary so have replaced the Year 12 porn session with a new program on sexual assault. It will be interesting to say the least, but luckily we recently did some training, so are more skilled and confident to discuss, especially around things like disclosure, and the language to use. And activities. I'm looking forward to it.
17. I submitted an essay to Overland journal and they declined it saying it wasn't polemic enough. Interesting.
18. The dog needs a bath and I need to cut out the matted hair underneath.
19. Yesterday I got a text from Sarah Toa about a tiger snake that had taken up residence in her bush hut. And also that she is up there at her bush block to kill a Queen bee (she has started bee-keeping.) So she is up there, sleeping in her car, because of this snake. Man I love that woman. When I was with her, and we were out of Albany, looking around, going to beaches and caves, we walked up a river and the track was pretty bushy and grown over. At one stage there wasn't much of a track at all. When we walked, Sarah was stepping heavily. I am not such a city-slicker that I don't know what that means. So I was fucking stomping, very uncool. She was much more considered about it. Then she told me she'd been up there with a friend, and as they'd walked they'd scared a dugite which had rushed up the branch of a shrub to get away from them and then dropped out of the plant and fallen back onto the path. Just imagining this makes me feel strange. I'm ok with snakes if they're not going to bite me and aren't poisonous. I've held snakes, they don't freak me out I think they're wonderful. (Spiders are my freak out, but only big ones. I can hold Daddy Longlegs and move them outside). Anyway. I only recently found out dugites are snakes. For me, they were always an '80s band. But at least I knew it before we were on that path and I didn't say to Sarah: What's a dugite?
20. Am finishing reading a book called A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing, by an Irish writer Eimear McBride. This book took 6 months to write, and 9 years to get published (I love the way these things can become part of a marketing plan.) Part of the reason it was considered unpublishable, or unsaleable, was the voice. It is a Joycean stream of consciousness and pretty hard to read. Hard to sustain over a long period. The book itself is not that long, I'd say middling. And the narrator is a young child in the beginning, and as she grows up, so does the voice a little. It's very disjointed, you are inside her head, and inside her head is not a great place to be because the other thing is the content is pretty confronting. Lots of pain and sadness in her life, some might say the 'typical Irish family story.' Here's a sample of the writing, the opening page:

For you. You'll soon. You'll give her name. In the stitches of her skin she'll wear your say. Mammy me? Yes you. Bounce the bed, I'd say. I'd say that's what you did. Then lay you down. They cut you round. Wait and hour and day.
          Walking up corridors up the stairs. Are you alright? Will you sit, he says. No. I want she says. I want to see my son. Smell from dettol through her skin. Mops diamond floor tiles all as strong. All the burn your eyes out if you had some. Her heart going pat. Going dum dum dum. Don't mind me she's going to your room. See the. Jesus. What have they done? Jesus. Bile for. Tidals burn. Ssssh. All over. Mother. She cries. Oh no. Oh no no no.

This is the voice of the very young protagonist, whose name we don't find out. There's her mother, and the 'you' she mentions is her older brother.

Here is some text from later in the book, where she is about 19 or 20:

I pace chew. Jesus. Does he know a thing? You did always. Yes you. Always had. Your hand your foot a bit. No problems please her and nothing new. Hear Ahhh. Hear open wide. Hear squeeze my hand. No. Harder than that. Now the hardest you can. Both at once. Now right then left. Don't wig I say to myself. You'll soon know full well. Wipe the kitchen over. This j-cloth. This scouring pad.
          Above I hear her turning. Hit her headboard with her prayers. Why don't you shut up? No now. You're here to care I say. I say so don't complain. You're clean here. You're calm and kind. I hear. Her shuffle. Her move. Across the floor. Are you down there? she shouts. Did you get the door? Yes. Did the doctor come in he? Yes he's with now. Put that kettle on. I'm coming down now to see him. He's. I'll talk to him when he's done. Yes Mammy. Don't. He'll not I'd say be in there long.


What I want to know is how she wrote this? Did she write in more standard prose and then move everything, cut things, put in full stops, create this effect OR did she write it like this, first time? Either way, it's pretty amazing, but it does feel a bit tricksy and it is definitely a one-time-only kind of deal. This book is on the prestigious UK Bailey's Prize longlist (formerly known as the Orange Prize) and has been on other lists and won prizes. I'm not sure that I think it should win. I don't think it will.

Anyway, that's it for me. Over and out, have a good weekend.



6 comments:

sarah toa said...

Hi Jen,
So much in there! But firstly tachycardia is frightening to experience and I only had it when pregnant so I can imagine the ramifications with a healthy non-pregnant teen.

The book reworking sounds really exciting. Once I've written something, it is hard for me to revisit and rework it. It always feels like I've got my shit off my liver, so to speak, and if anyone else wants to have a go at it - they are welcome! But getting the distance of time is a beautiful thing.

And that dugite I told you about that day ... it climbed up a flat face of rock (not a tree), failed, and flopped most unhappily at my feet. Aussie and I were both quite freaked out. But on that track I've come across quite a few snakes. It's their happy hunting ground, right next to the reeds and the river. The pythons are beautiful, sanguine critters.

Alex said...

I'm pressed for time, so will address only a few of these:

8. I'd be interested in finding out exactly what a liver-cleanse entails and exactly what and how it's cleansing the liver of. I have my suspicions about these things.

11. Sorry to hear about P's health problems. I can only suggest that you do as much research on the problem as you can before you make any decisions. Avoid confirmation bias, and don't believe any old shit you find on the internet (but you know that, already).

14. It sounds like you are very busy, with many balls in the air, writing wise.

16. This sounds like a splendid thing to me. Everyone should get taught at school how to identify sexual assault and what to do about it.

17. You should have called somebody a cunt.

19. The real question is, why haven't there been any posts from Sarah about tiger snakes and bee-keeping?

I'm not surprised you didn't know what a dugite was; you only get them over west. Like you, I'm not scared of snakes, per-se; but I like to think I'm duly cautious of any animal that can do me a mischief. I think too many people watch those wildlife adventure type shows and think they understand what goes on in an animal's head. Well, I'll bet old Steve Irwin thought he had that bloody sting-ray pretty well sussed out too, and look what happened to him.

People get complacent around domesticated animals too, and like to think of them as having human personalities; but it wouldn't be the first time that a “harmless” family dog has mauled a kid, or a placid old milking cow has bowled someone over and trampled them (especially Friesians – they're kind of arseholes – give me a Jersey any day). I remember getting reminded as a kid to, “Never, ever walk behind any horse, no matter how quiet and tame it is. Your uncle Ernie did, and that's why he's a bit simple and has a funny shaped head”.

20. I can't imagine trying to read a whole book like that. Those two excerpts were more than enough, thank you.

Melba said...

Sorry it was such a spew of a post. These are more for me than any of you. Sarah, somehow I made that story into a bush... how the storytelling works, but a rock, well, no less impressive!

Alex I knew you'd be suss on the liver-cleansing thing. I have read also that it's a ridiculous notion, that the liver IS the cleanser. I guess what it means is doing a detox, ie going really healthy and flushing out the system. Avoiding sugar and alcohol and stuff. I will report back.

To you both, thanks for your words about my daughter's thing. Will get second opinion and see where we go from there. She's 17 so is going to drive the decision-making herself. I just need to make sure she's well informed to be able to consent to one thing or another (including doing nothing.)

Alex said...

19. cont …

Ask and you shall receive, it seems. Not only did I get a great post about bee-keeping and tiger-snakes, but it even had a Kipling-esque title. Sweet.

jennifer anderson said...

wow that book reads about like the closed captioning in a Russian movie, lol, simply doesn't translate well for me!

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