Menu lock

ewf1So first of all, I had too many wines at the Emerging Writers’ Festival artist party on Friday, so I didn’t roll up until about 1pm yesterday. The Town Hall was PACKED with moleskine-carrying, tweeting, emerging writer-types of all ages.

Pictured: Tiggy Johnson and I at the EWF artist par-tay.

Before I go into the delicious panels I sampled, let’s talk a bit more about that party. I’ve had a bit of a thing in the past about trying to nail down one or two people and actually having a meaningful conversation with them. But last night I was all like ‘f**k that, I’m going to talk to everybody’. Unfortunately I missed out on a few lovely heads, but all in all I did pretty well. Highlights included – Jess Friedmann’s warm lipsticked grin (she’d just handed in her Honours thesis) and having an impassioned conversation with Craig Schuftan re David Bowie and other musical greats (did you know Diamond Dogs is probably my favourite album? ‘We Are The Dead’/‘1984’/‘Big Brother’ FTW). Actually, I can’t remember much else about the night except faces and smiles and nodding a whole lot and being like ‘YEAH, GREAT’.

Afterwards I went to meet G & drink on at his place with the Muppets, but I hear at Horse Bazaar, where EWF folks kicked on, some fun was had by a very nice and talented writer on a mechanical bull. I wonder if this adventure will make his next book?

The first panel I went to yesterday was called Never Surrender, hosted by Stu Hatton. Paul Callaghan, Elizabeth Campbell, Sean Condon and Dee White spoke about rejection. The enthusiastic and sexy-accented Paul Callaghan provided some gems. He acknowledged that ‘every day as writers we fail’. Not only that, as human beings we fail every day – as people, as game players etc. (Paul is a games developer and writer, among other things.) Failure, he said, is ‘fundamental’ to the learning process, and to the play process – experimenting and figuring out how the world works. For Paul, it’s not something to be avoided, but something to ‘reframe’. Failure and rejection are ‘awesome’ because they’ll ‘teach you about yourself’ and about the world you live in. Every rejection, for Paul, has felt different. It’s never nice, but it’s something you live with.

Dee White’s YA novel is called Letters to Leonardo. It took ten years and ten drafts but Dee said if you stick with a story you love, if you really believe in it, you’ll get there in the end. She also suggested not just having one project, or one submission, out in the world at a time. It provides a kind of buffer zone of hope.

ewf2

Pictured: Ms LiteraryMinded does Town Hall.

Sean Condon is a published author of several books but in recent years he’s faced a lot of rejection. A current manuscript was rejected by 36 agents this year! (I think that was overseas agents.) Condon was funny and quite controversial. The humour came from his being overtly literal and explaining/analysing everything he said, ie. quoting VS Naipul and saying ‘he said … in his Indian accent’, and (reading his own article) ‘says me, in 2006, on the page’. The controversy was his naming and berating one specific Australian publisher. I know quite a few people who’ve had extremely positive experiences with the same publisher, so I felt he was being a bit bombastic. I think, in today’s saturated book market, where editors are receiving a gazillion emails a day, perhaps they just don’t have the time to reply to everything. It’s a shame, but it’s the way it is, I suppose.

Elizabeth Campbell writes poetry, and has a collection called Letters to the Tremulous Hand. She said failure is not only inevitable but it’s productive. She reckons it’s ‘very easy to get poetry published in Australia’. I’d say it probably is if you work as hard as her on the poems. She said out of the hundred or so she starts in a year, she’d see about twenty through. She said you fail every time you write, really, because you’re always trying for the poem, but if you actually wrote the poem you’d have no need to write anymore. Thus, as ‘exquisitely painful’ as she finds writing, she is compelled to go on. ‘Set out to fail extraordinarily and internationally’, was her advice. There’s no use just trying to please the small pool of people you know. In Australia, she said, poets fail anyway because there’s no audience and no critical culture. Shi-it! I guess you just gots to write what you gots to write.

The second panel I went to was Mining the Personal. Benjamin Law talked about when he started writing for frankie, and realised his family made good material. ‘You can’t write about yourself without writing about other people as well’, he said. All six of Law’s family members read the draft of his book manuscript, running through it with a red pen. He said at times they seemed grateful the family stories (as mortifying as they may be) were ‘being preserved’.

Jon Bauer, whose debut novel Rocks in the Belly, comes out in August, provided good contrast on the panel, talking about the role of emotional truths in fiction. ‘I painted fictitious lives with my own emotions,’ he said. ‘Art should be skinless,’ he said, and that after years of translating truth into fiction, now everyone seemed to want to ‘look up [his] skirt’ – as in, look for the author in the fiction. ‘You’re looking for me but I’m not there anymore,’ he said, and then brought up something which has always fascinated me – how an author doesn’t really have much control over what emotional truths the reader brings to the page. The ‘writer and reader meet in the middle’, he said, and all you can do is provide some genuine ‘echo-chamber’ for the reader’s emotion. (BTW, I featured Bauer in mid-2009, as ‘One to Watch’. Told ya.)

ewf3Samone Bos has shared her personal life for eight years on her blog(s) – partly to entertain herself and partly to keep up a writing practice. It’s a ‘celebration of the mediocre’, she said. Strangely, her family doesn’t know she blogs about them. I wonder what would happen if they ever found out? She recently switched to using her own name, but is careful about blogging about her twin babies – as she doesn’t want them to feel embarrassed one day in the future. Overall, you just have to feel comfortable, yourself, with what you put out there, she said.

Lou Sanz is a comedy performer, writer and blogger. Currently, a TV show is in the works based on her blog, which is based on her life. Mostly she recounts dating and relationship experiences. The one she told us was a bit like a Seinfeld ep, except instead of being a close-talker or having massive hands, this person just decided to ‘get comfortable’ by removing all clothes except a T-Shirt. It was hilarious.

Pictured: Chris Currie wears the crown.

In the afternoon I got along to The Pitch. A bunch of editors and publishers basically told the packed audience: ‘read the submission guidelines’. I couldn’t believe some of the stories. People send blank emails with attachments? People still write ‘Dear sirs’? People send TEN TO FIFTEEN pieces of writing to one place? Anyway, it was an amusing afternoon. One dude in the front row had a shirt with ‘Will whore myself for publication’ on it, and detachable fabric business cards around the bottom. A couple of audience members had also obviously wasted money on manuscript assessments and ‘accredited’ editors because they thought it might make their manuscripts suddenly jump to the top of the slush pile (and the Black Inc. editor soberingly told the audience they’d published one book from the slush pile in ten years). There were also stickybeaks outside Town Hall peeking in the windows (and even taking photos). I was sitting there thinking about how curious people are by nature. We all want to know what’s going on (at least a little bit – to then embellish with our imaginations). I wondered what stories the rubberneckers were telling each other as they walked away.

Today is the final day of the festival. My panel is at 3pm! Perhaps I’ll see you there.

In case I don’t get to blog about today’s sessions, please follow my adventures on Twitter.

ewflogoWith the beaming Lisa Dempster at its helm, the 2010 Emerging Writers’ Festival, here in Melbourne, is in full swing. So far I’ve attended The First Word (the opening night), one of the Fifteen Minutes of Fame Sessions (which received a great write-up here by Thuy-Linh Nguyen), the Page Parlour, and last night’s Wordstock performance – lively, funny, bold and very entertaining.

I haven’t had any time to blog any of the sessions thus far, but I’m looking forward to the Town Hall program this weekend. My panel ‘Writing About Place’ is 3pm on Sunday, featuring Patrick Cullen, Leanne Hall, Sean Riley and Jenny Sinclair. The writers each have a distinct style and voice – from lit fic, to YA, nonfiction, and play/screenwriting. Do come along.

I’m also going to catch panels on writers’ rejections, mining the personal for your work, going physically or emotionally to a dark place for/in your work, and the perils of promoting your published work.

The full program is here.

EWF also has a Flickr album. Note Estelle and I cracking up when we’re supposed to be acting out a serious face-off.

I’m also heading to the artist par-tay tonight… Adventures possibly relayed via Twitter.

*

A general update: 2 1/2 months into my doctorate, it’s a MONSTER but it’s going well. I start the fiction component on Tuesday. I’m excited and nervous. I have a three month residency at Glenfern, so I’ll be spending 2 – 3 days a week there writing fiction. The doctorate has been taking up so much more of my time and headspace than I ever imagined. But I’m really enjoying it so far. I’m also preparing for another country Vic workshop, the Australian Booksellers Association Conference and two writers festivals (I’ll announce more about those when the programs are released). I’ll blog about another local event, and my interview with Colm Toibin, soon.

*

I’m getting NEW GLASSES. Two pairs.

*

Don’t forget to support Team LiteraryMinded in The Novel Challenge, raising $ for folks affected by Multiple Sclerosis. And THANKS so much to those who already have. Good on you.

FamilyLawThe Family Law
Benjamin Law
Black Inc.
9781863954785
June 2010 (Aus, US)

Reviewed by Raili Simojoki.

Benjamin Law’s first book, The Family Law, is a collection of themed essays about his eccentric yet endearing family. His shorter pieces offer quirky insights into eclectic topics such as green burial, sleep deprivation, homosexuality healing workshops, and 90s TV sidekicks; and have appeared in frankie (where he is a senior contributor), The Monthly, The Big Issue, Best Australian Short Stories and others. The Law family packs a punch; they are delightfully mad, but also incredibly witty and intelligent. Reading The Family Law, you wonder, did that really happen, and, if so, where does one find such families? It’s like David Sedaris, but with more tenderness and whimsy.

Highlights include ‘On Nudity’ (Law and siblings overcome prudery and get naked in a Japanese bath), ‘Toward Manhood’ (exploring Law’s lack of manliness), ‘God Camp’ (describing a trip to a surreal, hardcore religious-military-style high school camp where even Joan Osborne’s ‘One of Us’ is considered blasphemous), ‘Skeletons’ (the deportation of his extended family), ‘We Have the Technology’ (teaching his mother to use email and SMS), and ‘So, You are a Homo’ (the mathematical chances of finding love for homosexuals).

Law’s mother is a vivid character: zany, playfully profane, with a wicked, offbeat sense of humour. She sends avant garde birthday text messages to her children, such as; ‘All my discomfort ööö… And painful memories ÖÖÖ,’ with the Os representing a line of female mouths in labour. Law describes the hardship his mother endured (physical and otherwise) giving birth to five children in succession, and raising them largely on her own. To remind her children of this, she constantly regales them with graphic descriptions of their births.

Law’s parents separated when he was twelve, and his enterprising workaholic father was often absent from family life. In ‘Oceans Apart’, Law recounts the childrens’ exhaustive, ultimately futile, attempts to find the perfect gift for their father and their disappointment when he gives them cash as a present, even on his own birthday. Aside from its cultural particularities, this story captures the sense of loss felt by children who try, and fail, to connect with their parents.

This is also one of the first books about being a teenager in the 90s: chatting online for the first time, teaching parents to use new technology, a media obsession with serial killers, a plethora of sleep-disturbing scary movies, and the rise of One Nation. Look out for Law’s amusing literary analysis of Mariah Carey’s Music Box, a seminal album for many of his vintage.

Law’s teenage angst was heightened by especially adverse conditions – being Asian, gay, and generally eccentric while living on the Sunshine Coast – not always a diversity-friendly place. He makes light work of this though – describing, for example, his lack of manliness as a product of sloppy decision-making by his mother’s uterus, and linking his sexual awakening to a preference for Mariah Carey over Nirvana.

Overall, enjoyable, easy reading – heartwarming, cathartic in its kookiness, with the occasional laugh out loud. It’s a little sentimental at times, but Law’s irrepressible style prevents this from being overwhelming. It did fall short of knocking my socks off – many of the best essays are in the second half of the book, so I struggled a bit in the beginning, but there were enough gems to keep me going. Law is not short on ideas, and it would be interesting to read a longer piece, drawing together some of those isolated anecdotes and insights into a broader vision. In any event, Law is a considerable talent with a long future ahead of him.

Raili_picRaili Simojoki is a freelance Melbourne-based writer. You can read some more of her work here.

LM: Catch the funny and adorable Benjamin Law in person at the Emerging Writers’ Festival. See the Town Hall program.

photoI used to do the MS Read-A-Thon every year when I was a kid. When I heard that the challenge was now open to adults (as The Novel Challenge), I realised what a good opportunity this would be to raise money for a worthy cause. So I’ve gotten some friends and writerly-folk together, and Team LiteraryMinded is reading madly up until the end of June in the hope of raising over $500 for people affected with Multiple Sclerosis.

You can check out our fundraising page here, and leave a donation to the team in general, or to an individual member (which is still counted toward the team total). Here’s my individual fundraising page.

This Wednesday 26 May is World Multiple Sclerosis Day, so it’s a great time to take action.

About MS, from the website:

MS is the most common disease of the central nervous system and affects more than 18,000 Australians. 

The average age of diagnosis of MS is just 30 years.

MS affects three times as many women as men.

MS Australia aims to minimise the impact of multiple sclerosis on all individuals affected by the disease, as well as their families, carers and the community, by offering a wide range of services, equipment and support. MS Australia’s goal is to assist everyone affected by MS to live life to their fullest potential and secure the care and support they need, until we ultimately find a cure.

Commentary

May 20, 2010

5 comments

Beth Sometimes is the author/creator of From Sometimes Love Beth, where Sometimes wrote a postcard to somebody or someone (or something) every day for a year. She sent me this postcard, which gives you some insight into her work!

Sometimes will be appearing at the Emerging Writers’ Festival, which starts this weekend in Melbourne (how exciting!)

img006

img007

expExposure: A Journey
Joel Magarey
Wakefield Press (Australia)
9781862548237
2009

I write this review just moments after finishing the book, and really, I’m aching from it. Joel Magarey has just taken me on an adventure – around the world, through illness and through love.

The narrative flows back and forth between periods in the ’80s and ’90s where Magarey travels with and without Penny, his love, and through episodes of his obsessive compulsive disorder. Kayaking in Alaska, poverty in India, reunions in Russia, the disappearance of ‘snakes of conflict, curiosity, urges, ambition’ when living with an indigenous tribe in Papua New Guinea – Magarey’s journey is raw, honest and contemporary. How does one dispel doubt about the self, about sexual experience, about what one doesn’t know in the world, without giving up something else? The world is so available to Magarey, as a young man – curious and creative by nature, experiencing compulsions and emotional claustrophobia; deciding between writing and academia, deciding between being alone or remaining intertwined with another. 

So much of the time the decisions are made for him – his fear, compulsions and doubt close in on his happiness, on stability. He experiences moments of insight both with Penny and with the world, but he also experiences epiphanies of nothingness – of distance and reality. There’s an existential current through the book – the narrative underpinned by Magarey’s strict religious upbringing and his later awakening to Sartre and co.

This is an enjoyable book for anyone to read, full of both internal and physical adventures – insightfully, beautifully, simply written. But I would particularly recommend it to people who experience angst with choice, who are perhaps neurotically-minded or creative and curious themselves, and those who have a capacity for open-minded love and adventure. You can live through some of those difficult (and magical) moments by reading Magarey’s book, before perhaps planning or deciding on some of your own adventures in the world, or adventures of the heart.

Magarey is appearing at the Emerging Writers’ Festival, on Monday 24 May as part of the Fifteen Minutes of Fame event, and as part of the Town Hall Program on Sunday 30 May he’ll be on the panel ‘Going to a Dark Place’. I look forward to meeting him.

possessedElif Batuman’s The Possessed (Aus, US/Kindle) is a personalised, intelligent, humorous exploration of Russian literature; and of academia, reading, and writers – with plenty of travel and adventure. It’s the kind of book you devour and dog-ear – where you’re learning with delight, being provided insight into authors, stories, countries, languages and lifestyles. I thought Elif would be the perfect subject for a ‘responsive’ interview. Enjoy!

LiteraryMinded‘s prompts are in bold. Elif Batuman’s responses are in roman.

Visit Text Publishing’s page for the book, here.

*

Your introduction, on why theory does not compromise the enjoyment of literature: ‘Wasn’t the point of love that it made you want to learn more, to immerse yourself, to become possessed?’

There is a received idea that you kill what you love by studying it. So OK, if you really love jellyfish and want to know what makes them tick, you probably have to kill and dissect a jellyfish, or at least find a dead jellyfish. But it’s problematic to apply that analogy to literature, as some people tended to do in American universities in the late 1990s. Why should studying or analysing your favorite books kill either their beauty, or your own ability to produce a book? The Possessed is an answer to that question.

LM:

_41314274_chairap416

EB: That looks like the same ice palace I visited in St. Petersburg in 2006—I recognise the playing cards on the table. It’s a reconstruction of the ice palace Empress Anna Ioannovna built on the Neva in 1740, for the marriage of two of her court jesters. The jesters were locked inside for their wedding night, and almost froze to death. In one chapter of The Possessed, my friend Luba and I visit the reconstruction. Here is a picture of us outside:

elif3

Another photo, taken inside the palace at night: on the left you can see a life-size ice sculpture of Anna Ioannovna, who was enormous; on the right is a snow-sculpture of a Renaissance angel.

elif1

Here is what the ice palace looked like on my last day in St. Petersburg:

elif2

One of my favourite stories.

The Lady with the Little Dog’ is one of my favorites too. To me this story is about how life is uncontainable by formulas. When Gurov meets Anna in Yalta, he’s totally bored with the present and the future. He knows so well how their affair is going to go—based on previous experience, on the large literature of adultery novels, on the oppressive weather and the dullness of the resort town. All this blasé-ness is summed up in the line, ‘Nekuda bylo devat’sia,’ literally something like ‘There was nowhere left to go.’

But just when you think that, in narrative terms, there really is nowhere to go and nothing left to do and no choice but to turn back—that’s when Chekhov somehow goes further. At the exact midpoint of the story, Gurov heads back from Yalta to Moscow, expecting to forget about this insignificant ‘romance’ and return to ordinary life. But he’s unable to go back. Despite himself and his own expectations, he pursues Anna to the provinces, which are fully as predictable and depressing as he expects—except that all these fences and provincial opera houses are now, for whatever reason, the locus of all meaning in his life, and what he thought was an ending is really the beginning.

Many readers, including me, have thought of this story as a response to Anna Karenina. In Tolstoy’s big novel, there really is nowhere left to go and Anna throws herself under a train. But Chekhov takes what seems to be a totally exhausted literary form, in the most exhausted literary setting, in the space of a short story, and makes it open outward.

The other thing I love about this story, which I briefly mention in The Possessed, is the idea that we all have two lives. Here is the passage I had in mind:

‘He had two lives: one, open, seen and known by all who cared to know, full of relative truth and of relative falsehood, exactly like the lives of his friends and acquaintances; and another life running its course in secret. And through some strange, perhaps accidental, conjunction of circumstances, everything that was essential, of interest and of value to him… was hidden from other people; and all that was false in him…—such, for instance, as his work in the bank, his discussions at the club… his presence with his wife at anniversary festivities—all that was open. And he judged of others by himself… believing that every man had his real, most interesting life under the cover of secrecy and under the cover of night.’

LM:

leo-tolstoy-1

EB: As Stephen Colbert said to Jerome Groopman: ‘I accuse you of trying to look like God.’

Finish this sentence: ‘One academic I know…’

Hmm, that sounds like the beginning of an off-colour limerick. I’m not sure this is the right venue for off-colour limericks about academics I know. But how about some off-colour limericks I once wrote about Tolstoy, who is pictured above?

There once was a Count called Tolstoy
Who one night, on a boat to Hanoi,
Gave ten thousand rubles
To a girl with no scruples—
That imprudent Count Leo Tolstoy.

Tolstoy and a girl from Seattle
Were debating the breeding of cattle.
Lev Nikolaevich said,
‘Let’s discuss this in bed’ –
Soon the bed-posts had started to rattle!

(‘The breeding of cattle’ is an allusion to a joke by the critic Tkachev, who suggested that Anna Karenina should have been a love novel about Levin’s romance with his cow, Pava.)

LM:

EB: That’s pretty great, but I think he could have fit a few more novels/ novellas in there…

‘He killed two women!  One was a gentle creature.’

‘Who was the other—the landlady?’

‘No, the pawnbroker.’

‘Poor folk!’

Another scene in Love and Death furnishes a great commentary to Tolstoy’s immortal How Much Land Does a Man Really Need?:

The best thing about writing about reading…

To me, writing about reading is totally intuitive. I don’t understand why more (non-academic) writers don’t write about books! Books and literary plots are entities in the world; they form people, much as love affairs and universities and friendships and wars. It’s strange to me that when novelists write about people who are formed or influenced by books, they typically either mention the books only briefly/ obliquely—or they invent nonexistent books for their characters to be influenced by. Henry James’s Aspern Papers, Philip Roth’s Prague Orgy, and A. S. Byatt’s Possession are all books about fictional characters obsessed with meta-fictional authors, whose books never existed. There’s an unspoken convention that, if you write a novel about a literary work, you have to invent that literary work, too.

Things don’t have to be that way. Don Quixote, arguably the first novel ever, is a book all about reading real books. Cervantes cites and quotes Don Quixote’s favorite books at length; Quixote reads so much that he never sleeps, barely eats, and is obsessed with living life as if it were the plot of a romance. In Don Quixote, real books are physical objects in the world. They circulate, are forged and bound and burned. They drive people crazy and have to be dealt with. 

Don Quixote opened so many potential novel traditions. The one that ended up dominating novel production for centuries turned out to be a form that privileged life and experience over literature and study. But someday I would like to write a novel that, like Don Quixote, really pushes the interface between fictional characters and real books.

kafka_dogI have written a guest post on one of my favourite short stories, Franz Kafka’s ‘In the Penal Colony’, for The Gum Wall. Here’s an extract:

It’s difficult to choose just one of his affecting, off-kilter short stories to talk about. Among my favourites are ‘The Judgment’, ‘The Metamorphosis’ (its brilliance is not exaggerated), ‘A Country Doctor’ (influential for my writing), ‘A Report to an Academy’ (and in fact, all his animal stories) and ‘A Hunger Artist’ (haunting). And these are just his longer stories. Many of the shorter works and fragments also appeal, featuring moments of unraveling, sadomasochistic drives, nonsensical time, more intuitive animals, interrupted solitude and more.

But ‘In the Penal Colony’ is the story I would cite as my favourite. It is odd, cruel, fascinating, sad and unresolved.

Read the rest, here.

And The Gum Wall is certainly celebrating LiteraryMinded‘s third birthday in style, with a giveaway (and Kool & the Gang)! Thanks also for the She-Ra comparison, Laurie – much appreciated.

To find out how you can win books, check out the celebration/competition post, here!

Self-indulgence

May 8, 2010

5 comments

This here blog turns three today. With an average of two to three posts a week since its inception, I feel like celebrating!

I was going to do a retrospective, but I usually do those at year’s end, so I won’t, but please wander back though the archives and see how she has grown. Tonight I’m going to attempt to bake a cake, and try not to burn the computer when we sit around it to sing Happy Blogiversary.

Thank you for all the comments and messages via Twitter and Facebook already. If you feel like it, let me know what your favourite post is. I’m rather curious. And thank you so much to the readers who have been with me this whole time; and to the readers who interact, comment, and  also buy my print work when I mention it – short stories, articles etc. You are so appreciated. It’s been great getting to know you and I hope you stick around.

love-heart-clipartI was just thinking, too, how much I LOVE blogging.

So now, to celebrate in typical LiteraryMinded style:

+ John Turturro on Beckett (there’s a lot of good Beckett-related stuff on YouTube, if you’re interested):

And this post wouldn’t be complete without a ‘partying’ Bill Murray:

Coming soon: Elif Batuman ‘responsive’ interview; review of Joel Magarey’s Exposure; and a link to a guest post I’m doing for The Gum Wall on Kafka’s ‘In the Penal Colony’.

If you catch this today and want to follow the cake-making, I’ll tweet the results, as I’ve only ever, um, made about two disastrous cakes in my life.

Next day. Same time. Same place.

Waiting-for-Godot-001Saw Sean Mathias’ production of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot last night. Woke up sad that it was yesterday and it’s over. It (so knowingly) passed the time.

I really enjoyed the production, particularly the physicality of it – the gestures, the slapstick. When they said ‘calm yourself’, they would put one hand on their heart and pat it with the other. When Pozzo sat he took a long time to do so. (And one of the highlights of my night was seeing audience members joyously imitating him when they returned to their seats at intermission.)

The cast were wonderful and well-suited to their roles. Roger Rees was heartbreaking as Vladimir – in his distress, his frustration, his hope. Sir Ian McKellen was cheeky, at times hilariously so, as Estragon: poking out his tongue, dancing (Michael Jackson-style) and speaking with an accent. Pozzo and Lucky were also great – Pozzo’s big facial expressions and real tears, Lucky’s Riff-Raff hairdo and coming alive in his big ‘think’-speech.

The sound design was clever, such as when Didi and Gogo came to the front of the stage and it seemed as though they hit a force field. And I was fortunate to be close enough to the stage to note the details on the set (a grey, apocalyptic landscape), and to smell Pozzo’s cherry tobacco smoke.

The play itself: well, it’s about everything and nothing, isn’t it? The passing of time and the occupation of time, trying not to look at death, needing someone and not wanting anyone, the futility of existence (of nature, of happiness, even), moments of panic, feeling tired of it all (getting used to it all), and hope (and maybe, company) being the only thing keeping them from truly pursuing the rope and the tree.

*

My copy of Elif Batuman’s The Possessed arrived in the mail last week:

blurb

After reading this wonderful book, I tracked down Elif for a ‘responsive’ interview, which I’ll post here very soon.

*

I very much enjoyed my session at the Williamstown Literary Festival last Sunday. Lisa Dempster and I spoke about blogging to an interested and engaged audience, who were full of questions. Thanks so much for coming! I also have an article on blogging coming up in the NSW Writers Centre magazine, Newswrite.

I fell in love with the little suburb of Williamstown, too. It’s quiet, on the beach, and features some gorgeous old cottages and colourful, cluttered gardens. The locals were all very friendly. G and I had lunch at the Rotunda, down by the beach and watched kids play.

By the by, G has written about the Tim Burton exhibition, which is coming to Melbourne. He’s also looking to talk to some hardcore Burton fans, for an article he’s writing. Know anyone? Particularly if they’re inked with something Burtonesque… Let him know via Twitter.

*

You might also have caught me in Epicure, in the Age last Tuesday, with my fridge?

*

Last week, I sojourned down to Sydney for an intense couple of days at UWS. Besides meetings, there was a seminar by Marion May Campbell, called Staging Disappearance, where she looked at works from Monique Wittig and Angela Carter. I found it complex, but her discussion of punctuation was enlightening – the / in Wittig’s work – a fracture, an opening for ‘resignification and transformation’; and the semicolons in Angela Carter’s story ‘The Bloody Chamber’: ‘A mere semicolon separates desire from its object’. I found Campbell’s language creatively expansive, even if I did not agree with, or even follow, everything. I love thinking about the body – presence, absence/interior, exterior/veiled, sectioned, objectified; and as one of the academics put it: as a machine of pleasure, and of violence.

*

Two necessary links for you this week:

Paper Radio. A new audio journal. Download the first fiction podcast, Chris Somerville’s story ‘The Drowning Man’ from the website, or access it from iTunes.

Literary Magazines Australia. A portal for some of our finest.

*

Curtain.