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Other People's Words

Jan 27, 2009

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I get emails quite often from people who read LM, usually a few lines saying they enjoy the blog, or letting me know about an event coming up, or a book I might be interested in. But this is by far the best ‘fan’ email I have gotten, a story in itself. Michael said I could use his name, but not where he lives. He has written me another great ‘scene’ from his life since, which I will share in the coming weeks…

Hey Angela aka LiteraryMinded or may I call you lit-head? I’ve refered to myself as a ‘lit-nerd’ in the past (to distinguish myself from the garden-variety ‘RPG’ or ‘computer’ nerds) and I guess I am one.    

I’m at work right now on the night-shift at a taxi call-centre in [insert small town], NSW. It’s my home town, a long way from Melbourne – where I myself lived for two years.  

Well, it’s the quietest shift I’ve had in the four months or so I’ve worked here, and the first time I’ve bothered to email anyone, so I hope you appreciate that and don’t mind the intrusion. At first I thought I might be able to study on these shifts, but no, not even that. You see it’s hard for me to get going on something when I feel that any second I could be interrupted, so even writing an email to a complete stranger (I found you on Crikey, btw) is the most literary thing I’ve ever done to pass the time on a night-shift. Usually it’s anything from Four Corners re-runs on iView, the complete second series of Scrubs (last week’s effort), seeking the bizarre on YouTube – I did read some of Lolita once – (and that reminds me) soft porn, streaming episodes of The Family Guy, etc etc.  

Of tonight’s eight-hour shift, there’s about two hours when I actually have to pay much attention – the first and last – and we’re into the second quarter of it and the [area] is asleep, in its post-Christmas, post-January sale, lull. Red Bull and leftover pizza is on the menu tonight.  

Well let me congratulate you on finishing a manuscript – that’s no small achievement. All this blogging and e-stuff must take up a lot of time, too. I liked your review of Overland too – I haven’t read an issue in years. Do they still publish Meanjin?  

Hey, let me see if I can remember a little poem I wrote the other day (after last week’s night-shift in fact)…    

Composing a message, I work for minutes –
thumb-to-fingers, thumb-to-fingers, like a human –
                                                                I press a button
                            the message flies away      

What do think? A cheap effect? Well it’s better than a punch in the blogg…  

Well I guess the long and short of it is that if you want, I’d love to get a dialogue going with you. We’re roughly the same age (I’m 29), I’m currently working on my first manuscript (Stumplewiltskin, I call it), I’d love to have someone to talk about lit stuff with, if only now and then… ah, yes, and you’re researching a novel set amongst high school students in 1995? About consumerism? Well, I graduated in ’97… and my own novel is set amoung uni students in 2005. And it’s partly about consumerism (and body dismorphia). So how about that? I can give a very grunge perspective on high school in the 90’s. It was just that kind of school.  

If you’d like, I can give you a small example using the rockbands Nirvana and Silverchair. While Silverchair’s debut 1995 album Frogstomp and 1997 release, Freak Show were by all means decent guitar-heavy thrash albums of good promise, at my school they were regarded as a bit of joke next to Nirvana, whom it seemed obvious they were (unsuccessfully) emulating. The release of the hideous Neon Ballroom in ’99 seemed for myself and my exact contemporaries to confirm our position that the band was a middling talent without an authentic voice, and comparisons to the great Kurt Cobain – having passed away only a few years previously – were absurd. And Neon Ballroom had four top-fifty singles.  

My point as a sociological observation is that between ’95 and ’99 something had changed, something that allowed a cringe-making, flacid, phony song like ‘Anthem for the Year 2000’ able to be number three on the Australian charts, but more to the point, something that caused the teenagers only two or three years younger than us not to see the difference. Think about it!  

I don’t actually think about this as much as it might seem, I had a lot of Wikipedia help to get my point accross…  

OMG         
       oh my god  

it’s 3:45 am and it is booor-ing!  

I actually just had about an hour where I had to do stuff (and I just got a call then, can you believe it? The nerve of some people. Actually that was 12 Wyralla Rd: ‘[small town] Taxi’s,’ I say. ‘Any delays?’ he asks. (He’s a regular). So now I’m actually getting quite tired. Did I mention that I work these shifts alone? I guess you might have figured. I’m having another Red Bull…  

…and taking my sneakers off… What else? On your favourite books list I have only read Steppenwolf, but I’ve read most of Sylvia Plath’s poems and The Bell Jar, I have, shamefully, not read to complete works of Shakespeare or even more of a third of it, although he does come to me highly recommended. I own a charming T-Shirt with Shakespeare’s portrait on it and the words ‘Prose Before Hos’. Sound advice indeed, although I think the shirt would have worked better with Hemingway, and who I am better versed in: last year I read his correspondances, essays and stories. All of ’em. I’ve been meaning to read Janet Frame’s memoir, but I can’t imagine reading the Kafka diaries anytime soon unless I visit my dentist and get a good supply of happy-gas. Oh yeah, and you’ve piqued my interest in Gail Jones.  

Ah, well. If this hasn’t gone straight into your spam shoot, it’s been great talkin’ with ya. I have to go and surf YouTube now to unwind before the airport bookings start… I hope you drop me a line sometime! Until then…  

much poetry and romance in your life!  

Michael Lawrence