Edith Sitwell said something like a woman needs a day in bed a week. I’ve been trying this out (when practicable) and yesterday I had a day. I read (Patti Smith’s memoir about her and Robert Mapplethorpe’s relationship, Just Kids) and looked at my phone, and read, and looked at my phone. Went to to kitchen for food and water. And read some more.
I’m in transition between one project and another. Am shortly (today) going back to Project number 3, called SEVEN for short. I’m about 6,000 words off the first draft, or Draft Zero as some writers call it. The interesting thing with this one is its form is dictating the length of it, and the structure of it, so it makes it ‘easier’ or more directional, when writing.
Before Patti Smith, I read AM Home’s The End of Alice. It’s about pedophiles and is not easy reading but I read it quickly and while it wasn’t pleasant it was well written and skilled. It was brave of her to tackle it, and the thing that made me go and get it from the pile I’d ordered a few weeks back was this interview from The Wheeler Centre, where she talks with Toni Jordan. If you are interested in writers and how they work and listening to them talk about their books, check it out. She’s funny and smart.
She is clever, but I already knew that having read and loved May We Be Forgiven and This Book Will Save Your Life. I like too that her books aren’t samey-samey. I’ve started another of hers, it might be her first novel, In a Country of Mothers.
Actually no, before Patti it was Helen Garner’s This House of Grief. Read it in a couple of days, I just love her accessible prose but still with all the words very carefully selected. It’s a fascinating book, more a forensic account of the court cases, conversations at the coffee cart outside the court house, with other bits and pieces, stitched together (that makes it sound slapdash, it certainly isn’t) into a compelling read which doesn’t present concrete answers; it’s the questions that are more important here, and the things we know and don’t know about human nature. Garner again does brilliantly, to make this reader anyway, think long and hard about the human condition; how we are different and the same; how we react to stressful situations. It did remind me (and this is mentioned in the book, or if not, was mentioned during several of the talks I’ve seen Garner give over the last few weeks) of the questions that arose when Lindy Chamberlain didn’t ‘behave as a mother should’ and I finished the book thinking that the truth was edged close to but not completely revealed. But the book wasn’t about locating a hundred per cent unequivocal truth, so if that’s what you want, you may not find it within the pages. The book was one person’s exploration of a trial, asks hard questions, gathers and presents enough information for people to draw their own conclusions, and is a wonderful piece of writing as well. I found the book amazing.
I also tried and failed to read Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers. I had a book club and went with tail between you know, and I was the only of five who didn’t finish. They all loved it, so I’ve decided to have another crack at it, and maybe take notes to try to keep track of the characters.
The Melbourne Writers Festival is on and so far I’ve seen Meg Wolitzer talking about her latest novel The Interestings; Paddy O’Reilly talking about her latest, The Wonders, and Sophie Cunningham talking about Warning (her book about Cyclone Tracy). I saw Garner open with her reading and chat to Ramona Koval at the Melbourne Town Hall, and I’m seeing Salman Rushdie this Thursday. Tomorrow night is Joan London and Sonya Hartnett, then over Friday, Saturday and Sunday it’s a bunch of people including Raimond Gaita, Philip Hensher, Dave Eggers (closing address), maybe this year’s Big Issue Fiction Edition (no I didn’t submit anything, Thuy On one of the BI people asked me twice whether I had, she was disappointed it seemed, I found this immensely flattering), Favel Parrett’s latest book chat, maybe my ex step-sister’s debut novel launch, haven’t seen her for 30 years or more?, something about gothic cinema, Alissa Nutting of TAMPA fame (haven’t read it but will buy, been meaning to read), Maria Popova of Brain Picking fame. And maybe Sian Prior (depends if I get the guts to go to ex-step sister event.)
So, busy times. Love it.