Melbourne has been particularly beautiful over recent days. Last week I went to Rickett’s Point to get some author photos done. This is how gorgeous it was:
The photographer had said ‘Let’s wait for a dark, stormy day, get some moody clouds.’ Well, Melbourne [shakes fist at sky] you aren’t behaving. I am, apparently, one of the people who when they say they hate having their photos taken, really mean it. Even though my photographer friend is a friend, and we’ve known each other for years, still it was awkward for me, especially when I tried those ‘hands near the face to look pensive but really to try and cover a flaw’ positions.
So I stood on rocks, and sat on sand and wore my Ernest fisherman’s jumper, and also my Elizabeth Gilbert polo neck with heavy winter coat. I had my hair in a new style I’m outing, I call it The Frau. And I think it looks better in real life that in photos, if only because of all the polo neck on-and-offs, I was left with wild wiry strands of vertical hair that caught the beautiful sunlight perfectly. I’ll post some pics here later so you can see what I mean.
‘It’s me,’ I said to Mark, long-suffering, patient man. ‘I told you I’m a challenge.’
We had glasses issues as well, they slide down my nose 3 seconds after being pushed up. I was like a Benny Hill character the way I had to quickly push them up then re-pose, it was a constant salute.
But Mark, darling person, kept his humour and took some really gorgeous shots despite having to say things like:
Can you look a little happier?
A little less pained please.
Yesterday, I went to Mark’s studio to do some more shots. With a more-tamed head. I submitted to the tongs, and while I wanted it to snake interestingly over my shoulder, Mark had different ideas.
‘Push it all behind you, out of the way. Off your shoulder.’
Half an hour later, me: ‘Why can’t I have it over my shoulder?’
‘Cause it puts a shadow on your face.’
Me [thinking]: And this is a problem because…? So we got some really nice photos yesterday. With tamed hair. Glasses in place. And the Elizabeth Gilbert polo neck. Can’t wait for him to send me the shortlist (which will go like this:
Him: Here is the shortlist.
Me: I love them, thanks. Do you have any more of me not smiling? I think I prefer those ones. Him: Ok… Here.)
The publisher’s marketing department is waiting for me to send them two shots, I’m sure we can find two shots out of the heaps we’ve taken? Ohmygodit’sreallyhappening.
So I’ve been walking. More Melbourne gorgeousness:
18. The Road – Cormac McCarthy. This was a re-read. I wanted to see again how he did it with such simple prose. I know some people struggled to read this once, and would never go there again because it’s so harrowing, and involves a child and his father struggling to survive in a very dark, dangerous, threatening world where there is no help, no safety other than what they can manage to provide for themselves. It’s relentlessly grim but I do think the ending is brilliant. Depending on what type of reader you are, and what kind out outlook you have, your ideas about the world and your place in it, that is the ending you will read. For me it’s an ending with hope.
19. H is for Hawk – Helen Macdonald. See this:
This is Helen with Mabel, her goshawk. (I’m guessing it’s Mabel.) This book is wonderful. It’s filled with grief, and details about training goshawks, and then also part odd and idiosyncratic biography of a man, TH White, who wrote The Goshawk (a memoir about his own experiences of training a goshawk, published in 1951), a writer best known for his Arthurian novels, including The Sword in the Stone. White was a man with many personal struggles, his sexuality was one, and in Macdonald’s book, she writes about these, neatly embedding them into her own story of how she managed life, and didn’t manage life, after the sudden death of her beloved father. I adored this book, so much so that I bought a copy of White’s The Goshawk too.
20. The Engagement – Chloe Hooper. This has been on my radar for a long time and I wanted to read it to see how gothic might be done, in a country Victoria setting. After a chat with James Tierney a few weeks ago, where when he asked what else I might be working on and I said something about a Mallee Gothic Family Story (I said ‘saga’ but it’s not a saga), he asked if I’d read Hooper’s book and I said it was on my list. I moved it up the list and read it. It’s a strange book, and clever in many ways. It kept me guessing (something that doesn’t happen enough with my reading) and I appreciated the originality of it, but I found it a little difficult to let myself fall into. Probably my fault as I was observing as writer, not reading as reader.
21. Hello, Beautiful – Hannie Rayson. I was aware of this book, had seen it in the papers, had registered the Two of Us feature in the paper one Saturday a few weeks ago, and had even clipped it, loving the way Michael Cathcart talked about his love for his partner. Loving the sense of her personality, their relationship, their tightness. But I wasn’t interested in reading it because I don’t usually read memoir unless I have a particular reason (know the person and so am stickybeakish – this will come up again below); have an interest in knowing more about a famous person’s life, but I need to be interested in that famous person (Lena Dunham for example); or it’s something that has garnered enough raves for me to buy it and read it (eg Cheryl Strayed’s Wild.) But this book, when there are so many books to read, I thought nah. Luckily I went to see Helen Garner talking to Rayson at a Wheeler Centre event a couple of weeks ago.
Never NEVER have I been in an audience, at an author talk, where the two people on stage have laughed so much, where the audience has laughed so much, where the reading was so funny, and where I decided 100% to buy the book and read it. And I did. I put all else to the side when I got home, and began. Hell, I began on the tram home, let’s be honest. It’s a great read. Hannie Rayson, on stage, was funny, personable, natural and refreshing. Relaxed. She was like the girl at school that everyone loved and wanted to be best friends with. The girl who is pretty, and also funny and fun to be with. As soon as I finished the book I gave it to my mother, who put Karl Ove aside to read her as well. (BTW, Mum is really enjoying Knausgaard’s first My Struggle book. We were trying to work out why we, two women, one of a certain age and the other of an even more certain age, respond to his memoir. What interest do we have in a man from an island in Norway, in his childhood, his marriages, his family relationships? We don’t really care why, just that we do.)
TO BE CONTINUED LATER THIS WEEK.