I’m off tonight to other climes, colder places with snow and ice. Back in a month.
I haven’t prepared any lists – it is list season. But here are a few thoughts, off the top of my head. I find this works best, especially for books because the ones that are really good stick with you. And that’s what we want, don’t we? Not some list that I’ve carried around, where you might think oh, she’s just saying that.
I’m sure I’ve forgotten things and people. Apologies. Have to go and pack. Haven’t proofread. Just scrawling onto the screen. Happy Christmas, New Year and everything else. Bring on 2018. 2017 has been – despite the following list – pretty sucky. Am ready to leave it behind.
CATEGORY | BOOKS, WRITING, LITERARY STUFF
- starting the Bad Diaries Salon and having people – readers and listeners – love it SO MUCH (more below, including photos)
- meeting new writing friends on twitter and in real life
- receiving two residencies for next year: beautiful Bundanon and Varuna
- being ‘in talks’ with a literary agent at Curtis Brown, Australia’s biggest lit agency
- chairing at Perth Writers Festival, earlier this year (was it really this year? Unbelievable) – two sessions. Got to catch up with my awesome wild salty friend Sarah Drummond (whose dark beautiful book THE SOUND has been listed in the IMPAC Prize.)
- meeting Amanda Curtin in Perth. She is so so lovely. She gave me macarons and a fan to keep cool at the PWF. Did I say how lovely she is? She is the most lovely.
- being on panel at Williamstown Literary Festival – what a great festival. Make sure you go next year. What a vibe. I’m finding the smaller festivals are just fantastic. But on that, am of course interested to see what Marieke Hardy does with MWF in 2018.
- appearing at Writers under the Influence at Buck Mulligan’s whiskey bar in Melbourne and reading – among other things – my KYD piece on unrequited love and Lake Eyre
- getting a writing studio. I have only been there once. Give me a chance.
BIGGEST MOST INTERESTING MOMENTS
- seeing Peter Carey talk at Word for Word in Gee-Town, as organiser Maryanne calls it. Fantastic festival. A bit under the radar but that will change. Also the gnocchi of my LIFE was discovered in the library cafe. I KNOW!
- seeing not just George Saunders spreading his light and empathy at Northcote Town Hall in winter I think it was, but also Anne Enright, on the same night. My brain was filled and over-flowing after that one, I tell you.
- meeting Jane Smiley, buying her a cider and telling her about my horse-riding accident at 7 yo
BIGGEST FUNNY MOMENT
- sitting next to Nathan Hill of The Nix fame on a bus and thinking he was Liam Pieper of The Feel-Good Hit of the Year and The Toymaker fame. Making us both embarrassed. Then telling Liam about it later and him laughing. Then telling Nathan I’d told Liam about it and him laughing. Then it turning in on itself and becoming a kind of surreal circular ongoing joke.
- I’m sure there were other funny moments – probably even funnier. In fact watching Tracy Farr read at the Perth Bad Diaries #REGRETS was super hilarious, as was Laurie Steed‘s reading and Annabel Smith‘s. (Annabel is a natural performer and, just quietly, she and Tracy are amazing karaoke singers too. Just WOW.) (Also, another whisper: Annabel has finished her next project so waiting to hear on what’s next with that.)
BIGGEST COINCIDENCE (of my life) (so far)
- meeting Jane Smiley’s friend David Francis at the bar (see above story) in Perth and him listening to me tell my horse-riding accident story and the slow-dawning realisation on his part that I was talking about his parents’ place, and then I drove down there a few months later to re-visit the scene of the crime, met his dad, went to the house where my mum had taken me afterwards to look at my leg. She saw the hole and took me to the doctor who sewed it up, twelve stitches.
- acquitting my Creative Vic grant
- seeing my cover for LITTLE GODS coming soon to a bookstore near you (soon = next April)
- ‘passing’ my second structural edit. The first one I failed (as a teacher I know this).
- that I pushed for my book to be published next year not this. Note bene: Flano (everyone writes ‘Flanno’ but surely it’s a single N?), de K, Garner, Carroll, Laguna, Rawson, Patric, Wright, Miller, and all the others. In 2018? Just me, Timbo and Mr Robert Lukins. Oh and Stephanie Bishop, and SA Jones, and and… no year is an empty year, but pretty sure 2018 won’t have 14 big names or whatever it is. There might be a little bit of oxygen for us emergers.
CATEGORY | TV
It’s been a bad year for TV and reading. It has something to do with me being busy and with screens and distraction. Am working on a solution because I really don’t like it. But some TV I’ve watched has been really really good.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT in TV
- The Handmaid’s Tale
OTHER DISAPPOINTMENTS in TV
- second season of Top of the Lake. It was like they lost an episode
- Bojack Horseman
- Rick and Morty
- Chewing Gum
- Please Like Me
- Jim Carrey doco about him making the Andy Kaufman film.
- the Whitney Houston documentary
It’s telling that books are right down here. Below television. Fractured reading best describes the situation. Many started and put down. I tried to stop my knee-jerk book-buying habit, thinking I needed to buy and read all local fiction, all buzzed fiction, everything that people were talking about on twitter. I decided to let things settle. Get some from the library (I did that and returned all pretty much unread). I think it’s because I have been feeling saturated by fiction for a few years now. When I want to read and immerse I go to non-fiction. Also it’s because I’m writing fiction, so there’s something about letting other people’s words and concerns in. These are the books I read, finished with no struggle, and loved:
Bernadette Brennan’s marvellous A Writing Life: Helen Garner and Her Work. I read this slowly. Not just because I wanted to make it last but also because it was so fascinating and insightful I wanted to re-read Garner’s works as they appeared in this book.
Dorothy Porter – The Monkey’s Mask. It was a re-read for ‘book group’. Read it as easily as the first time.
Emma Viskic’s wonderful Resurrection Bay. Great stuff.
Jane Rawson’s From the Wreck. Weird – but not as weird as previous Wrong Turn – and beautiful. I love weird and beautiful. They are a fabulous combination. (This book also gave me intense cover envy. Like INTENSE.)
Joan Didion’s Marching Towards Bethlehem. Don’t need to say anything, just ‘Didion’. Read this after watching the terrific doco made on her by Griffin Dunne – remember him? ’80s movies? The Center Will Not Hold.
I read some Roxanne Gay. I read Lindy West’s Shrill. I read Clem Ford’s Fight Like a Girl. I read Rachel Cusk’s Outline (finally, took about 4 goes) and Transit (one go). Adore her NF, not so sure about her fiction. Read – I think this year – Edward St Aubyn’s Never Mind. Maybe it was last year. Really liked. Really tough and sad.
But the thing that most staggered me, this year, in my reading was just a slip of a short story – 35 pages. Brokeback Mountain. No I hadn’t read it. Yes, I’d seen the movie, several times. But this story. WOW. It made me know more why anti-novelist Ryan O’Neill is always going on about stories. Everything in that story is magnificent. Everything from the movie is in there. It is extraordinary. I am not converted though. I still like long and the immersion of novels. But I’m struggling to read them so maybe it is the key. Short. Concise. Novellas (novellae?) BUT publishers don’t want to publish a novella. Not the main-streamers anyway.
CATEGORY | SITUATIONAL READING
I like to read books that are relevant to my travel. I read Metamorphosis in one sitting (lying) in a bathtub in Prague. So for this trip I’m taking THE BOOK OF DIRT by Bram Presser (met him last week, he was a reader at Bad Diaries #SPIN and he was exactly as I’d imagined. Big, loud, frenetic, funny, warm, smart.) I am expecting the airport bookshop has copies. Also I’m taking Maria Tumarkin’s OTHERLAND: A Journey with my daughter. Because I’ll be travelling with my daughter and we are going to Russia, it all makes perfect sense. I love Maria’s writing, and her thinking, and was interested to see recently someone (memory fails) is publishing a book on her next year?
Am also taking Dostoevsky, Tolstoy and Chekhov plays to read while away. Will be taking notes – for a future project – and trying trying trying to shed the frenetic psychological spaces of the year and the full-on exhaustion. But looking forward to 2018.
I’ve run out of time, so no space for food lists, weather lists, walking lists (went on some terrific historical walks) or newly found passion lists – mudlarking for one.
BAD DIARIES SALON 1 #MISTAKES Willows & Wine West Melbourne
L to R: Imbi Neeme, JA, Jane Rawson, Rosalie Ham and Cassandra Austin
BAD DIARIES SALON 2 #TRIPS Cam’s Kiosk, Abbotsford Convent Melbourne
L to R: Jennifer Down, Rose Mulready, Marlee Jane Ward, Jock Serong, Rochelle Siemienowicz
BAD DIARIES SALON 3 #REGRETS 399 Bar, Perth
L to R: Laurie Steed, Tracy Farr, Brooke Davis, Annabel Smith, JA
BAD DIARIES SALON 4 #SPIN The Night Heron, Footscray Melbourne
L to R: Patrick Allington, Jo Case, Bram Presser, Alice Robinson and Jane Rawson
L to R: Jo Case, Alice Robinson, Jane Rawson, Bram Presser and Patrick Allington