Monday, December 19, 2011

Taking the salt cellar

Early mornings are the best time for scanning the patient. I can lie in bed and go through what needs to be written, what needs to be moved where. Does this part need to go right at the beginning, or towards the end?

This reminded me of Lily Briscoe, the painter in To The Lighthouse, and her moment of epiphany in the middle of dinner.

In a flash she saw her picture and thought, Yes, I shall put the tree further in the middle; then I shall avoid that awkward space. That's what I shall do. That's what has been puzzling me. She took up the salt cellar and put it down again on a flower in pattern in the table-cloth, so as to remind herself to move the tree.

Virginia Woolf, To The Lighthouse (1927)

More than anything else, I think this novel is about the pleasures and problems of creation. It's a book about writing a book (the one that's being written), and the way memory and time works on the imagination.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Things fall apart

My Macquarie Dictionary:

It's not my oldest book, but it's probably my most used one, and one of the most decrepit, considering its age, less than 20 years.

I really should get a new one, but I like things that are falling apart (I sit here writing this in a t shirt at least 15 years old, coming apart at the neck, full of holes, and not fit to be seen in in public  - though I have worn it shopping in Lismore recently - I didn't like it nearly as much when it was new.)

So I stick with my old Macquarie.

One of the reasons I like it is that I've put flowers and leaves between its pages, mostly at the appropriate spot. There's a violet from the garden

Magnolia leaves

and a gum leaf

which I don't think is in the right spot. Oh well...

A little flying insect has also insinuated itself between the pages somehow and somewhere (not my doing - I wouldn't kill an insect) - I come across it now and then, and it looks very pretty, but I don't know where it positioned itself, so can't take a picture.

But I love dictionaries, and the Macquarie is Australian - you'll find words like wop and hoon.

We got a Scrabble dictionary so that the Macquarie wouldn't get such a work-out - it's also falling apart, but I don't love it. The Mac still gets consulted now and then, as the Scrabble one doesn't have rude words, or much Australian slang.

My favourite word: quim. Oh, look it up, Hortensia.  A clue: the Scrabble dictionary doesn't have it. The only place I've seen it used is in a novel by John Banville.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Trying to Catch the Voice

My Wrappings is falling apart.

In the 1970s, the book Wrappings, by Vicki Viidikas was a must-have for a young feminist in the inner-west of Sydney, along with several Joni Mitchell LPs, The Dialectic of Sex, by Shulamith Firestone, and various other cultural artefacts.

But Vicki Viidikas (1948-1998) was closer to us than all the others. She was our contemporary, she lived in Sydney, and she wrote about the sorts of places and people that we were familiar with, in uncensored language and indeed, thought.

 (Did I ever meet her? I think she may have answered the door of a house I was visiting, once. The 70s was like that. )

 Viidikas wrote poetry, and things that she called 'pieces' and things that could be short stories. Or not.

I'm  not quite sure when it was, the first time I wanted to say something about myself, that I was quite definite I had to speak, and someone would listen. Whenever it was it was early, I wanted to run into the darkness and start talking to the night, standing in that black tent, a voice in dark veils, imagining an answer. Or walking about in daylight addressing myself to the sunshine, calling out as it drew me out, to be turned like a mute thing, to be cooked and gone brown. Maybe it was the trees I imagined had ears, putting my arms round their knobbly trunks, laying my face against their skin as they stood there tall messengers.

Vicki Viidikas, 'Trying to Catch the Voice', in Wrappings (Wild and Woolley, 1974)

Some of her words make me laugh. Look at the imagery and brilliant economy in this sentence:

"They made love that night like crocodiles on a rampage, and again in the morning before she went to work." (in 'It's just the Full Moon')

and others I know by heart, the way you never forget a line of poetry :

"I am not making love at the time of writing this story, in fact it's been some time since I felt any sunlight streaming through the skin." ('The Incomplete Portrait')

Her work is funny, angry, gutsy and real - and it will last. She is someone who certainly caught her own voice. She is brilliant and inimitable.

Fortunately, for those not around to get their own copy of Wrappings in the 70s, a selection of her work, some of it previously unpublished, was published last year.  Vicki Viidikas: New and Rediscovered.

There's a review here.

New and Rediscovered contains many of her poems, including her first published poem, at the age of 19, 'At East Balmain'.

I love this from it:

A hermit dog lives here, in a burnt-out boiler turning
orange. He stays inside all day - I've seen his eyes
glint in the dark, he is huge and black and solemn.

What a noticer she is, what strength of writing, and what compassion.

Finally, I'll let the page speak for itself, as it always does.

'The page should fuck back': from 'The Incomplete Portrait'

Monday, November 28, 2011

Gathering idea isn't always abandoned because it fails some quality control test. The imagination doesn't crop annually like a reliable fruit tree. The writer has to gather whatever's there: sometimes too much, sometimes too little, sometimes nothing at all. And in the years of glut there is always a slatted wooden tray in some cool, dark attic, which the writer nervously visits from time to time; and yes, oh, dear, while he's been hard at work downstairs, up in the attic there are puckering skins, warning spots, a sudden brown collapse and the sprouting of snowflakes. What can he do about it?
Julian Barnes, Flaubert's Parrot


Flaubert's Parrot
The Idiot
Vicki Viidikas, New and Rediscovered 


the first french beans
a few yellow baby tomatoes
images and connotations for my novel


about making a christmas cake

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Simone and Virginia

The time-obsessed Virginia has been joined by her stylish friend Simone.

Did they ever meet in life? It is possible: Virginia (1882-1941) and Simone (1908-1986) lived partly contemporaneously (is that the word?).

Virginia was hopeless with clothes, never knew what looked good on her, and nervous about buying new ones.

Simone was more interested in clothes than Virginia. Of her early working life as a teacher:

We were also very concerned about our dress and make-up. Colette's usual garb consisted of Lacoste shirtwaists and daringly but successfully contrasted scarfs. She also owned a very attractive jacket (we thought it magnificent) of black leather, with white revers. Simone  [Labourdin] had a girl friend who bought her clothes in the grandes maisons, and who occasionally made her a present of some studiedly simple ensemble. My own single concession to elegance lay in my sweaters, which my mother knitted for me from very carefully chosen patterns, and which were often copied by my pupils. Our make-up and hair styling  gave the lie to that odd ideal which a parent had once enthusiastically suggested to Colette Audry, that we should pursue a 'secular nun' effect.

Simone de Beauvoir, The Prime of Life

Though she wasn't much interested in clothes, in A Room of One's Own, Virginia stood up for women's interests:

Yet it is the masculine values that prevail. Speaking crudely, football and sport are 'important'; the worship of fashion, the buying of clothes 'trivial'. And these values are transferred from life to fiction. This is an important book, the critic assumes, because it deals with war. This is an insignificant book because it deals with the feelings of women in a drawing-room ...
... everywhere and much more subtly the difference of value persists.

 And whom do I prefer? Though both these women are well-represented on my shelves, I'm a Virginia woman myself.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

"There were a lot of snakes in our lives...

... at this time. At our mother's house enormous carpet pythons wound themselves around the rafters of the verandahs.    [...]
Snakes curled up in dark corners of Emma's studio; they stretched along the noggins of the unlined walls, still and milky-eyed, and shed their skins. Her studio was the perfect place for snakes, dim and cool and surrounded by sheltering trees."
Joanne Horniman, A Charm of Powerful Trouble, 2002

What's the world coming to, Hortensia? I have put my own book in the attic!

It's just that I've had a visitor at the blue room (that's just a skin, by the way, not a live snake)

and it put me in mind of something I've written. In fact, it was the snakiness of this room while I was writing that charming book that led to the snakes going into it. Art imitating life. Or something.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

" - he hates to have me write a word."

"If a physician of high standing, and one's own husband, assures friends and relatives that there is really nothing the matter with one but temporary nervous depression - a slight hysterical tendency - what is one to do?"

Since we were talking about attics and madness, Hortensia (by the way, your name means 'gardener' - one I wouldn't mind having myself, as I like cultivating things - tomatoes, lettuce, imaginary characters), there's a story that I'm putting in the attic as it ticks all the boxes: madness, women, attics, and writing.

You probably know The Yellow Wallpaper, a short story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860-1935) ... not one of my favourites stories, but one I read from time to time, as its a great feminist classic and example of female Gothic.

There's something about the gothic that suits women's anger at their lot: think Jane Eyre, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and my own Charm of Powerful Trouble (though I'm not in their league), which I call Mullumbimby Gothic, a little known and represented genre.

A young wife and mother and her husband lease what amounts to a haunted house, and it is here she becomes unstuck. She has an unfortunate tendency to want to write, and her husband thinks she should be shut up alone in a top floor room to rest ... well, we know where that kind of thing leads. The wallpaper starts getting to you, for starters.

There is also evidence that some other mad person has been locked up there - though the woman naively thinks it may have been used as a gymnasium (the rings on the walls) or a children's room (the bars on the windows) ...

And that wallpaper, which someone has started peeling away from the wall:

"The colour is repellent, almost revolting: a smouldering unclean yellow, strangely faded by the slow-turning sunlight. It is dull yet lurid orange in some places, a sickly sulphur tint in others.
No wonder the children hated it! I should hate it myself if I had to live in this room long.
There comes John, and I must put this away - he hates to have me write a word."

But the prisoner scribbles away secretly - she needs to write, it helps her. From the start, she is writing her story.

Then, in about the middle, the text changes, and no further reference is made to writing. Things become extremely strange, and the story becomes a stream of consciousness from her mind, rather than a written text.

At the end, she is completely mad.

We all know how writing keeps us sane (as well as judicious doses of fish oil, exercise, and so on). Being shut up with hideous wallpaper in a room that's clearly haunted is not prescribed these days.

I'm changing the colour of the wallpaper in the attic in honour of this story, but only until the next post. I think you'll agree, Hortensia, that we couldn't live with this hideous, sulphurous yellow.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Virginia Woolf dropped by ...

(though she's obviously very busy, just to wish me happy birthday ...)

From the back:

"I have lost friends, some by death ...
others through sheer inability to cross the street."

Virginia Woolf, The Waves, 1931

How well Virginia knows me ...

Friday, November 4, 2011


Just as I was thinking I'd like to re-read Love in a Cold Climate (I must have read it 30 years ago and no longer have a copy), I went to visit my sister, and there was a newish copy on her shelf ...

Today, over breakfast, I opened it to browse and almost the first thing I read were these words:

'I wish you needn't go on about Sonia being an old woman on the brink of the grave,' he said, 'she is barely sixty, you know, only about ten years older than your aunt Emily.'
Nancy Mitford, Love in a Cold Climate (1949)

I turned 60 a few days ago, and it is quite possible that I'm on the brink of my grave, but I don't feel it.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Type slowly

Writing a book, full time, takes between two and ten years, The long poem, John Berryman said, takes between five and ten years. Thomas Mann was a prodigy of production. Working full time, he wrote a page a day. That is 365 pages a year, for he did write every day - a good sized book a year. At a page a day, he was one of the most prolific writers who ever lived. Flaubert wrote steadily, with only the usual, appalling, strains. For twenty-five years he finished a big book ever five to seven years. My guess is that full time writers average a book every five years: seventy-three usable pages a year, or a usable fifth of a page a day. The years that biographers and other nonfiction writers spend amassing and mastering materials are well matched by the years novelists and short-story writers spend fabricating solid worlds that answer to immaterial truths. On plenty of days the writer can write three or four pages, and on plenty of other days he concludes he must throw them away.
Octavio Paz cites the example of "Saint-Pol-Roux, who used to hang the inscription 'The poet is working' from his door while he slept."

Annie Dillard, The Writing Life 

Ah, Annie, you entertain and inspire me.  I suppose the biggest thing with writing is that you have to keep at it.

Haruki Murakami has recently published a big novel (called IQ84) of 1000 pages in three volumes, in two books. It took him three years - or about a page a day. He writes every morning and in the afternoon trains for marathons.

Writing a novel is another kind of marathon. Murakami says you need mental and physical strength to write (and the effect of exercise on the mind has been documented).

I'm writing every day now, but I need to exercise more.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

I have not had one word from her

Frankly I wish I were dead
When she left, she wept
a great deal; she said to me, This parting must be
endured, Sappho. I go unwillingly.
I said, Go, and be happy
but remember (you know
well) whom you leave shackled by love
If you forget me, think
of our gifts to Aphrodite
and all the loveliness that we shared
all the violet tiaras,
braided rosebuds, dill and
crocus twined around your young neck
myrrh poured on your head
and on soft mats girls with
all that they most wished for beside them
while no voices chanted
choruses without ours,
no woodlot bloomed in spring without song...
--Translated by Mary Barnard

Sappho c 630BC

 Down below, in the cellar, and elsewhere in the house, controversy rages. But here in the attic we will quietly celebrate with a poem.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A corner of the artist's room

Reading: Gwen John: A Painter's Life, by Sue Roe

According to her brother Augustus, also a painter, Gwen John favoured basements and underground cellars: when she returned to London from Paris in 1899, she installed herself 'in a kind of dungeon ... into which no ray of sunlight could ever penetrate'.

But here is her attic room at 87 rue du Cherche-Midi, where she moved with her cat Edgar Quinet, in the midst of an affair with Rodin.

A Corner of the Artist's Room in Paris (With Open Window) c. 1907-09

And this, I presume, is Edgar Quinet, who was 'not very popular'. She had sprung a vicious attack on one of the visiting lady painters. Gwen was sure it wasn't personal,  just 'une affaire de nerfs'.

And update on Ms Quinet (bec of me being currently obsessed with Gwen John):  Gwen felt sorry for her sometimes, because the cat tried to understand so many things with her 'little, troubled soul'.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The book I had to have

This was my first book by Gertrude Stein - I found it at Archives in Brisbane, a bookshop that is the archetypal secondhand bookshop - shelves stretching up to the high ceilings in an old building, ladders, a sense of hush, and absolutely packed to the gunnels with books.

In my opinion, Archives, you are also too expensive. I paid  $12.95 for this book, which fell to bits the moment I read it (note masking tape on the spine).

Still, it had provenance, having come from the Brooklyn Public Library ( WITHDRAWN FROM FREE USE IN CITY CULTURAL AND WELFARE INSTITUTIONS. MAY BE SOLD FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE BROOKLYN PUBLIC LIBRARY ONLY   says the stamp inside the back cover).

And why did I have to have it?

It had a voice so confident and unusual that I thought I might learn something about writing from it. That is often my most compelling motive for buying a book.

For a brief while my writing was under the spell of Gertrude Stein, but fortunately, none of it (because it was a poor imitation) made its way into print.  Imitation of any sort is to be avoided (now stealing - that's another matter. 'Good artists imitate, great artists steal.')

James Herbert was often a very angry negro. He was fierce and serious, and he was very certain that he often had good reason to be angry with Melanctha, who knew so well how to be nasty, and to use her learning with a father who knew nothing.
From 'Melanctha', in 3 Lives, by Gertrude Stein

The other women she writes about are 'The Good Anna' and 'The Gentle Lena'.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

"What's nurtured slowly grows well."

The novels - or fragments of novels really- Sumire wrote weren't as terrible as she thought. True, at times her style resembled a patchwork quilt sewn by a group of stubborn old ladies, each with her own tastes and complaints, working in grim silence. Add to this her somewhat manic-depressive personality, and things got occasionally out of control. As if this weren't enough, Sumire was dead-set on creating a  massive nineteenth-century-style Total Novel, a kind of portmanteau packed with every possible phenomenon in order to capture the soul and human destiny.

Having said that, Sumire's writing had a remarkable freshness about it, her attempt to honestly portray what was important to her. On the plus side she didn't try to imitate anyone else's style, and she didn't attempt to  distil everything into some precious, clever little pieces. That's what I most liked about her writing. I wouldn't have been right to pare down the direct power in her writing just so it could take on some pleasant, cosy form. There was no need to rush things. She still had plenty of time for detours. As the saying goes, "What's nurtured slowly grows well."

Haruki Murakami, Sputnik Sweetheart (1999)

(I knew I'd sneak a man into the attic one day, when this was meant to be a women's writing space ...oh well, I make the rules, I break em. Just as long as he's out by 10 pm.)

I recently read this book for the second time. The narrator, K, is in love with Sumire, an unkempt aspiring writer who gets around in an old coat and boots, who isn't interested in love at all until she meets Miu, a glamorous woman 17 years her senior ... the book, being Murakami is full of domestic detail, philosophy, metaphysics and strange happenings.

I liked this quotation as it says so much about writing. And who would know if not Murakami?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Dry Grass and Shadows

Dry Grass and Shadows
There are things that I've seen in my head
While I'm sleeping in bed
That do not wither in the morning light

I’m taken back
Oh! I’m taken back
To the dry grass and the shadows

Thinking “I’d like to look at your teeth”
Lined up in perfect rows
A maze of children’s feet in orchard trees
Where the flat lands stretch inside your mouth
And when you laugh all the Star thistles stumble out
The flat lands stretch inside your mouth
And when you laugh all the Star thistles stumble out

The strong spines of valley hills, all over grown in gold
Look softer than a spool of old silk thread
But if we walked them with our feet,
I’d be pulling spines and barbs and foxtails from your skin
Oh if we walked them with our feet
I’d be pulling spines and barbs and foxtails from your skin

There are things that I’ve seen in my head
While I’m sleeping in bed
That do not wither in the morning light

I’m taken back
Oh! I’m taken back
To the dry grass and the shadows

Alela Diane, from the album To Be Still

Not mad, just wonderful. I listened to this album on the way home from a long trip, in the dark, as we approached Lismore, and this was just one song I particularly liked. 

Alela Diane. Comes from Nevada City, the same place that spawned Joanna Newsom. Must be something in the water, as they say.

(Thanks to Cath for seeking out the words and sending them to me.)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

sur les toits des Paris

Mr Partington and I went up the stairs of 89, and got out onto a slim, fine-boarded landing right in front of a curious little thin door with the most unique air of Paris about it all, it was precisely as though one were living sur les toits des Paris, or on the roofs of Paris. We went in when he opened the door and I found myself in a most wonderful place, a garret of two rooms, the one winding sinuously like a square snake about a shadowy little glass-doored room under the slanting eaves. A bed lay in the silence and darkness there, I saw. But it was the dear little L-room outside that was so lovely, so really suited to a writer and poet's passion for solitude and quaintness, and with what genius one could work and write here ...
Eve Langley, 'The Old Mill', in Wilde Eve, edited by Lucy Frost.

Isn't this every girl's dream of a romantic place to write? It wasn't Paris, of course, but Auckland during the depression, where Langley went to live from her home in Gippsland.

Langley(1908-1974) is best known for her novel The Pea Pickers.  In that book, she and her sister June, calling themselves Steve and Blue, dressed as men and set off to work on the land in Australia. Her writing is funny, romantic, and full of energy and life.

This book by Lucy Frost revives Langley's autobiographical writings, which went unpublished for a long time.

Monday, September 12, 2011

All the nicest men were in books ...

Because of the rain, not many customers came in and out, so I wrote the bills quickly and then got on with my reading. I had a book hidden in the ledger, so that I could read it without fear of being caught.
It was a beautiful book, but sad. It was called Tender is the Night. I skipped half the words in my anxiety  to read it quickly, because I wanted to know if the man would leave the woman or not. All the nicest men were in books - the strange, complex, romantic men; the ones I admired most.

Edna O'Brien, Girl with Green Eyes (1962)

'Haven't you already read that?' friends used to say to me when they saw me reading this when I was at university.

Yes, but I'm reading it again. And again. This is a book I have more than copy of, in case one wears out or gets lost. This story of Caithleen Brady (Kate), a 'literary fat girl' working in a grocery shop in Dublin, and her friend Baba in the early 1960s, is one I find endlessly entertaining and apparently effortlessly written. Sometimes when you're a teenager you find the perfect book that is you, and for me, this is it.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Unpopular gals

God knows all about it. No Devil, no Fall, no Redemption. Grade Two arithmetic.
You can wipe your feet on me, twist my motives around all you like, you can dump millstones on my head and drown me in the river, but you can't get me out of the story. I'm the plot, babe, and don't ever forget it.

Margaret Atwood, 'Unpopular Gals', from her collection, Good Bones.

I first heard Margaret Atwood read this on the radio in her laconic voice.  It's a short piece, told in the voices of three stalwarts of fairy tales: the ugly sister, the wicked witch, and the evil stepmother.

'I'm the plot, babe, and don't ever forget it.'

Good advice for writers. I think I must have this in mind when I created Maggie Tulliver, in My Candlelight Novel. She wasn't the entire plot, but it never hurts a story to have a someone who's Not Very Nice.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

One little song

There’s gotta be a song left to sing
Cause everybody can’t of thought of everything
One little song that ain’t been sung
One little rag that ain’t been wrung out completely yet
Gotta a little left

One little drop of fallin rain
One little chance to try again
One little bird that makes it every now and then
One little piece of endless sky
One little taste of cherry pie
One little week in paradise and I start thinkin’

There’s gotta be a song left to sing
Cause everybody can’t of thought of everything
One little note that ain’t been used
One little word ain’t been abused a thousand times
In a thousand rhymes

One little drop of fallin rain
One little chance to try again
One little bird that makes it every now and then
One little piece of endless sky
One little taste of cherry pie
One little week in paradise and I start thinkin’

Gotta be a song left to sing
Cause everybody can’t of thought of everything
One little song that ain’t been sung
One little rag that ain’t been wrung out completely yet
Till there’s nothing left

Gillian Welch, 'One Little Song', from the album Soul Paradise

The words alone don't give a true impression of the yearning nature of this song, or its beauty when sung in Gillian Welch's perfect voice. 

You might think there's nothing new that can be said, but there are things in the world - perhaps only little things - that haven't been written about. If you look at the world from your own perspective, you can always winkle out something original. I think this song has a message for all writers.

And it's very humble, too. You don't have to set the world on fire, you just have to find this little thing that is yours to say. I love this song - Gillian Welch is inspiring, always.

Friday, August 26, 2011

"That would fix a lot of people."

The more I thought about it the better I liked the idea of being seduced by a simultaneous interpreter in New York City. Constantin seemed mature and considerate in every way. There were no people I knew he would want to brag to about it, the way college boys bragged about sleeping with girls in the backs of cars to their room-mates or their friends on the basketball team. And there would be a pleasant irony in sleeping with a man Mrs Willard had introduced me to, as if she were, in a roundabout way, to blame for it.
When Constantin asked if I would like to come up to his apartment to hear some balalaika records I smiled to myself. My mother had always told me never under any circumstances to go with a man to a man's rooms after an evening out, it could only mean the one thing.
'I am very fond of balalaika music, I said.'

Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar, (1963)

What I like about Sylvia Plath's novel, after rereading it just now, is not only the vivid imagery and the huge number of quotable quotes about the poisonous effect of American society on the lives of women - it is the tone: the angry humour and the ultra-real depictions of the world. It is obviously the work of a poet, in the compression and precision, and in the structure, the frequent use of one word paragraphs that say much in few words.

On the verge of a mental breakdown, the narrator Esther Greenwood, after being turned down for a summer school writing course with a famous writer, ponders on what she will do with herself:

"Then I decided I would write a novel.
That would fix a lot of people."

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Poetry of Kitchens

The place I like best in this world is the kitchen. No matter where it is, no matter what kind, if it's a kitchen, if its a place where they make food, it's fine with me. Ideally it should be well broken in. Lots of tea towels, dry and immaculate. White tile catching the light (ting! ting!)
I love even incredibly dirty kitchens to distraction - vegetable droppings all over the floor, so dirty your slippers turn black on the bottom. Strangely, it's better if this kind of kitchen is large. I lean up against the silver door of a towering, giant refrigerator stocked with enough food to get through a winter. When I raise my eyes from the oil-spattered gas burner and the rusty kitchen knife, outside the window stars are glittering, lonely.
Now only the kitchen and I are left. It's just a little nicer than being all alone.
When I'm dead worn out, in a reverie, I often think that when it comes time to die, I want to breathe my last in a kitchen. Whether it's cold and I'm all alone, or somebody's there and it's warm, I'll stare death fearlessly in the eye. If it's a kitchen, I'll think, "How good."
Banana Yoshimoto, Kitchen

I love kitchens, and I love Banana Yoshimoto's writing, so this is one of my favourite book openings. Like Haruki Murakami, there's something addictive about the way she puts words together. Apparently simple, straightforward, and colloquial, there are depths there, and a lyricism.

When I wrote My Candlelight Novel, I gave my kitchen loving side to Sophie, who wonders about 'the poetry of kitchens', and where it is. In the kerfuffle about the best title for that novel, I suggested 'The Poetry of Kitchens', but it was turned down. (I had always wanted to call it 'Candlelight Novel' and we ended up coming close to that original title.)

But if you're wondering about the poetry of kitchens, it's all there, in Banana Yoshimoto's beautiful book about mothers, loss, transsexuality and love.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Miss Eyre

'Besides,' said Miss Abbot, 'God will punish her: He might strike her dead in the midst of her tantrums, and then where would she go? Come, Bessie, we will leave her: I wouldn't have her heart for anything. Say your prayers, Miss Eyre, when you are by yourself; for if you don't repent, something bad might be permitted to come down the chimney and fetch you away.'

Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre