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.