Joan London’s exquisite new novel

I hardly ever write reviews (for obvious reasons). However, I love making exceptions, and Joan London’s wonderful new novel THE GOLDEN AGE makes a glorious exception. Here endeth the superlatives…..

This is a short review wot I wrote for the mother ship, THE COURIER-MAIL, Brisbane, Australia.

Do yourself a favour, people. READ IT.

FICTION
The Golden Age
Joan London, Vintage, $32.99
Reviewer: Susan Johnson

In limpid, crystalline prose, acclaimed Western Australian author Joan London evokes a dream landscape of a children’s polio ward, where “flocks of wheelchairs” alight and depart. Based on an actual convalescent home of the same name as her novel’s title, this beautiful novel traces the disease poliomyelitis as it weaves its way through the bodies of children and adolescents in 50s Australia.
Few write as poetically and as truthfully as London, whose yearning characters are charged with a vivid humanity. Frank Gold, the 13 year-old son of Jewish Hungarian refugees is becoming a poet, and the beam of his poetic eye is trained on Elsa, child of poverty, bright, beautiful, also on her way to becoming her adult self.
The novel, for me, could have ended without its epilogue. But leaving this minor quibble aside, read London for her knowledge of people like us, “small lurching figures beneath the luminous sky.”

Posted in books; authors; Australia, Joan London, Life; birth; marriage; divorce, The Courier Mail, writing | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

How social media is changing publishing, music & visual art

Here’s something I wrote wearing my journalism hat….

social media

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Excited passions: some thoughts on The Writer As Saint

IF EVER THERE was a writer revered as a saint-like figure, Amherst’s gothic 19th century poet Emily Dickinson is it. Gnomic, ethereal (possibly anorexic) and given to appearing without warning at doorways in front of startled visitors. Before she was even a ghost, real or imagined, hers was a wraithlike presence.
She’s the kind of writer – visionary, hallucinatory, transcendental “Clogged/only with/Music, like/ the Wheels of/Birds…(and) the gorgeous/nothings/which/compose/the/sunset” – who perfectly fits the romanticised view of the writer.
In a new book of Dickinson’s poetry, The Gorgeous Nothings (New Directions), one of the book’s editors, Marta Werner, writes of finding by accident a hand-written poetry fragment of Dickinson’s in the Amherst College Library “when it fell (rose?) out of an acid-free envelope….Look at it, here, flying on the page, vying with light.” As the British academic Mark Ford writes in a review in the London Review of Books Werner’s tone is sacramental, as if the fragment were a saint’s relic.
Writers first began to assume the role of secular saints during the Enlightenment. If God was dead or dying, who was going to read life’s signs? Without an overarching plan – indeed, without a cosmic plot – who was going to impose order on chaos? Humans have always told each other stories, as allegorical, metaphorical or actual clues in navigating the apparent random joy and hideousness of existence.
But it wasn’t until the nineteenth and twentieth centuries that the-writer-as-seer – half-sacred, romantic and blessed with far-sighted, mystical powers – became popular. Writers were mad, bad and dangerous to know: drinkers, living on the edge, possible suicidal, and with more passion than ordinary folk (But even the legendary Lord Byron towards the end of his life wearied of the poet-thy-name-is-eternal-passion malarkey, writing to a friend in 1821: “I can never get people to understand that poetry is the expression of excited passion, and that there is no such thing as a life of passion any more than a continuous earthquake, or an eternal fever. Besides, who would ever shave themselves in such a state?”)
Like all writers, I became a writer because first and foremost I was a reader. I loved books and like every devoted reader I felt a shock of recognition and intoxicated wonder when I read something that felt profound and true, as if the writer had access to some secret instrument inside me, inside everyone, which deciphered the human soul. Like Eudora Welty, I believed writers were guided by “the Geiger counter of the imagination” towards lived truths.
I had almost no life experience and yet, like everyone, I contained a universe of emotion. At ten I read my grandmother’s copy of David Copperfield and understood perfectly what it felt like to be abandoned, alone, striving. I was Jo in Little Women and later the young man in Sons and Lovers and I knew what it felt like to say goodbye to a statue and walk out into the rain (A Farewell to Arms). The external facts of a character’s life were irrelevant: it was the truth of being alive I understood, and recognised.
By the time I got to Tolstoy and George Elliot and Fitzgerald Austen and Bronte I was a goner. By then, when I read great writers, I thought they were secular saints too. They knew something I wanted to know, so it’s true that books turned me into a writer.
I was much older, and published (just before I turned 30), when I came to know personally these Gods descended to earth. I remember very well the first time I met an actual, published writer (when I was still in my twenties, unpublished, and trying to write). It was a dinner party, and the famous writer was there (Australian, at the height of her fame, who shall remain nameless). I could barely speak. Really. I could hardly say a word. I was dumbstruck.
Later, still before I was published, the great Doris Lessing spoke at a literary dinner in Canberra. I’d flown down to hear her (The Golden Notebook for a time was like a map of life to me). The next day I was alone in the bookshop attached to the festival, when Lessing walked in. How to say it? My heart leapt. She was only a couple of metres away from me, then breathing right beside me, browsing the stack of books on the table. There was no-one in the shop, no-one, except Doris Lessing, the sales assistant at the cash machine, and me.
I happened to be holding my copy of The Diaries of Jane Somers (Lessing has always been streets ahead of everyone; it was the ‘80s and it was the novel she wrote under a pseudonym, to prove how hard it is for unknown writers to be published, let alone reach an audience). Why didn’t I ask her to sign it? Why didn’t I strike up a conversation? I even knew certain people who knew her, who even lived with her (she famously kept an open house and I knew someone who knew someone who knew Robyn Davidson (Tracks) who for a time lived in one of her spare rooms. She was famously generous to young people). I was a young person, and yet I was speechless.
It’s one of the small regrets of my life that I never spoke to her. I’m very sure she had people gushing at her from all quarters and – most likely – she didn’t need another spray. Yet I wish I had – sometimes famous writers can be so intimidating to people that, like extremely beautiful outcasts, no-one ends up approaching them. Personally, I’ve always been rewarded by starting up conversations – even unlikely ones (inadvertently amusing John Coetzee at dinner, for example, with tales of my white-ant ridden kitchen floor. No-one else wanted to sit next to him). I found the Nobel Prize winner, the late Seamus Heaney, totally charming and funny as hell. Ditto Margaret Atwood and Margaret Drabble.
By the time I got to personally know most of Australia’s writers, and a few English and American and French ones, I understood what Peter Carey meant when he said that your writing is somehow more intelligent that you are. In other words, there is the writing, and then there is the writer and – sometimes – there is only the barest symmetry between the two. A writer can be a complete bastard in his wide-awake life, and a complete angel in his work. Writing is something else, apart from the writer. While a writer’s writing of course only belongs to him or her, and is as individually stamped as a dream, I’ve come to believe in a slightly different version of the writer-as-saint or the writer-as-God.
Recently I re-read Middlemarch. How did Elliot come to possess such vast, but such intricately nuanced, human knowledge? How does David Mitchell in Cloud Atlas know so many moments of existence, such fine, minute details of the breathing heart? How does Tolstoy do it – encompass such breadth and depth of oceanic understanding? Tolstoy was, in fact, a religious zealot, given to visionary dreams and wild utopian dreams, and was to the end full of demonic energy. Mitchell has an autistic son and – no disrespect intended – Mitchell’s writing has a certain brilliant savant quality (I’ve only met him briefly and he is lovely, but so, so unnervingly bright, genius bright, right off the scale).
I give you David Foster Wallace, a human born as if without a skin, his head so filled with wonder and awe and symbols and knowledge and love, it is hardly a wonder he could not bear to live. It took me ages to understand that writers – probably all writers – feel life more keenly than other people. You don’t need to be Sylvia Plath to appreciate the swings of joy and sadness but you do need a certain kind of emotional wiring to goad you into desiring a physical expression of intellect and emotion, into producing words on the page.
I didn’t know I lived at a higher pitch than most people until I was embarrassingly old. Now I know it is this excessive passion that forms the writer, even that outwardly dispassionate John Coetzee. Writing doesn’t have to have the blood and guts and etoliated madness of a Plath, or the anorexic with-holding madness of Dickinson. It can fly into space like a Lessing piece of science fiction or dig deep in the mud like a Heaney poem. But now I think the greatest writers are sort of idiot savants, living vessels, through which human consciousness is poured. With writing at its highest form – Tolstoy, Thomas Mann, Patrick White, Marilynne Robinson – the writer acts like a conduit.
It’s not the muse. It’s work, but not as we know it. It’s witch-craft, conjured, willed. It’s a freak of personality, like a super athlete with a freakish set of genes allowing him to run. Now I think there’s a sort of cosmic grading of writerly talent, from Shakespeare down. Every writer has it, a trickle or an ocean. Tolstoy was awash, his own sea.

Posted in books; authors; Australia, Emily Dickinson;Sylvia Plath; Seamus Heaney, Susan Johnson; Australian fiction, The Writer As Saint; The Muse;, writing | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off

My Hundred Lovers hits the stage….


Some interesting news: Melbourne-based actor and director Leisa Shelton talked me into agreeing to a stage adaptation of my last novel My Hundred Lovers and we have just learned that the project has got the green light.

Over the years several of my novels have been optioned for film, and none of them have made it to a cinema. I was most excited by the idea of Jane Campion’s film company optioning Hungry Ghosts – I thought Campion’s creative eye might be exactly the right one to translate that particular book into a film. Other options on other books included the late great Joan Lindsay of Picnic at Hanging Rock fame who wanted to do my first novel Messages From Chaos – way back in 1988 (I’ve been in this business a long time) – and the people who did that film about a pig, Babe, for the 1996 novel A Big Life. All came to nought.

This time the wonderful Australia Council will fund Leisa’s project. Leisa talked me into agreeing to the idea at all by directing me to her work with the brilliant Canadian poet, Anne Carson, whose work Leisa has adapted for the stage, in Canadian, Australian and European productions. Based on Carson’s collection of short works called Men in the off hours, Shelton and her company Fragment 31 turned Irony is not Enough-Essay on my life as Catherine Denueve into a brilliant conceptual piece of theatre.

I must admit when Leisa first approached me I was inclined to scoff. How could she possibly translate a novel about a body’s intimate physical sensations into a visible artistic form? Books and their images are located in the head, in private space, but a few long talks with Leisa convinced me that the images in the book might be creatively transformed to images on a public stage. Leisa is brilliant – Anne Carson trusted her – and she seems to possess the same strange, visionary dream that allows a writer to write. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with.

As they say in the trade, watch this space….

Posted in 2014 Susan Johnson new novel, books; authors; Australia, Leisa Shelton; Fragment 31; Anne Carson, My Hundred Lovers, Stage adaptation My Hundred Lovers, Susan Johnson; Australian fiction, writing | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Finished, and finished

Finishing a book is like waking, cured, from an illness; a fever perhaps, something febrile and unwavering. When I am in the grip of a book everything but the writing of the book falls away: in the old days, before I was a mother and a partner, I could even go for long stretches without eating, washing, cleaning, all the things you believe necessary to life. I ate only enough to keep going, and sort of dug a hole in the mess of clothes, manuscripts, books and papers on the bed, and then dug my way out again before the sun was up to begin again.

In Claudia Roth Pierpont’s new life of Philip Roth, Roth Unbound, she mentions Roth’s fondness for quoting the poet Cseslaw Milosz’s adage that “when a writer is born into a family, the family is finished” (Roth himself might have added wives and lovers to that definition).

It’s sad but true that a writer’s unwavering focus and dedication to finishing a book can make partners feel abandoned. I don’t think many people other than artists could understand, say, the artist Barbara Hepworth’s decision to give away her triplets to a kind of up-market baby home (not an actual orphanage but – in essence – a place to park her babies for a good many years while she got on with her work).

Now, with kids and a partner, any spare time is for them. I cut out social media; I cut out going out, except to essential events (Christmas? OK, I’ll do lunch). I had a finite period of time off from my day job, six months to be exact, starting from last November – which unfortunately coincided with the Christmas-New Year holiday season – and which effectively meant I didn’t go to the beach the whole summer. I worked pretty much every day, seven days a week – not all day, that would even do my mad-writer’s-brain head in – but for a couple of hours, and sometimes several hours.

I’m finished. Some 70,000 words – I use an old fashioned, hand-drawn paper calendar on which I write each day’s word count. I already feel sad that the writing is over because – in truth – I only ever really feel like a writer when I am actually writing. And this bit is my favourite bit – the work done, not yet published, not yet edited, reviewed, read – just a private dream, realized. It is a small, modest dream, but it’s my dream and, for the moment, I’m happy. I’m no Philip Roth (sadly) but, like him, I like the German notion of maskenfreiheit to describe fiction: “the freedom conferred by masks”. Making a fiction is an elaborate play with masks and I love playing.

Posted in 2014 Susan Johnson new novel, books; authors; Australia, Philip Roth; Claudia Roth Pierpont; Roth Unbound, Susan Johnson; Australian fiction, writing | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

Australian Society of Authors National Congress 2013

National Writers Congress

 

 

Anna Funder gave a brilliant – and blistering – opening address at the first National Congress of the Australian Society of Authors held in Sydney last year.

Now the ASA has uploaded a link to the whole two day event. I particularly recommend the Funder (check out her maths equation) and her argument about paying writers — always. Melissa Lucashenko’s lecture is also a cracker. My session was with the formidably talented Anthony Lowenstein.

Enjoy! And remember that writers earn one of the lowest living wages — most still have to supplement their incomes. Writing contributes to the vast wealth of cultural identity, as well as bringing financial wealth to economies. Please support our writers.

 

Posted in Australian Society of Authors; National Writers Congress 2013, books; authors; Australia, Writer's incomes, Writers and political action, writing | Tagged , , | Comments Off

ABC612 Brisbane Hot Ticket

Richard Fidler, Jillian Whiting and me

Briefly out of hibernation yesterday to do a quick gig on ABC Brisbane’s 612 with Tim Cox’s Drivetime. Basically a chance to talk about what everyone is reading, seeing, watching. I am totally out of the GAME OF THRONES hysteria — Richard sang its praises long and loud and Tim reckons its Shakespearian in its proportion and depth — but I was pleased to know Jillian Whiting was with me — she hasn’t seen it either.

Other things I mentioned were the wonderful Christos Tsolkias. I reckon he’s the best writer writing in Australia today — the psychological acuity, the reach of his vision, the vigour of his prose. I recommended BARRACUDA, despite the fact that I have not really read the whole thing through. I’m not reading fiction (when you are some 57,000 words into your own novel it is death to read other writers — either you (meaning me) unconsciously parody them, or else you feel like jumping out the window because they are so good and you are so bad, or else it just completely puts you off your stride because you need to hypnotise yourself into believing that finishing your book actually matters. Very easy for a writer — sitting alone in a room day after day — to lose faith and confidence). I read non-fiction when I am writing, and so I also mentioned the John Cheever biography by Blake Bailey (who wrote the wonderful Richard Yates bio).

The other book I mentioned was Kristina Olsson memoir BOY LOST, a beautifully wrought, very moving story about the absence in the life of her late mother, and the child wrenched from her arms. Recommended. I hope this will be a regular monthly gig — it was fun. And most refreshing to remove myself from my lonely chair in my lonely room. Now, back to that lonely, growing book.

Posted in 2014 Susan Johnson new novel, ABC612; Tim Cox; Richard Fidler; Gillian Whiting; ABC Brisbane Drivetime; Hot Ticket, books; authors; Australia, QWeekend; journalism; Susan Johnson, writing | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off

Border despatch

Hello from the frontline of novel writing. Now approaching the forty thousand word mark, which is starting to feel like half way.

I’ve been lucky enough to have had a week at an empty house by a lake, a gift kindly bestowed by a friend, who not only donated the house but looked after my feckless teenage children (nothing personal, boys, but all parents of teenagers will recognise the conjunction between the words “feckless” and “teenage”. They are lovely children I hasten to add, but not yet fully house trained).

I got 10,000 words down, earplugs in, no internet connection, my trusty guard dog, Lucy, at the ready to unmask any intruders. But not a soul came, only Lucy and me, the whole wonderful week, and my characters, who I love. When I am not writing about them I picture them suspended, as in a movie, the projector temporarily stopped.

Writing is not often an enjoyable activity for me. Like most writers, one is always conscious of the press of great writers above, and how far one has to go to kiss even the hem of the great. But, one must work with what one has. It is the strain of reaching for something other than that word, that image, which springs first to mind which is what makes writing — in the words of the wonderful author, and sometime New Yorker writer Francine Prose — such a “nerve-flaying” activity. To make the world appear fresh, and yet intimately known, is my great struggle.

But — what a privilege to be able to do it! Hail the mighty Australia Council for allowing this old writer to keep writing. A GOOD MAN is growing, word by agonising word, the recipient of everything I have. It might be small, it will certainly not be great, but it is mine and — as Henri Matisse says, my guide for this book for some reason — what is the point of trying if you are not aiming to do something at least half way good? In the meantime, a picture of a boat by the lake, where I was quiet, and blessed to be.

 

 

Posted in 2014 Susan Johnson new novel, A Good Man, BrizVegas; home; travel; life, Queensland, Susan Johnson; Australian fiction, writing | Tagged , , , | Comments Off

A Country Too Far

Book launch for A COUNTRY TOO FAR

Last week it was Queensland’s turn to celebrate the wonderful anthology A COUNTRY TOO FAR, with its editors Tom Keneally and Rosie Scott, at Brisbane’s Multicultural Development Associaton. The launch was timely: the same week it was reported that an asylum seeker from Myanmar was returned to a detention centre and separated from her ill new-born baby in the Mater Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit. Her crime? Seeking asylum in a country that once prided itself on its humane and compassionate approach to displaced persons after the Second World War, Vietnamese boat people and students fleeing the massacre in Tiananmen Square.

Some of Australia’s finest writers contributed to the Keneally-Scott edited anthology, examining in different ways Australia’s response to what Rosie Scott calls “one of the most pressing moral issues of our time.” In prose, essays and poetry, the collection manages to wrest back the discussion from hysteria, reminding everyone that what is at stake here are people’s lives, real people, with brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers, real people, just like us.

I urge everyone to buy a copy of this book, with all proceeds going to various groups helping newly settled migrants, and refugee groups. I was MC for the Brisbane night, but the book has already launched in Sydney and Melbourne, and events are planned for cities and towns all over Australia.

Here’s a review here from Guardian Australia but the collection has been excellent received everywhere. It would make an excellent Christmas present, most especially for those who perhaps need to understand the other side of the story. Highly recommended.

Posted in A Country Too Far; Tom Keneally; Rosie Scot, Book launches, book reviewing; Meanjin, books; authors; Australia, multiculturalism; asylum seekers, Queensland, writing | Tagged , , | Comments Off

On faith

THIS WEEK I AM leaving journalism (again) for the perils of fiction. I’m returning to that trackless place, without the guide of who/why/when/where (the four “w’s” we were told as cadet journalists we needed to put into our stories).

Unlike journalism, where the story is already in front of you, there is no story until you make it. Every life is a story, of course, but it is the job of a writer to pluck the beginnings, middles and ends of life and give it shape.

There are many definitions and interpretations of what writing is, but I like Sylvia Plath speaking of writing as an urge to excel in “one medium of translation and expression of life.” (Best of course to omit the madness that comes with an overarching desire to excel, but in Plath’s case it’s arguable whether the madness and the excellence can be separated).

I published my first novel, Messages From Chaos, in 1987. Nine books (seven novels and two non-fiction works), and twenty-six years later as a committed writer, I can only leave once again the luxury of a monthly pay cheque, superannuation, sick pay and holiday pay, because of the wonderful chance of being awarded a grant from the Literature Board of the Australia Council.

Like most writers, my writing life has been full of ups and downs. It didn’t start blessed (I entered my first novel in the Vogel Award but it failed to get even a shortlisting for the 1986 award. That year the Vogel was won by a writer called Robin Walton for Glace Fruits, and as far as I know she has not published another book since). Since then, a number of my books have been shortlisted or long-listed for practically every prize going, from the Miles Franklin to the International IMPAC Award to the Association for the Study of Australian Literature Gold Medal to numerous Premier’s Prizes, but none have won.

I’ve been lucky in other ways: getting not one but two stints at the Nancy Keesing Studio at the Internationale des Arts in the Marais in Paris. I’ve been published by big publishers or by prestigious ones – Faber, Simon and Schuster, Actes Sud among them – and I am still being published (unlike some of my fellow writers who cannot get published at all after several mid-list books).

I’ve also attended big, starry dinners at The Ivy in London where I sat between Jayne Anne Phillips (who wrote one of the twentieth century’s best – and least known – novels about war. Machine Dreams. Google it) and Ian McEwan. I’ve eaten with Peter Carey and drunk with the late, great Seamus Heaney and travelled on a train through Canada with Margaret Atwood and her lovely partner Graeme Gibson (his mother was born in Adelaide).

But I’ve also survived the shock – and let’s face it, the humiliation – of having a novel rejected, a novel that represented more than three years of my life. I’ve had the bad luck of Faber – who was the rejecting publisher – decide on a two-strikes-and-you’re-out policy (despite excellent UK reviews, with one hailing me as “the best thing to come out of Australia since Peter Carey”, my two Faber books failed to sell in huge numbers nor were they nominated for the Booker).

I’ve left journalism three times now, too, with the aim of making a go of it as a full-time writer, and – as far as good and bad luck goes – I haven’t had too bad a time of it. I’ve spent most of those twenty-six years earning my living from my books, with only occasional journalism and part-time editing and teaching stints.

The first time I left journalism – as Queensland correspondent for the late great National Times – was in 1985 because I got my first ever grant from the Literature Board of the Australia Council. I cannot sing highly enough the praises of Australia’s arts funding system which – since it was first introduced by Whitlam in the ‘70s – has largely remained intact, whatever the political persuasion of succeeding governments. After my experience of living and working and knowing artists and writers in the UK and France, I think Australia still offers one of the best models of arts funding anywhere in the world.

The second time I left journalism – this time as editor of Saturday Extra at The Age – was because I got a stonking US advance, in the days of stonking advances, when the American dollar was worth two Australian dollars. I lasted several years on that, but when I handed in the new book to my US publishers on the first-nibs-at-second-book clause, they declined it. Swings and round-abouts.

Most people in publishing know about how hard it is to make a go of writing. The media loves the success stories rather than the more usual stories, which is that it’s bloody hard to make a decent living out of fiction (insert obligatory “with the exception of Tim Winton” clause here – and maybe Alex Miller and definitely Christos Tsiolkas following the serendipitous success of The Slap but don’t forget his long years of working as a vet assistant, and then of course there is my old Sydney Morning Herald colleague, Geraldine Brooks, who has had the most stellar of literary careers).

But the stories about writers getting million dollar advances (way to go Hannah Kent for proving that it really does happen) or taking baths in bank notes (here’s looking at you, Erika Leonard, aka EL James) inevitably corrupts the way that readers – and some writers – think about books and literary life.

The writing life has little to do with starry dinners. It has little to do with making the pages of Vanity Fair (here’s looking at you, Salman) or, indeed, whether you have “made it”. The reality is – as anyone who has been writing for a reasonable amount of time knows – is plainer and rougher.

I’ve been around long enough now to see the rise and fall and rise of various writing careers, as books come and go in fashion. I’ve seen David Ireland discovered, or re-discovered, and David Foster sadly forgotten. I remember a 1980s book everyone was reading, a big hit by McPhee Gribble, who were predicting big things for Margaret McClusky and Wedlock: a novel (don’t bother googling, it appears to have fallen down the plughole of history). Justine Ettler was everywhere in the late 80s and 90s.

So as I muscle up for yet another bout – which may or may not end well – why do I do it? I was gobsmacked, and on-my-knees-grateful to be awarded a grant, but I have to say that a part of me is slightly ashamed to be applying for a grant at this late stage of my writing life. Part of me still fights the old capitalist myth about the market finding the true worth of things. You know the argument: surely there must be a reason why things – books, albums, dresses, stuff – don’t sell? Er, maybe folks just don’t want ‘em enough?

My fellow author, that young starting-out-thing Annabel Smith, discusses this point on her blog, where she takes she addresses the “most obvious explanation for such a low income might be that I have written a bad book.” She continues her theme here.

A more rational part understands, too, screen-writer William Goldman’s point in his classic Adventures in the Screen Trade that the secret about hit films (or hit books) is that there is no secret: if anyone knew what made a best-seller, he or she would simply do it. No-one knows what is going to be a hit until it’s a hit (Fifty Shades anyone?).

In the end, writing is what I do. I’m all right with being on the B team of Oz lit. I won’t lie and say I wouldn’t be ecstatic to actually win something, but I am all right with starting another book even though chances are I never will. I’m all right with beginning a new novel, even knowing that the shelf life of novels gets smaller and smaller (three weeks, tops) and that writing is more than ever a giant leap into the unknown, an act of faith.

I don’t write for myself. I wouldn’t write if I wasn’t published. I have a journal for my inner personal life. I write because if I connect with just one reader, it’s enough. I would, of course, like to connect with lots of readers – that would be my preference – but, hey, at this stage of my writing career a handful of readers is enough.

I don’t write for money (obviously). I don’t write for the glory, for the starry dinners at The Ivy. I don’t write for ego (although every writer has to have a certain amount of ego to think anyone else could care less about what he or she has written).

I write because I wish to express something of an expression of life. I write as a way of bearing witness to this passing existence. Helen Garner once wrote to me about writing that one has to feel the joy of once again putting on the harness.

In putting on the harness, with joy, I need to go deep into quiet. No social media, no Face Book, no yadda yadda. The Italians have a proverb that between the saying and the doing many a pair of shoes is worn out, so no more saying from me for a while.

Thank you, Literature Board of the Australia Council for giving me another go. I’ll be posting on this blog from time to time but not doing any social media for a while. The rest is noise, and all that. Adios, for the moment.

Posted in books; authors; Australia, writing | Tagged , , , , | 14 Comments