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Archive for the ‘me’ Category

I was very flattered to be interviewed by The Wheeler Centre about writing and among other things I talked about the importance of Kiese Laymon’s essays and also, Rachel Cusk’s memoirs to me.

What’s the book that’s had the most significant impact on your life or work – and why?

Rachel Cusk’s two memoirs, A Life’s Work and Aftermath, were breakthroughs for me with my writing. I was a new parent and she was the first writer I found interested in connecting her personal experiences of motherhood to the broader discussion of feminism and writing. Plus, Cusk has been prepared to go as dark as required with that pursuit. I didn’t find her books all that confronting, to be honest, but some readers did and it’s always very interesting when terribly human moments disturb people to that degree.

The other thing Cusk showed me is that you do not always have to start your conversation with readers at the beginning. Some pieces are written for beginner-level understanding – they’re extremely important − but it is perfectly acceptable to pitch other essays only to readers who are progressed on the issue. It is nice to see what your article provokes with them and to learn from their part in the conversation. (Although reading the comments on those articles where you didn’t start from the beginning and bring everyone with you might be a brutal experience).

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Oh you know I do love to talk about the insidious rise of individualism and how it comes at the expense of collectivist action.  This is my latest article for Daily Life.

But now viewed through the lens of individualism the sexist, too, can have a deeply personal story. He made a mistake, he broke a rule, he’s sorry if what he did offended you. He’s actually a kind of victim here, too, he wants you to know. Accusations of sexism, you see, are graded on the steepest of curves so virtually no-one, except the least sympathetic of villains, qualifies as an actual sexist. All other instances of sexism, watered down by individualism, are thus eventually transformed into reasonable actions and understandable views and your inability as a woman to overcome them is simply a character flaw of yours.

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3026935-slide-s-1-everything-about-these-iphone-pictures-of-a-lego-lensman-taking-pictures-is-awesome

From here. Thanks to Leena for the link.

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I met up with Cristy (two peas no pod, Larvatus Prodeo etc) and her children last weekend at the beach.  We worked out we’ve been following one another’s blogging and writing for over eight years now .. and we’ve finally met in person.

Of course we got along like a house on fire. Our kids did too.

bc beach

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.. to enjoy more difficult art again. Ben Marcus with “Why experimental fiction threatens to destroy publishing, Jonathan Franzen, and life as we know it”.

What interests me about this kind of writing is its desire to discover meaning where we might not think to find it, as if it’s burning entirely new synaptical pathways, and this is a very different pleasure than the kind I might get from narrative realism. It’s a poetic aim that believes in the possibilities of language to create ghostly frames of sense, or to prove to me that rational sense might be equally unstable, and I can get a literally visceral thrill when I read it, because I happen to actually enjoy language.

Although Stein’s individual sentences do not require excessive deciphering, the connections she attempts between them are far more challenging, mysterious, and wide-ranging than the transitions Franzen uses in his narrative realist mode, which generally builds linearly on what has gone before, subscribes to cinematic verisimilitude, and, when it’s not narrating, slaps mortar onto an already stable fictional world. I find a terrific amount of complexity to be possible in Franzen’s approach, and it frequently comes in the form of characterization. Characters are built to be intense webs of plausible contradiction, and their often conflicting desires, which can be emotionally self-destructive, war within them to produce dramatic tension. When it’s done well, this can be immensely satisfying to read. But the notion that this is the premier paradigm for art made with language is like suggesting that painting should have ceased after Impressionism.

As much as I enjoy Stein’s more slippery work, I understand why Tender Buttons is not popular, but that doesn’t discredit it artistically, nor does it make me believe that Stein wrote to create a cloud of difficulty that would intimidate readers into thinking her work was important.

This is why I made that resolution.

(My resolution this year is to live on a budget. From big thoughts little thoughts grew).

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I will be back on the parenting panel this morning on ABC 612 at 10.30. If you want to tune in we will be discussing my new book, The Good Mother Myth and other topics.

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ab good mother myth

Here I am with a copy of The Good Mother Myth: Redefining Motherhood to Fit Reality, a fantastic new anthology that includes one of my essays in it. If you’re in the United States of America then you can get along to one of the author events for the launch – they’re happening in New York, Chicago and Portland at the moment. Otherwise, here is The Washington Post talking about the book, Publishers Weekly and Brain, Child.

Next time I really must smile in the photograph because I’m very happy about this book.

 

 

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..this was the road to civilisation, sure enough, but its cost was a loss of diversity, of the quiet kind of flourishing that goes where things are not being built and goals driven towards. She herself relished the early Saxon world, in which concepts of power had not yet been reconfigured; for in a way the Dark Ages were themselves a version of ‘the new reality’, were the broken pieces of the biggest plate of all, the Roman Empire. Some called it darkness, the aftermath of that megalomanical all-conquering unity, but not Mrs Lewis. She liked it, liked the untenanted wastes, liked the monasteries and the visionaries, the early religious writings, liked the women who accrued stature in those formless inchoate centuries, liked the grassroots – the personal – level on which issues of justice and belief had now to be resolved, in the absence of that great administrator civilisation.

The point was that this darkness – call it what you will – this darkness and disorganisation were not mere negation, mere absence. They were both aftermath and prelude. The etymology of the word ‘aftermath’ is ‘second mowing’, a second crop of grass that is sown and reaped after the harvest is in. Civilisation, order, meaning, belief: these were not sunlit peaks to be reached by a steady climb. They were built and then they fell, were built and fell again or were destroyed. The darkness, the disorganisation that succeeded them had their own existence, their own integrity; were betrothed to civilisation, as sleep is betrothed to activity. In the life of compartments lies the possibility of unity, just as unity contains the prospect of atomisation. Better, in Mrs Lewis’s view, to live the compartmentalised, the disorganised life and feel the dark stirrings of creativity, than to dwell in civilised unity, racked by the impulse to destroy.

I just re-read Rachel Cusk’s Aftermath: on Marriage and Separation in preparation for early next year when a group of writer/editor friends and I are meeting in Melbourne for a one-off book club to discuss this book over dinner and the reviews it received and how it was interpreted (one of the reviews even won hatchet job of the year).. and I loved this book when I first read it but I love it ten times more now.

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This year I read a lot of poetry: partly because I have never read much poetry and I was always meaning to, and partly to slow my reading down and improve the way I read (ie. less speed reading, more contemplating) and partly because it has been such a year of turmoil for me and I thought poetry might help and well, it can’t hurt.

My brother sent me this poem last night when he called to wish me a happy Christmas (and hassle me about the article we’re writing together). I love it.

Fair Weather
by Dorothy Parker

This level reach of blue is not my sea;
Here are sweet waters, pretty in the sun,
Whose quiet ripples meet obediently
A marked and measured line, one after one.
This is no sea of mine, that humbly laves
Untroubled sands, spread glittering and warm.
I have a need of wilder, crueler waves;
They sicken of the calm, who knew the storm.

So let a love beat over me again,
Loosing its million desperate breakers wide;
Sudden and terrible to rise and wane;
Roaring the heavens apart; a reckless tide
That casts upon the heart, as it recedes,
Splinters and spars and dripping, salty weeds.

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Freshly squeezed

aa freshly squeezed

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