Archive | July, 2012

Do I really need to ditch the tracksuit?

31 Jul

This year I decided to take a year off my community relations job in order to focus on my writing. Being a full-time writer sounds kind of glamorous. To me it evokes an image of a sultry looking woman in black beret, a cigarette holder hanging out of her mouth as she bangs away at her keyboard in a funky cafe. That woman may be out there, but she isn’t me.

As I write this I am wearing tracksuit pants that seem to have the remains of last night’s dinner on them, I haven’t washed my hair for at least a week, I am drinking Coles brand green tea and I haven’t shaved my legs since, um…  Too much information? Sorry.

I suspect that many writers are like me – we sink into total slobdom when not required to make appearances in the world. Which brings me to the Byron Writers Festival.  I have attended at least ten years of the festival, and this year for the first time I will be on the other side of the platform looking out. Yay!

I’m looking forward to it, but it also strikes me as being a strange thing – to herd a group of people who are more used to conversing with imaginary friends than real people onto a stage. While writing requires inappropriate thoughts to be shared – it’s called honesty – other forms of communication don’t always call for this. Perhaps this is what makes writers’ festivals good entertainment. Often you are watching someone who is totally unpractised saying whatever comes into their head. It can be refreshing.

So anyway, I’m planning to wash my hair in a couple of days and shake the dust off a nice frock. I think I might have some lipstick stashed away somewhere. And as for what comes out of my mouth? We shall see…

 

Catch me looking well groomed (or at least clean) at the Byron Writers Festival 1.15 Friday and 10.45 Sunday. 

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Masculinity, sexuality and tenderness – ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town’ by Jessie Cole

19 Jul

A crashed car on a country road, a fragile young woman and man who collects broken things… These are the elements which introduce Jessie Cole’s debut novel, Darkness on the Edge of Town.

Vincent is something of a drifter, a handyman on the cusp of forty, unpolished, but tender. From the moment he stops to help the young woman he finds sitting beside her crashed car, his life takes a new direction. Rachel, brittle and grieving, returns to Vincent’s house and a strange and intense relationship develops between them.

Vincent’s daughter Gemma is sixteen, and entering the unknown land of male and female relationships. She wonders how she can spend all night talking to a boy and then, ‘at school he acted like he’d never seen me before…’ Gemma has watched Vincent move from woman to woman in the town, always choosing ones with, ‘a half-crazy edge’.  ‘I used to wonder what it was about my dad that attracts these women… But lately I’m thinking maybe I should be worried about what it is that he needs from them.’ Gemma watches with apprehension as the dynamic between Vincent and Rachel changes.

The story is told from the alternate voices of father and daughter. Both voices are strong, distinct and totally authentic. There are some beautiful moments between Gemma and her father such as when Vincent tries to tell her how he feels about Rachel. ‘…I can never explain it, and the more I’d try the weirder it’d sound.’ All three characters struggle to communicate their feelings – the gaps between what they say and what they feel ring loudly.

Set in an isolated valley in the Northern Rivers, the novel explores themes of masculinity and sexuality, communication and miscommunication. In the style of writers like Tim Winton, it is a tense and gripping portrayal of the current that lies beneath relationships in the smallest of towns.

The theme of male violence also pervades the book. Vincent, though compassionate and principled, is quick to anger. I read the book with a knot of apprehension which grew as the story progressed. But what touched me most was its quality of transience. As Vincent reflects, lying next to Rachel, ‘I lay there, still and quiet, knowing that nothing lasts forever, but sort of hoping that it could.’

This is a novel you’ll read quickly and then wish you’d read slowly because you don’t want it to end.

 

This is my tenth review for the Australian Women Writers Challenge.

 

Join Jessie and I in conversation at Lennox Head Library 10.30am on the 24th of July or Lismore Library 5.30pm on the 26th July. Free events. All welcome.

Or, otherwise at the Byron Writers Festival 3-5th August.

Hope to see you there!

 

Oh no – I can’t believe I’ve got nothing to read!

17 Jul

Most keen readers would know the fear of being stuck somewhere with time to kill without a book to read. There is nothing worse than thinking of all the time you are wasting when you could have been reading. This doesn’t happen to me often, but occasionally on holiday I underestimate my reading capacity. I have the kind of holidays that involve carrying backpacks so weight is a major consideration.

Last week, I was out ski touring in Kosciusko National Park. On day two I finished Caleb’s Crossing and anxiety set in. I looked enviously at my son who was gaily reading his way through any number of lengthy fantasy novels on his Kindle. Imagine my delight when we did a day tour to another hut and I found a stash of old novels thoughtfully left behind. Blackeyes by Dennis Potter was the perfect accompaniment to the last couple of days of the trip.

It made me think of the other treasures I have picked up to read on my travels – Murakami’s IQ84 in a backpackers in Tokyo, Peter Matheson’s The Snow Leopard in Kathmandu and Zen and the Art of Motorbike Maintenance in London. Picking up books like this is a special part of travel. In a way it bonds you to that other anonymous other travelling reader you will never meet.

While it might be time to buy a Kindle and load it up with a hundred books, I still think you can’t beat the excitement of waiting to see what fate will deliver.

Have you ever picked up any literary treasures while on the road?

If you are in the Northern Rivers next week, Jessie Cole, author of Darkness on the Edge of Town and myself will be doing talks at Lennox Head library at 10.30am on Tuesday 24th July and Lismore Library on Thursday 26th July at 5.30pm. Free events. All welcome.