Sunday, March 8, 2015

Any Other Where - Fairytales and Muses

“How gloriously the sun doth shine, How lovely is the air. I'd rather rest on my true love's breastThan any other where.”

Whenever I inch into reading about fairytales/folklore I have to pull back for fear of going so far into it I might never come out. When I was a child one of the coveted books in our house was a book of fairytales. It had a yellow cloth cover and - I might be making this bit up - gold-tipped pages.

This week was a week for listening to Shirley Collins (actually most weeks are). I finally read Margo Lanagan's Sea Hearts: we read the first little bit in class - and I finished, appropriately, in a tent by the sea, with my son sleeping beside me, and a crick in my neck and my eyes like two things that needed to be taken out and rinsed. I loved it. It made me feel so heavy-hearted but in that good way, like it was proof I was awake (I am trying hard not to sleepwalk through life). I've read lots of good books this year, but reading Sea Hearts was like going to another world.

I then read this in Elizabeth Cook's The Ordinary and The Fabulous: "J.R.R Tolkien sees {fairytales} as works of 'sub-creation': in reading them we live in a Secondary World which is internally consistant and intricate, and is related to the Primary World (in which we all live for most of the time) by the human prerogative of generalization and abstraction ... The Secondary World of myth and fairytale is a world of fighting, of sudden reversals of fortune, of promises kept and broken, of commands obeyed and disobeyed, of wanderings and quests, of testing and judgement, gratitude and ingratitude, and light and darkness."

My other discovery in this area is the work of Helen Adam - I hadn't read her before although she's part of the San Francisco Renaissance I've been reading about since my 2012 trip. That's one of Helen Adam's collages above. I read this primer essay about her by Kristen Prevallet and shared the short ballad poems in class. (My favourite is #2)

Monday, March 2, 2015


Hello March!
Life is busy. I'm back teaching at RMIT. Working on my novel and various other bits of writing. I'm watching Breaking Bad and reading Sea Hearts. Operating a few years behind the zeitgeist, as ever. I went and saw Mogwai and I'm surprised nobody exploded or spontaneously combusted. Today I found a very nice black velvet jacket and broke my No Spend March rule. (Really, I shouldn't have been in there in the first place.) My copy of The Baby Maker arrived in the mail, a 1970 film starring Barbara Hershey. I remember it for a few reasons: 1) the scene where Barbara is playing beach volleyball and gets her period on her white short shorts, 2) the scene where feminists protest in a picketline and 3)I'm quite sure that Babs catches a funicular to the Chemosphere. (But I thought this recently with Petulia and was saddened to find that Julie Christie's funicular scene was leading not to Lautner's whack-beautiful dreamhouse but an altogether different dreamhouse in San Francisco).

My article about Los Angeles and houses was printed in the Age the other week.

It starts like this:

“Why shouldn’t people build their houses in the shapes of pagodas, their grocery stores in the shapes of Turkish baths, and their restaurants like boats and hats, if they wanted to? Let them build, and tear down and build again; let them experiment.”
  • The Nowhere City, Alison Lurie (1963)

It is a luminous morning in Silver Lake. I’m dressed and caffeinated and waiting for 9.30, when the architecture tour will begin. Our guide and driver is Laura Massino Smith, an art historian and ex-New Yorker who fell in love with LA’s bricolage of architectural styles and promptly moved here, in the manner that people seem to. Some people come to LA to press palms with Marilyn Monroe in the cement outside Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. I like all that, too, but mostly, I come for the houses. They are not like the ones we have at home. There are pastel-painted bungalows, Moorish palaces, Spanish haciendas, sixties spaceships, witches cottages, faux chateaus and Victorian-Italianate mansions. There are also ordinary houses, ugly houses but I don’t register these. Part of the charm of being a tourist is being able to walk around with your eyes half-closed. “It’s hard to laugh at the need for beauty and romance,” Nathanael West wrote, “But it is easy to sigh.” 

And what are holidays if not sighing fodder?

Continue here to read the rest.

I have been on a big reading binge about Rudolph Schindler ever since this trip. And dreaming of ways to get back. Next time I will go to Schindler House  - I love this blog post and photos about it. How perfect to have a house with your partner but still have your own space and studio and a communal garden. Very democratic. I approve.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Just a few things I've been consuming

I have been feeling very un  - but these made me feel surprised, happy, sad, startled, moved, inspired:

Saturday, January 10, 2015


Sick and tired you been hangin' on me. You make me sad with your eyes. You're telling me lies. Don't go, don't goooooooo*

Argh we are already two weeks into January and the things I was supposed to do to truly cork 2014 remain but styes in my eyes. I always forget how impossible it is to write in any kind of sustainable fashion in school holidays, so I am now dedicating my haphazard writing hours to planning the rest of the year, how to make it a smooth-running thing instead of the usual shambles. In the meantime the very great Kirsty Eagar tagged me for a Terrible Titles blog-hop. You have to drop your curser in random places on your WIP eight times and make a title from the words upon which it lands. Here are my Terrible Titles from Harper Fell**

1. A Fragment of Your Face
2. Don't Be Boring
3. Flipper and the Lumpfish
4. Everything that happens after
5. East Hill Matriarch
6. Silent Tears
7. I Always Sleep
8. Sensible Cotton Undies

I don't know what else to say except I do love the word 'Undies'. I also think that East Hill Matriarch sounds like an excellent TV Series and Silent Tears sounds like something Celine Dion would sing.

Here are Kirsty's, Trinity Doyle's & Vicki Wakefield's for starters. And if you have a work-in-progress, please consider yourself tagged and put your link in the comments so I can enjoy all your strangely-titled imaginary books.

 * Not mine, Pilot's

**(which incidentally has been hovering at the 2/3 done mark for a ridiculously long time. I remember having this problem with GD, and with EB - though less with EB because I had a deadline - Harper has no deadline except the monthly ones I invent for her.)

Friday, December 19, 2014

2014 - How We Spend Our Days

"How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives."

My days in 2014 seemed short and exhausting, though when I break them down I see the usual suspects: coffee, schooling, writing, walking the dog, yoga-ing, food-shopping, clothes-washing/hanging out to dry, sweeping, reading, noodling on the computer, dreaming and worrying.
This year I've been working mostly on Harper Fell. It's nearly done but the process has been very back and forth (it always is) and I think maybe I give myself too much time and need to be more slapdash. My brain is a bank of unwritten books. Girl Defective had a lovely US release and has had three starred reviews. I had my awesome trip where I went to a honky-tonk, saw the view from Stahl house, exchanged pleasantries with some of my favourite YA authors and drank the finest cocktail of my existence at Yamoshiro. In New York I  finally go to meet my lovely agent vis-a-vis. I saw a great show on Marjorie Cameron and did a lot of reading about the West Coast counter culture - and that's pretty much all I'm reading about these days. Other highlights of the year: I wrote a few non-fiction pieces, did a few school visits and had my first group exhibition with the Palimpsest project through Signal and the City Library. I taught my first semester at RMIT. Some of my favourite reads, off the top of my head were: Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer, Glory O'Brien's History of the Future by A.S King. I loved watching the documentaries Stories We Tell, Uncle Yanco and Finding Vivien Maier. Movies-wise, I loved Night Tide, Maps to the Stars, Adult World, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Model Shop. Next year my goals are to finish Harper and draft something new. I have two essay-ish things being published but no books. This time between books feels as wide as the sky.

Happy Christmas, readers and a peaceful new year!