Monday, March 2, 2015

Marchy marchness

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.) Today a received a copy of The Baby Maker in the mail, a 1970 film starring Barbara Hershey. I remember it for a few reasons: 1) the scene where Barbra 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!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Starry stars Girl Defective

I'm really happy to see that Girl Defective has a starred review from School Library Journal

And also from The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books:

Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: DEFECTIVE
By Simmone Howell
(Atheneum; ISBN 9781442497603; September 2014; Fall catalog)

Living above the family record store with her alcoholic, failed-rock-star dad and her autistic little brother, fifteen-year-old Skylark Martin is beginning to feel lost and alone. She becomes charmed by vivacious older girl Nancy but fails to see the darker realities behind Nancy’s life of reckless abandon. Soon Skylark’s brother’s obsession with detective work and Skylark’s own fascination with Nancy have her exploring the seedier parts of their fading Australian tourist town, alongside the cute, slightly mysterious Luke Casey. Together they track down vandals through an underground world of sex, drugs, and music, only to find that the petty crimes may connect to the tragic death of Luke’s sister. Part coming-of-age tale, part family story, and part mystery, this novel provides the reader with a well-crafted, layered narrative that still keeps the focus on Skylark’s personal journey. The writing style’s cadence and phrasing perfectly suit both the character and the story; Skylark’s often lyrical narration embodies her musical passions, her na├»ve viewpoint, and her inner confusion. The mystery elements are executed with a light touch, adding a sense of intrigue without becoming the central plot. Likely to suit fans of Marchetta’s Jellicoe Road (BCCB 11/08), this novel will also please readers who like their narrators as active as they are introspective.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Review: Glory O'Brien's History of the Future by A.S King

"We form. We shine. We burn. Kapow."

There were moments when I was reading A.S King's Glory O'Brien's History of the Future when I felt a reverberating zap of excitement - I haven't had this with a book for a while. It happened when Glory riffs on the idea that her graduating class are all like pictures waiting to be developed, and it happens in a future vision where Glory sees women living in trees. I read the book quickly, on my ipad, which is not my favourite format and of course now I want to buy an actual hard copy. Afterwards I went on to Goodreads to see the 'public' reaction - I always find it interesting to see what people love/hate. King's detractors were wary of the dystopian element and 'preachy'  feminist polemic. 'It sounds like the author talking, not the character' is something I hear  again and again... well, guess what - it IS the author talking. And she has LOTS to say. I didn't find Glory unlikeable. I found her tough and self-contained. She reminded me of a girl in the year above me in high school who dropped out because she thought it was all bullshit and went to live off the land (this in the 1980s). I see ideas about sixties fallout in A.S King's books - I think this is why I love them. Failed utopias and questions about freedom. These are things I write about too - So maybe the excitement I had in reading this was also about recognition? I found myself thinking about Notes from the Teenage Underground, Gem uncovering her parent's history, and also using art as way of interpreting the world - in Notes, Gem does this through filmmaking. Glory uses photography.

I'd be really intrigued to hear some young people's opinions of this book and plan to use it in my writing course next year. Did you read it? Did you love it?