Monday, 15 January 2018

third and last set of twelve questions

The remaining twelve questions are much more geared to a conversation with a person you know, as opposed to one with the internet, but I'd like to try to finish them off (not "finish them off" in the sense of hunt them down and kneel on their chests and cut their throats with a filthy knife made out of a bear's claw, rather,"finish them off" in the send of "wrap it up" - not "wrap it up" in the sense of spread a plastic shower curtain on the ground, put the girl in the middle, fold both sides over her and tuck in the ends - rather, "wrap it up" in the sense of "lay it to rest"....I don't mean "lay it to rest" in the sense of wait until dark then throw it over the fence of Melbourne General Cemetery and pedal away as fast as as your little legs can go...I won't continue, although I totally could and maybe totally should. Maybe you would prefer that. No way of knowing, and I for one am not aware of any means of finding out nor would I be disposed to put much faith in any evidence that might be presented to me, either way)

It is Monday and I am marooned in a shithole country called Hamilton Island so I am not seeing my doctor this week.

I spent today rereading and then re-rereading Mary McCarthy's "The Man in the Brooks Brothers Shirt", first published in the Partisan Review in 1941, and as mindblowingly good as anything she ever wrote. I wish there was a copy online because while I began reading it to look at her technique, I finished it wanting nothing else than to thrust it under someone's nose and make them read it so we can say "oh wow this is amazing" and make other inarticulately appreciative sounds.  

I also listened a lot to Frank Ocean's "Ivy" - it occurred to me that this song does a wonderful job of conveying some ideas about "back then", ie youth, the past, without either descending into maudlin over-identification or retreating behind a screen of equivocation or hardness. Vantage points are important and it's fascinating to observe how they are built.


25. Make three true “we” statements each. For instance, “We are both in this room feeling ... “
I'm alone in this room. Let me see if I can come up with three statements that are true about me and also about you in the room you're in:
1. We are both curious, maybe mildly apprehensive, about where all this is going
2. We both feel that we might have better things to be doing but this is what we WANT to do right now so we're doing it
3. We're both imagining what it would be like to have this conversation face to face and we're both thinking that on the whole the present arrangements aren't too bad.

26. Complete this sentence: “I wish I had someone with whom I could share ... “
Easy, I wish I had someone with whom I could share fangirling about "The Man in the Brooks Brothers Shirt"

27. If you were going to become a close friend with your partner, please share what would be important for him or her to know.
I don't always know when to stop and leave it alone and I know this is annoying. I will sometimes wildly overpromise, purely out of enthusiasm, and then the inevitable underdelivery makes me ashamed and I might have to hide from you for a bit. I am quite used to seeing forbearing expressions on my friends' faces when I get going on some hobbyhorse. I get obsessive about things - if we are doing some sort of extended thing together, when we meet I might only want to talk about that with you and I might forget to ask you about the other big things that have happened in your life since I last saw you. If "become a close friend" is meant to be euphemistic, you should also know that my skincare routine involves nine different substances and takes a very long time of an evening. Also I like to squeeze other people's spots, so be warned. Jeez, I'm a real catch aren't I. For balance, you should also understand that I am clever, charming, funny, a blood donor, and I vote Green. 

28. Tell your partner what you like about them; be very honest this time, saying things that you might not say to someone you’ve just met.
I like everything about you. You're great! 

29. Share with your partner an embarrassing moment in your life.

30. When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?
In front of another person, on Monday 8 January; by myself, probably some time in October when I was going through a rough patch. Some years back - years not blogged - I used to cry at least once a week. What fixed that was leaving my last job and getting through the awful years of early parenthood. Analysis has undoubtedly helped too.

31. Tell your partner something that you like about them already.
As I have already explained, I like everything about you, dear reader, you obviously have champagne taste, since you're here, and really, what's not to like about practically anybody? It's really just a question of perspective. People who are terrible shits are usually able to provide some sort of entertainment as long as you can view them from a safe distance. 

32. What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about?
This is a strange question. Rape, serious assault, violent untimely death, deaths of children, tragedies befalling actual people etc, you know. I also think you should not make fun of things about people that they have asked you not to make fun of, no matter how trivial or indeed hilariously comic they might be

33. If you were to die this evening with no opportunity to communicate with anyone, what would you most regret not having told someone? Why haven’t you told them yet?
I wouldn't regret anything because I'd be dead. If there are things I haven't told people it's because they don't want to hear it, and that is just something one has to accept if one wants to retain the right to be thought of as an acceptable and decent human being.

34. Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be? Why?
The little oil painting of my worn and battered pink teddy bear that my dearest oldest friend K did when we were 19 years old and had both just started art school. It's beautiful in itself, and it was a labour of love, and it connects me to my infant self through the lens of my friend's gentle, searching attention.

35. Of all the people in your family, whose death would you find most disturbing? Why?
Oh my god, my little boy's, what an awful, awful thought, end of discussion.

36. Share a personal problem and ask your partner’s advice on how he or she might handle it. Also, ask your partner to reflect back to you how you seem to be feeling about the problem you have chosen.
I am a bit puzzled about what I should be doing with my life. Please advise.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

More Warrnambool pictures and stuff

I ate a hamburger containing both some cows and a pig. I messed up my timings the day I got there and I could not get back to Day Kitty in time to get takeaway for dinner. About nine o'clock I was ravenous and I knew I was going to end up eating like a cheese sandwich from the petrol station or something similarly depressing. So I thought, I will go to Kermond's and just get them to leave out the meat. But then I just ordered a normal hamburger and I ate the whole thing. The last few bites, I thought, this is beginning to hurt.

It had been about seven hundred days since the last time I knowingly ate meat. That was a wallaby rissole that had been cooked for me in Heywood and I did not feel any desire to refuse that hospitality. No excuses for this one though, I just felt like doing something completely out of character.

I could not believe how small the library is. They used to get books in for you from other libraries but it was still a limited offering. I wondered if this scarcity might have contributed to the obsessive re-reading I have wasted so much time on.

 Kylie and Debbie's place

One Gigantic FU to the Warrnambool Artists Society!
from Me.

My friends Simon and Paul lived here. I was in love with Simon actually. I've been thinking about the day I drove the pair of them out to their dope plantation somewhere in the middle of a very young radiata pine forest. I had had a drivers' licence for about a fortnight, and the car I'd had for two days. It fishtailed like crazy over the muddy unsealed tracks through the forest. Just one of many instances of possibly very stupid things I agreed to do at around this time because I was trying to live up to an ideal. I think it was an idea of myself as a tearaway, junior siren etc that I wanted other people to have, without actually wanting to be one myself. I am interested in how and why that happened so much and also why it never did go seriously wrong.

Another epically Warrnambool scene (track from Thunder Point to Shelley Beach) with the crenellation of Norfolk pines gracing the horizon

It is all about driving to a beach and sitting in the car looking at the sea. Sometimes you are having the conversation that will determine the course of the rest of your life and sometimes you are just eating your lunch (from Kermond's)

 I had totally forgotten that the Warrnambool newspaper used to do this, and apparently still does - ie send a photographer out to car crash scenes.

 My best friend lived here. Her mum had the health food shop and their house was behind / upstairs, just like cool people from the city who lived in terrace houses.

Saturday, 13 January 2018


It's bucketing down outside, and as usually happens on a wet night, a car ran off the road at the corner 150m to the north. I went out and looked and nobody seemed to be hurt. The police came.
When I got out of bed just now to get a glass of water I saw this snail making its way up the pane of glass beside the front door. 

Before I went away I read most of this book ----->

It's by the woman who wrote the interesting but not wholly convincing Paris Review article about Woody Allen that I linked to a few weeks ago. I was interested enough by her approach in that thing to click around a bit and find out more about her, and this book seemed like something I should read. Have a look at the blurb on the back and you'll see why.

I guess that right now, when I'm writing something more or less prompted by and derived from a midlife "reckoning" (although mine is nothing so fancy, it's just a normal crisis and more or less the opposite of a reckoning), is an appropriate time to look at how somebody else has handled it - why she's written from out of the middle of it, what does she appear to be hoping to achieve, how is she giving it some form. Those are the questions I need to see tackled by others.

Hm yes well this book made me feel physically ill. Just the sheer, bloody, sloppy, unimaginable, roaring, posturing self-indulgence of it, and I am a reader who loves to read other people's posturing and self-indulgence. I am glad I read it, although I could not do so without continually wincing and grimacing, because it is such a good example of what a terrible place a good writer can go to in writing from her own memories.

It also made me think that you, dear reader, are getting a pretty good deal here, since this book cost me $32.99 whereas you get to read my blog for nothing, and it covers much the same stuff but a whole lot less painfully. It is strange and tragic to read a published book with less structure and purposeful form than what goes into this torrent of stuff that I crank out

So, I needed medicine and thus I went straight to the chief dispenser of scalpels and icy cold water. As a very good recent book points out, Mary McCarthy and other women intellectuals cultivated "heartlessness" as a deliberate political and aesthetic strategy. The linked review there has a good phrase for why: these writers use detachment and distance, coldness, to "resist socially obligatory forms of emotional expression."

As I expected, McCarthy has some excellent, and eminently simple and adaptable, techniques for establishing and exploiting distance between the narration and the remembered experiences that form its subject.

I found the stories in "The Company She Keeps" horribly excruciating, as always, and I remembered that McCarthy always sails very close to the wind, in terms of that line where clarity and unsentimentality turn into bitchiness and mockery.

The back of the book describes the heroine Margaret Sargent as a "likeable figure"- gosh, I dunno, really? I've read this book probably ten times and I kind of think that's wishful blurbing. She might well be likeable but she is not liked by the narrator who does a great job of showing Margaret at her very worst, dragging out into the light all the stupid things she does and thinks and says to herself. It's quite a cruel book, I guess, but between sloppiness and trying to be cool, and being coldly analytical, maybe cruel, I think the latter is the only possible choice.

So, to round out this festival of tenously connected observations here is a song I have inexplicably become slightly obsessed with over the last 48 hours, after knowing it and not much caring about it for my whole life.  Some music just solves the problems of representation broached above, seemingly effortlessly (although the effort involved in producing this particular track is apparent enough)

Friday, 12 January 2018

Warrnambool was great

I loved Warrnambool. Two days felt like forever but I could have stayed a lot longer. No plans to move there, but still. I felt actual waves of love, physical and mental symptoms of, as follows:

  • at sunset on top of Cannon Hill watching the p-platers hang laps around the roundabout in the carpark
  • in the library
  • being smashed by the oily, salty, foamy green and white waves breaking at McGennans beach at six in the morning
  • Listening to Goanna at Thunder Point
  • When a man in street watched me take this picture and said, "that's a tree-mendous photo"

Later in the day, not love but something more complicated about time washed over me when I suddenly realised that where I was standing, in the Foster Care opshop, was the place where I found and made my first opshop purchase.
This was a 1970s men's shirt, Hob Nob brand, long-sleeved and very long and narrow in the body, mustard and white very elaborate botanical print, and unusually not synthetic but a very high quality cotton batiste. I know I still have this shirt, it's terribly damaged, but I remember putting it in a pile or perhaps a bag of cloth things to be repaired. I haven't seen it for at least five years. It can never be thrown away.

At the same time I also bought a piece of black, yellow and white barkcloth which about ten years ago got made into little cushions which are just the right size for disciplining Vinnie.
So I was looking round the op shop and listening to the two women volunteers chatting and I began to think I knew the older one. Your name is Janet, I thought. I stared at her for a bit and then I remembered that she used to model for the life drawing classes I did at the TAFE in about 1990.

Just now I went and looked in the shed and sure enough there were several drawings of her including this one.  (Didn't find the shirt though.)

I might put up some more Warrnambool photos later.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Day Kitty report

Managed three sessions which isn't a bad effort given that they close at 3:30pm. Here is the food menu and the drinks menu. (I just had coffee and water to drink each time. The coffee is tremendous and the water has had something woo done to it - "reverse osmosis filtration" lol - it seemed totally fine though.)

 8/10 because the avocado was not quite ripe. Still orders of magnitude better than anything I've ever eaten anywhere else in my entire life, and definitely not monkey shit. Has not been anywhere near a monkey's alimentary canal, digestive tract, or arsehole.


10/10 Last night I dreamt that somebody loved me, as Morrissey would say, but today I don't care because this is what I had for breakfast, after two hours of letting the sea beat me up.  Scrambled eggs with feta and "alkalising greens", smoothly lubricated with pesto to orgasmic & organonic perfection. I ate this eight hours ago and I still feel immensely alkalised. 

9.5/10 half a mark deducted only because last time I ate this there was a wedge of raw seed cracker in there as well. I don't know what they did to the kale but I would happily eat nothing but that kale forever.

All gone and now it's almost time to go home to Melbourne. See you next time D.K. 

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

A lost weekend in a motel in Warrnambool, with bonus footwear log!

Well, I made it. I'm slobbed on the allegedly queen-sized bed in my room at the City Heart Motel, wearing nothing but a wet facewasher on my head. I'm waiting to find out if I actually got sunburned today or just overheated.
 It's not the weekend but it might as well be. The centre of town has people in it, and the beach too of course, but everywhere else I went I saw nobody at all except people in cars. This was weird but also fantastic. It was a little like that brilliant NZ movie The Quiet Earth but not postapocalyptic - more like being in a dream. Which is essentially what today was like.  I just rode around looking at stuff with my headphones in, listening to a playlist I made on the train on the way here, of music I liked in the mid 1980s. I only really managed to go over the northwest end of town.


Fairholme (Sparehome)

Bonny Doon! Still!

The greatest letterbox since the world began is still there, although the house has gone.

The pool is as lovely as ever - but deserted - why?

Relief, and yes, elation that this is still there.

My first secondary school. I was thrilled to bits that the gates to the grounds were open and I could just go in there and prowl around. The Catholicness of it all is unrepentant and undiminished. I got thrown out of here just before the beginning of the era I'm interested in but it was still great to go and poke around

This little subterranean doorway is the reason I was so thrilled. Last night I was lying in bed thinking about much I'd like to go look at it again. The door was locked of course but it wasn't locked one time in 1985, and I went in the dark stone basement with my friend and we stole three of the 1960s evening dresses hanging up in there. We somehow determined that these dresses had belonged to the nuns before they became nuns. I was still wearing one of them ten years later. It was very stiff apricot satin with a scoop neck, a tiny waist and a big full skirt

Thought I'd try the door again but this time it was locked

Morris Rd milk bar still kicking arse

This is epic Warrnambool. Stand on one hill and you can see another one opposite. And regardless of which direction you're facing, always there's a water tower. This is Beamish St looking across Raglan Pde towards the sea

a couple of good finds in the opshop

 And, then after all that, I really wanted a drink; I went down to the Caledonian Hotel, not expecting no trouble - after all they didn't have a problem letting me in there when I was fourteen - but my Birkenstocks didn't make the footwear cut!! So I'm going to have a shower now and get dressed and try again, this time somewhere a lot less salubrious. Because I haven't brought any other shoes with me and Rauerts Footwear will be shut by now. 
**update: definitely sunburnt.**

Tuesday, 9 January 2018


There is such an immensity of sources that I could go to for advice about how to write fiction that I feel quite proud of myself for having thus far managed to avoid them all. I suppose it won't last and one day I will inadvertently overhear or read something that'll be so compelling that I won't be able to set it  aside. What's helping me make progress is just thinking about how certain novels are put together and how they work. I've also mostly resisted the temptation to read, whether to refresh my memory of how books I admire meet certain challenges, or whether it's to find new models. I do plan to reread some of Mary McCarthy's memoirs and fiction but I've decided to wait until specific questions present themselves.

The question of whether it can really be called fiction when it's drawn so directly from my own experience is not as agitating as I thought it might be. I'm aiming for a kind of tapestry with a quite artificial (purposeful) design but it's woven of natural materials. Some of what is currently on the loom involves representations of real people, naturally, and I suppose I'll need to think all that through. Ethics & that. They were and are real but I'm treating them as fictional. I used Facebook to investigate two men who I knew, separately, when I was about 18 and they were five and ten years older. I barely recognised them and they looked disorientingly old and unremarkable. It seemed that the versions of these people that I remembered belonged all the more completely to me to do with as I please, but at the same time it was a peculiar thing to realise that they'd continued on with their lives.

This morning I spent some time cruising around some of the nearer addresses where events I'm working with took place. More or less what I plan on doing in Warrnambool tomorrow (in between meals) and the next day (likewise, in between meals). Today was a practice and a trial to see what might come of obviously unnecessary "research" consisting of going somewhere, looking at it and thinking about it, but also about thinking over how these places were connected and how they contributed to the back-and-forth oscillation between Warrnambool and Melbourne that defined my life during some important and interesting years.


It was surprisingly hard to find the last one.