A friend of mine is renovating her apartment at the moment, and she has a builder crush. We were discussing it on the ‘phone last night, and she said “I turn into a giggling school girl whenever he’s around.”
“I can just imagine you twirling your hair,” I said.
“It’s ridiculous,” she said. “He’s completely unattainable. Happily married with kids.”
Meanwhile, a man who by any measure in the world qualifies under the banner ‘stellar eligible bachelor’ has been pursuing her ardently for some time. And she’s just not feeling it. It’s almost criminal, but the truth is you can’t make yourself feel something that isn’t there. She’s tried. Put up a brave fight. But in the final analysis, and she doesn’t at all mean this as a get-out-of-gaol-free card, she really just wants to be friends. Why oh why can chemistry be so perverse?
The builder has several obvious advantages. First, he’s handy, and I like a handy man as much as the next woman. Llew’s very handy, and I love it. I think it’s sexy that he has torn, paint-spattered “work clothes” he dons for DIY around the house. Even better, none of his DIY efforts have ever backfired. He can fix stuff. He looks good on a ladder. He knows which wire to snip. Basically, he’s competent. Capable. Manly. I like it a lot. So I can imagine my friend’s builder looking kind of like Llew does when he’s smashing down walls: damn hot.
Also building work is very physical, so there’s ample opportunity to display rippling sinew and those loaded guns all in the name of an honest day’s work. You can keep the pool guy – all he’s developing is a limp handshake – give me a builder any day for sheer viewing pleasure. Builders cop a lot of grief for whistling at girls as they walk past building sites, but really, girls, let’s be honest. That’s a perve scenario that cuts both ways.
Tom Williams, now TV host but best known for a heart-stopping strip-tease on Dancing with the Stars that was sent around via YouTube to basically every woman in Australia, started off as a brickie or a builder or something like that, so ever since talking to my friend, I have lapsed into several Tom Williams-style reveries about her builder (whom I’ve never even seen but can nonetheless vividly imagine). When I confessed this in an email this morning, her reply said it all: “You and me both.”
What is the mythical magnetism of the builder? Okay, so the man who has been pursuing her is a gentleman, a smart, interesting, fit, informed, attractive, sports car driving, art buying, good food loving man, but answer me this: can he build stuff – shelter, no less, that most basic human need – with his bare hands? I didn’t think so.
When I heard that Justin Hemmes’ Merivale group was building a mega-emporium hotel, a little private universe on George St called Ivy comprising bars, clubs, restaurants and retail, my lip curled right before I let out an expansive yawn. Their empire building within Sydney’s CBD has been boring me to tears for some time. Also I find most of their holdings (with the important exception of the bistro and bar at Lotus, both of which I love) little more than over-crowded meat markets, and I outgrew what little appetite I ever had for that scene by the time I was finally allowed in legally (after years of strolling in illegally) at 18. So I thought oh god, spare me.
And then once the site started opening in bits and pieces, Llew and I did a walk-through of the pub that’s on street level. Ugh. It’s DIRE. Really bad. Worse than I expected and I wasn’t expecting much. Just the sort of pub I fucking hate, and Sydney’s got more than its fair share of those already. So it did not bode well for the unopened venues, of which there’s going to be a mind-boggling number. Ghastly, I thought. This concept blows.
But I stand corrected, I do. I have seen if not the light the so-called ‘Sydney A-list’ (sorry, peeps, we don’t have one, just accept it, please, and move on) thinks shines between the butt cheeks of Mr Hemmes, then at least a rather fetching shaft of natural light in the internal courtyard at the (typically lower-case) ivy bar and lounge. I was in town for an appointment today (here’s a bulletin for you: at 35, your long-suffering but hitherto always reliable body just INEXPLICABLY BETRAYS YOU as fast as your best friend at school camp), and Llew and I walked in for a sticky-beak because that’s the kind of people we are. We both love space. And booze. And any combination of the two when it’s done properly. And much as I almost hate to admit it, ivy bar and lounge is done very properly indeed. A lovely, light, airy, funky space full of what I call micro-sites for lounging around and doing what most of us do best: nothing. It’s really well done. I liked it a lot. Pity that faster than I can type WANKER it’s going to be overrun by the kind of Sydney types that have ruined every other good bar for me in the past… but hey, forget me, I’m just a grumpy 35 year old woman. Don’t pay me any mind at all – just get in there and check it out. Maybe the CBD bar scene isn’t a dead duck after all, because there was no poison in that sweet, sweet ivy.
I’m fascinated by America, always have been and always will be. I find the place and its people riveting. The spectacle of our times. And nothing is more fascinating than the circus that is an American presidential election campaign. Just look at the race for the nominations. I am staggered by the amount of wedge and resources required simply to get the nod from the party before the real contest begins between the Democrats and Republicans. I’m concerned that it sometimes appears to be the candidates with the deepest pockets instead of the deepest thoughts who get to run for one of the most important nominations in the world. But I’m excited by the current presidential nomination race, and I can’t wait for Super Tuesday. Talk about high drama.
I’ll admit I was originally feeling pretty partial to a Clinton win. I always liked Billy Boy, and I think Hils is a pretty smart cookie. I also immediately responded to the idea of a female contender for the next President of the United States. Yes, I’m biased in this regard. I want to see the girl get up. But as time goes on, and I read more about Senator Barack Obama, the more I think it’s going to be hard to do anything but barrack for Barack.
He’s arguing for generational change, and I agree it’s required. I can’t be the only one who finds the notion of an American political landscape that looks like Bush-Clinton-Clinton-Bush-Bush-Clinton frankly unsettling. In a country the size of the US, jam-packed as it is with talent, I simply do not accept that there are only two families capable of doing this job (and in fact history will show that only one was capable at all). There’s something deeply disturbing about the idea of a Clinton return to the White House, just as I found it immediately alarming when the Bush dynasty was returned (and with such a regrettable puppet at the helm). What’s the bet Jeb Bush puts his hand up next time around? The whole thing gives me the willies. The only time I don’t get that shudder of foreboding is when I see old footage of Robert Kennedy during his own tilt at the Democratic nomination before he was slain. The world really missed out on a man there. Watching grainy black and white footage of him speak gave me goosebumps. What a shame he didn’t get to run, and didn’t get elected, and didn’t lead America in a different direction to the one it ultimately followed. And of course he was preceded by the untouchable JFK, another man who never reached his potential in the service of the American people. Another man shot dead before we really knew what he was capable of. So I make an exception in Bobby Kennedy’s case; it would be bloody nice to know what a Kennedy full term in office actually looked like, and a damn shame we’ll never know. And by the way, the Kennedy family have endorsed not the dynasty but the underdog.
Senator Obama is an exciting candidate for so many reasons (and I’m going to have to go for McCain for the Republican ticket). He’s apparently behind Hils in the polls, but you never know what the members of the party have in store when they vote. They’ve already shelled out a few surprises. So I for one will be watching with interest, and rooting for the Big B, and hoping for an historic change in the House once this first hurdle of securing the nomination is successfully behind this outside chance. Gimme a ‘B’!
I’ve done as I said I would. I’ve read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and The Power of One. The book I read immediately beforehand was The Road, and the book I read immediately following was Enduring Love. It’s been an interesting cross-section, and it looks set to continue with J. G. Ballard’s Kingdom Come up next. So many books, so little time.
I read the Ian McEwan title, Enduring Love, in a day. I found it completely compelling. I am so sorry it’s over. I really wish it’s what I could keep reading because I was just riveted from start to finish. It was a gripping psychological and in many ways philosophical and theological study. It’s the fourth McEwan I’ve read – the others are Saturday, Atonement, and On Chesil Beach – and my favourite so far (although I thoroughly enjoyed them all). What a fascinating premise, and what flawless execution.
One of the things that fascinates me about McEwan is that he has successfully straddled the often insurmountable distance between ‘popular’ and ‘literary’ fiction. People buy and read his books, lots of lots of people, but the literary establishment also embraces his work wholeheartedly. And well they should – he’s a bloody fine writer. I’m not sure exactly what quality it is that defines either category or has tended to make one seem the opposite of the other, but McEwan’s popular and critical success suggests such exclusions are really just a bunch of hooey. There’s no reason why a book cannot be both successful in the mainstream and intellectually exciting at the same time.
Enduring Love had my flesh creeping from Chapter Two. I was shivering with revulsion by Chapter Four. But I was utterly committed to the characters. I could not wait to find out what creepy thing the stalker character was going to do or say next. It was truly unputdownable, but trying to make it last was an excruciating, delicious, specific kind of reader’s pain. I became obsessed – how clever that is! – about the details of the obsession. I couldn’t get enough. I still want more. I pored over the trickster Appendix at the end, turning pages over and then back, looking, looking for any last crumb I might have missed, any detail that I could feast on as I started to reflect on what I’d just read. I feel like reading it again straight away, and I only very rarely reread books (doctoral research notwithstanding). And I guess the only point I am trying to make is that it’s that kind of enduring fascination with the world an author creates that makes my heart sing as a reader. Many people have found it in J. K. Rowling’s series, and many others have found it in the world of Bryce Courtenay’s Peekay. I find it in McEwan. I’ve found it many, many times, I’m glad to say, and it’s the sensation that makes me so grateful for my lifelong natural inclination to read fiction. I enjoyed reading a Harry Potter, and I certainly took a lot from The Power of One, but whilst both include different forms of magic in their pages (an interesting coincidence, come to think of it…), ultimately for me the magic lies elsewhere. And here’s a tip if you’re looking for that blood-rush of a great read: Enduring Love is not a bad place to start.
Sorry about the absence of a post yesterday – I am having issues with my computer. I’m not the only one currently on an endless round of doctor’s appointments – my computer is also ailing a little (who can blame it, after what it’s seen?), so today I am taking it into the shop for a bit of emergency surgery. This may mean no post on Monday, either, because it’s a public holiday (the Australia Day long weekend, no less) so I may not be able to collect my phantom limb until Tuesday…or it may be ready for me to take home this afternoon with a few jelly beans and a sandwich. Who can tell? I’m certainly not even going to bother trying to hazard a guess.
So bear with me, if you will, and I’ll be back up and running next week. In the meantime, I’ll just mention that I’ve nearly finished The Power of One, and I have one overriding impression so far: racism offends me to my core. I think the themes explored in the book, including accepted South African attitudes in the middle of last century toward white supremacy and apartheid – presented as matter-of-factly as they are to maximum, devastating effect – quite successfully serve to demonstrate just how insidious and vile racism in all its guises truly is. I must say, as cheesy as certain elements of the book undoubtedly are, some of the harshest scenes and exchanges of dialogue have been incredibly hard for me to read. More than once I’ve been so disturbed I’ve had to put the book down. So we’ll talk more about all this, if you don’t mind, once I’ve finished the novel and once my poor little baby is all better. I also want to talk about the demise of the Democrats in Australia, so don’t let me forget.
There, there, little Mac, there, there…
By now you all know that Heath Ledger has died. I for one am slightly surprised by just how sad I feel about this – wonderful, charismatic, talented people die every day, and most of them don’t choose to go. It’s unclear right now if Ledger committed suicide or accidentally overdosed, but either way I think it’s a crying shame. What a waste of a young and exciting and creative life.
As I said to Llew this morning, still in that odd present tense of shock, “But he’s got a little girl… and he’s only a kid himself.”
I guessed 27, and I wasn’t far wrong. He was 28. That’s exactly twice the age Sam, my niece, lived to see, but all that realisation does is underline to me how young it is. I was having a great time at 28 – and I’m having a great time now, I’m glad to say – but I think it was really only at around that age that I started to really… own myself. I stopped feeling so insecure about my abilities and my appearance and my personality and my relationships and my decisions. I started to accept myself, and probably for the first time genuinely, wholly like myself. It was a long time coming, and I still have my days – even now an unfortunate photo will send me straight back to my late teens and early twenties, when I tortured myself with really painful lamentations about being the ugly one in my group of really gorgeous friends. But mostly I hold my head pretty high – I’m never going to be the best looking woman in the room, but who gives a shit? Happily, not me. Not anymore. I can’t see the point, and that’s because now I know beyond doubt that, well, there isn’t one.
I don’t know why youth is often spent focusing on the attributes we don’t possess, but at a certain point most of us, thank goodness, gain a real appreciation for those we do. It allows us to let all the other crap go. I don’t know if my personal development was typical in any sense, but I do recall knowing a lot of people in my twenties who were… how should I say this…? Totally fucked up. So I look at Heath Ledger and I think “Oh no, no, no, no, no – you were so close. You were so close to knowing you were okay. You were so close to knowing you could do it. Of course you could. It was never really in doubt.”
Instead, a young man, a young father, a young, handsome, talented boy from Perth and everything he had to come, everything he had within him, is lost to the world. I hope it was accidental. I hope he didn’t mean to snuff himself out. Because he was so close to reaching that golden age when I at least finally understood that we all have horrible doubts and fears and insecurities, including the most beautiful woman in the room, and that it’s all right.
POSTSCRIPT: Okay, there are reports coming through now that it was an accidental overdose on sleeping pills…I guess it’s too early to say, really, and meanwhile media speculation has gone into overdrive so there’s no telling what’s true just now. But I’d be oddly glad to know it was an accident – I for one would much, much prefer to believe he didn’t choose to leave his daughter, leave his life, leave his future, leave the man he was still to become. A terrible accident is a terrible thing, and Heath Ledger is unfortunately gone either way, but suicide is something else altogether, and I hope the latest reports do turn out to be true.
It’s now Tuesday 29 January. Once the dust started to settle and the media fog started to clear, it really became unlikely to me that Ledger did anything to take his own life. From the information that’s come out so far, I don’t believe that’s what happened. And I’m so glad. Sad, still really sad thinking about it, but also genuinely relieved for his family and the rest of his loved ones that it really seems he never meant to leave them so soon.
A package arrived for Llew yesterday. It was a box. On top of the box was the unmistakable Movember logo: a great curly ‘tash. Hmm, I thought, carrying the box inside, more merch??
When Llew got home, he said exactly the same thing. And then he opened his box. It was a gift from the good people at Movember, thanking him for his excellent fundraising efforts and welcoming him to the exclusive and giddy heights of their Platinum Club (its members are those fundraisers who find sponsorship in excess of $1,000.00 for growing their mo’ for the month of Movember). Let me tell you about the gift.
It was an enormous ceramic mug, just the kind you see left behind at the end of sales conferences right across the globe. Who are marketing people, and how do we have them shot? Talk about unwanted Christmas presents… these guys specialise in pushing unwanted gifts. It’s their whole job description: must distribute copious crap.
Because, you see, this mug is no ordinary mug. It’s a novelty mug. Llew held it up for me to see inside, and there it was, just as we’d feared: the ‘tash shelf. The mo’ ledge.
“I suppose it’s really quite clever,” said Llew, clearly still leaning toward the charitable side of things. “You can drink your coffee – or milk – without getting a, without being left with a, with a, well, with a moustache.”
Oh yes, it was a stroke of genius.
The rest of the campaign is SO WELL BRANDED I hope they’ve won loads and loads of prizes. It’s really well done. It’s also all done in aid of two excellent causes. But hold the Movember Merch, please, people. We don’t want any. It’s the second such package that has darkened our door – the other was some other piece of cheap shit we didn’t want – and both of us were left feeling frustrated at the sheer waste of Llew’s fundraising efforts. Stop spending that money on the Platinum and other Clubs. Stop. By the time Movember has stopped shipping out the merchandise, several people who donated to Llew might as well have gone off for a long lunch, not caring a whit if they walked out with a big fat slug of a red wine ‘tash.
What a difference a day makes, eh?! Here’s my explanation for the two missing posts at the end of last week: I had a great day Thursday, and a lousy one Friday. They were the two sides of a coin, the grass on either side of the fence, the yin and the yang. A perfectly balanced relationship; a harmonious whole. Good and bad – isn’t the relationship between the two, and how we respond to each, what living is all about? I think so. After all, no one is spared the bad, and no one fails to recognise and embrace the good. They’re like my left and right feet, always working together if I’m to make any progress at all.
So Thursday was my good day. I had such a positive day’s work on my redraft that I felt a minor level of internal euphoria at the end of it. I was really buzzing on the inside. I worked really well, with the kind of intense concentration that I’d bottle for the bad days if I could. There are those rare, so sweet days when it simply happens for me, and last Thursday was one of them. The words arrived, and it was thrilling, too thrilling for me to even consider risking a pause in order to create a post. I was in the zone, and that’s where I was staying, riding it out to the last.
Friday I awoke rearing to get back into it, very eager to make the mood last as long as I could. Perhaps the muse hadn’t noticed the night – perhaps I could get away with the start of a new day as though it was the unbroken continuation of the day before… Perhaps. But as usual the muse had other ideas. My day began with a dead computer. It showed absolutely no signs of life, as though it had expired, spent, after the labours of my perfect Thursday. I called Llew in a sick panic.
“My computer’s dead,” I cried. “I pressed the space bar and all the lights went dark and now it’s not moving or making a sound.”
Llew took a few minutes to catch up, then said “Oh, I think that’s maybe my fault.”
“What did you do?” I screeched, banshee like.
“I turned everything off at the wall.”
Ie. Instead of switching off individual lights, or flicking them off on the power-board, Llew’s beloved shortcut in a 5 second task is turning off the power-board at the switch, thus affecting everything connected to it in one fell swoop, including my printer and computer. My computer, left on after the excitements of the day, thus reverted to battery power, and ran through the night, eventually packing it in the first nudge I gave it.
“I’ve told you about that,” I seethed. “I’ve asked you not to do that. Why do you insist on doing that? Now my computer’s as dead as a doornail and I can’t work.”
“Bye,” Llew said.
I corrected the situation at the offending power source and left my computer to recharge. I decided to do some reading whilst I was awaiting its recovery, and as I set about making myself comfortable in the sunroom, I promptly dropped my mobile into a steaming mug of fresh coffee.
“FUCK!” I shouted. “Fuck, fuck, fuck!”
Coffee is everywhere. All over my book, all over the ottoman, all over the tiles, and all through my dripping mobile, which went dark in an instant just as my computer had the moment it was touched by a human hand. Mine.
I cursed my way into the kitchen and pulled my phone apart, swearing some more. I washed off the coffee and left my phone in little pieces strewn across the bench. I was suddenly as cut off as a prisoner locked in an isolation chamber. No phone, no computer. Perfect, I thought. What I need is a flagpole or a fucking semaphore. I looked longingly at my computer and stroked its cold, dead keys a couple of times. No dice.
I wanted to rant at Llew some more, just to make human contact, so I took some coins from the bowl and went to cross the road to the beach to make the call at the phone box. On the zebra crossing, once I was committed and already halfway across, a woman in her big fucking obnoxious 4WD actually accelerated and very nearly ran me over.
“FUUUUUUUUCK!!!!!!!!!!!” I screamed. “Fuck, fuck, fuck! What the FUCK is wrong with you?!”
She’d sped off to continue her life of absolute entitlement, but the guy in the car opposite rolled down his window and said “Jesus, are you all right?” We tsked and tutted and spread our hands in disbelief at the number of RAGING ARSEHOLES who drive those big, black cars, and then I staggered over to the phone box to make my call.
The coin slot wouldn’t open.
INSERT PHONE CARD, the screen said. I held the lifeless receiver in my hand and for a long moment considered vandalising the box to the absolute best of my violent and creative ability. Then I quietly swore some more and replaced it before returning home (looking both ways – not that it saved me the last time) to pretend this day was not happening.
A doctor’s appointment at midday guaranteed the good times would keep rolling. My doctor wasn’t there, and the locum said I needed an ultrasound. Afterwards, I went and bought my moisturiser from a local supplier. When I got it home and removed the tube from its box, I saw it had already been used, a deep thumb print pressed against its side. Nice, I thought. This day is a gift that won’t quit.
As ultrasound preparation, I had to drink a litre of water between 2:30 and 3pm. Then I wasn’t allowed to go to the toilet until after my 4 o’clock ultrasound. This would have been okay, except they were running late. I sat in the waiting room crossing and uncrossing my legs for an increasingly desperate and painful 45 extra minutes. When they called my name at last, I jumped up and announced to the entire room “Oh thank God, I am about to wet my pants.”
After my external and – boy, when your ship’s in, it’s in – internal ultrasound examination, I walked home in the pouring rain. I had an umbrella, but I resisted using it until really only 100 metres or so from my place, when I really started to take a pounding on the beachfront. As I slid it open, it sliced right across my index finger, which began to bleed profusely.
“That’s it,” I said. “I’m done.”
I retreated to the couch with my book (Harry Potter is a children’s series, people. Now I’ve read one, I can categorically confirm it’s for kids – I’m still not sure why it proved such a hit beyond its target readership because it’s not even sophisticated children’s fiction. But it was perfect for Friday), Vanity Fair and a chick flick. Llew tended to my every whim for the rest of evening, whilst I admitted utter defeat. The muse had changed direction for the day, and any resistance was futile.
Tell me something. Why is this kid who had the party that got out of control attracting international news media…? I must be missing something. I’ve been trying to ignore this story for days, but since it’s (bizarrely, given the state of the world) still topping online news headlines, I can no longer maintain my silence. Here is what I have to say:
What 16 year old kid when left home alone doesn’t blatantly disregard the long list of parental instructions about what not to do whilst their parents are away and clearly having a much better time without them? It’s been happening through the ages, or at least since I started watching teen movies. Oh yes, and then there was that one minor incident that got me – yes, yours truly – kicked out of home aged 15. Ah yes. I’d almost forgotten about that.
I never intended to have a big party. I can’t talk for Corey or Cody or whatever “Party Boy” is called, maybe he did invite several schools and the members of at least one Leagues Club to come doof doof in his hood, but I really only meant to have a small gathering. With my friends. No strangers. Certainly no police, no angry neighbours, no broken windows, no cigarette burns in the carpet, no teen sex in the beds, and, ultimately, no roof over my head, but I got all these things and so much more than I bargained for when my totally obvious, predictable and somewhat inevitable idea first hatched.
I still remember the name of the guy from the boys’ school who spread the word. This was pre-email, you have to understand, pre-MySpace, pre-Facebook, and pre-mobile ‘phones. I still owned cassette tapes and we all still thought CDs were indestructible. It was about halfway through 1988, it must have been because I was still 15. Anyway, this guy, who really always had a bloody big mouth, told everyone that there was a party on at my place because my father and his girlfriend were away.
And it’s true that I invited my friends to come and get drunk at my house that fateful Saturday night. Indeed I did. An innocent victim I was not. But I had no idea – absolutely no idea – what hit me that night. It was some kind of gatecrashers’ paradise.
I got a warning from one of my friends on the afternoon of the party that people were coming. Lots of people. People whose numbers I didn’t have even if I’d wanted to call it all off. Which, let’s be honest, I probably didn’t. All of a sudden I was poised for my first big party, my social debut as a hostess, and it looked like my party, my little gathering, was about to kick arse. I don’t think I even thought of cancelling the whole thing and boarding up the windows. But what I did do was phone the properly grown-up daughter of my father’s girlfriend and ask for her help. She agreed to come over and keep it under control and bounce people out of there as required, which she did, and thank goodness, too.
But it wasn’t enough. It was a very small house on a rather major road, so once there were about 150 people there, the situation was both very public and very quick to escalate into something it was never supposed to be. We didn’t attract a helicopter or anything like the 500 or so rumoured guests at Corey or Cody’s little soiree, but there were three police cars, some theatrical mooning, and quite a lot of urination on various adjoining lawns.
We had a big, friendly Maori guy living next door at the time, and I ran over there to get him the second – truly the second – I realised Cathy (the grown up) and I could not stem the flow. He was awesome, he started bouncing arses out of there like he was skimming stones on a lakeshore. But once they were out, where did they go? Nowhere. People just congregated out the front and down the side and up the back. Bottles were smashed. And a window. The ejected people got angry.
You know, one of my best friends from school ended up marrying and having children with the guy, a friend from the boys’ school, she hooked up with for the first time that night. For years and years and years later, he always mentioned the party whenever we saw each other. “I loved your party,” he said. “That was such a great party.”
I think it was, but it gave my father the ammunition he’d been waiting for to boot me. Finally, I’d given him a reason. Until that night, I’d kept my nose pretty damn clean in the 3 years I’d lived with him. I had a part-time job, I did well in school, I had nice friends, and I was even extremely neat. But then came the fateful day I ignored the fact that he expressly forbade me to have a party whilst I was home alone. For my father, the party proved to be a gift too good to ignore. I’d brought it on myself, and now he could wash his hands of me.
I don’t like thinking about the day they got back. I don’t like thinking about what happened when the three of us stood in my room that final time, or about what was said. I don’t like thinking about what they did to all my stuff, or about the slow, stunned, uphill walk to my best friend’s flat to tell her I had nowhere to go. That’s all a long time ago now. I was only 15, and 20 more years have gone by since then. None of that matters anymore.
It’s curious, though. No one from the media arrived to hear my story or offer me a job or invite me to speak on national radio. I was not an instant celebrity, and I certainly didn’t make headlines around the world. But that party did change my life. And even when the worst thing happened, it turned out to be the absolute best thing that had ever happened, and if I had my time over, you bet. You bet I’d have that party again, and fuck it, this time everyone’s invited.
Yesterday I finished reading one book and started reading another. The first was Pulitzer Prize-winning The Road by Cormac McCarthy, and the second, as promised in an earlier post, was the first Harry Potter book by J. K. Rowling. Talk about a minor adjustment.
We’re reading The Road for this month’s bookclub, and I am actually busting now I’ve finished to find out what the other girls think about it, and for the first time I feel genuinely sorry that there are no men in our club. I’ll have to ask my friend’s husband what he thought – he’s the one who recommended it to her when it was her turn to choose the next book as we finished up last year.
In a word, grim. So grim. In its way possibly the grimmest tale I have ever read. It was utterly purgatorial in every way from start to finish. There were tears. I don’t make a habit of crying during the reading of a book, but it has happened to me in the past and it’s always a shock that isn’t at all the same thing as when a book makes me laugh out loud (as mercifully happens much more often). I sob rarely, but the thing with the crying I did over The Road is that I sobbed during the reading, finished it, and then sobbed again later – unheard of! I’ve never done that before. Llew loves the reflection shot in film; this was the reflection sob.
I was therefore so relieved to the point of genuine excitement to hop into bed last night and thumb open my first Harry Potter. You little ripper, I thought, this is just what I need to dislodge that sickening atmosphere of loss and misery. Bring it on, HP, lay that wizardry on me! And you know, there was a brief gap in my mind’s ability to shift gear. It didn’t just happen. My brain did not immediately cope with the change of scenery. I had to focus. I had to will myself into this so differently drawn world. Change of tenor, change of field, change of everything except the presence of a little boy.
It did happen before lights out, and I’m in Harry’s world now, happy to accept it as it is, for what it is and what it was clearly intended to be, but in the night The Road came back, it was there in the dark and it snuffed out my dreams. When I awoke this morning I felt wretched. Ambushed. Again I had to shake off that gloomy road before I could face the day, so I made a cup of tea and reached down to pick up young Harry once more.