I’ll admit I’m cheating. I’m supposed to be stepping back from the MS, clearing my head, getting some distance, taking a breather, blah blah blah, but I haven’t quite succeeded in flicking the OFF switch. That’s not to say I’ve been a workhorse the past couple of days. I haven’t. I’ll let you in on a little secret: I didn’t do any work yesterday. Not a jot. As you might have noticed, I didn’t even blog. Nope. I went to see the women’s-health-naturopath-yoga lady with my friend, did a private class with her that has left me nicely sore today, had a coffee with T afterwards, then came home and pretty much flaked. Catatonia, here I come. One of the Darklings offered to read the first 10,000 words of the latest draft, so I did send that off, and naturally couldn’t resist a little peek at it myself (okay, I admit it, I read it through about four times), but other than that, I accomplished sweet F.A. ( that would be fuck all.)
It was great. Just what I needed after Monday, because even though Lady Alzheimer doesn’t really hurt my feelings, she does sap my reserves. It is thoroughly exhausting spending time with her, and I was duly knackered by the time I staggered out of there Monday afternoon. After doing nothing all afternoon – except lie prone on my sunroom ottoman resting my eyes – I snapped out of it and hopped on a ferry into town. I bought a coffee and a chocolate bar at the wharf (caffeine and sugar, where have you been all my life?), found myself a prime seat down the sunny side of the ferry, and settled in with The Sorrows of An American, my first Siri Hustvedt (Paul Auster’s wife, Hustvedt has recently come to my attention courtesy of my blog friends). Lovely. I had a seamless connection to Central from Circular Quay, and when I walked onto the platform for the Newtown train, there was C, Darkling and Dark Heart, and there was our train. Perfecto!
At Newtown, we wandered into the bottle shop and lamented the fact that bookstores don’t all turn into wine bars after dark. It would really make so much sense – and just think of the additional revenue stream… And then we went upstairs at Better Read Than Dead, a great bookstore on King St, for Charlotte’s Varuna PEN letter writing evening. Yes, it was a night of envelope stuffing, quaffing and gossing among a dozen Sydney writers. We managed a bit of networking even as we agitated (via very polite letters to ambassadors and the Minister for Foreign Affairs) for the release of a Burmese writer who’s been sentenced to 35 years’ imprisonment for criticising Myanmar’s Junta. The number of gaoled writers worldwide is pretty extraordinary. Military regimes, dictators, Communists – they all love throwing the book at scribes (in a manner of speaking…!). I just realised we didn’t have an empty chair at the table last night – we ran out of room as well as wine glasses – but that’s the international PEN symbol of the absent author. It’s a small thing – I don’t know if letters work, and I’ve always doubted the effectiveness of petitions – but it does get one thinking about freedom of expression, and how important it is, and how much poorer we are the world over for those ideas that aren’t freely shared. Even in difference we find our common humanity, a truth that some quarters very much prefer to deny. Anyway, please spare a thought for incarcerated writers everywhere – some of these sentences really beggar belief.
And on sentences of a different nature, I have this to say: I have to rewrite chapter one. This is the wiliest chapter of my entire book. It has given me the most trouble, it has proved the most vexing, it has required the most change by far, and still, still it is not done. So yes, friends, it is back to the drawing board, but not yet, not today.