Another gorgeous day in paradise… man, I love summer. I had a day on the move yesterday, starting with another blood test at the clinic downtown. Apparently my estrogen levels are galloping along and so they’re keeping my Gonal F doses on the low side (that’s the stuff I’m injecting). I’m just doing as I’m told and trying to stay out of trouble.
I had a good day in several important respects. A couple of weeks ago, I got a text from someone I hadn’t seen in nearly three years saying she missed me. We were friends for a long, long time, since our first year of high school, and then it all went grey and brittle about three years ago, our last contact being mid-2007 when the friendship really ground to a halt. In truth, I have missed her too. I’ve even dreamt about her, quite regularly, and have been anxious to know she’s happy and well. A mutual friend (hello, M!) has been understandably cross having to field occasional queries from both of us regarding the other’s well-being, but as I said to him last time we discussed it, there’s still a difference between wishing someone all the best and being able maintain a friendship with them, and I’m afraid we’d stopped being able to do the latter. Anyway, it was brave to put herself forward like that, and of course I responded, admitting I had missed her too. We arranged to meet. In preparation for this meeting, I tried to do something extremely uncharacteristic, which was avoid over-thinking things. I didn’t want to make it larger or more complicated than it needed to be, I just wanted to see her and enjoy it for the simple pleasure of her company. I took along a small posy of pretty flowers – she had extended an olive branch to me, after all, and I guess this was my gesture in return.
It was really good to see her and know for myself that she’s happy, flourishing, the same beautiful and funny person I still know well. We have a very similar sense of humour, that’s not something that changes, so we immediately reconnected on that basis and opened up from there. I didn’t cry until it was time to go and it was at least partially relief when I did. I don’t think either of us knows what the future holds or whether we can truly repair what broke, but I am really glad to have seen her, and I do hope to see her again.
From there I went to my friend S’s birthday drinks at a groovy little bar called Pocket on Burton St in Darlinghurst. S and her friends had snared pole position between the two main doors, so we were the beneficiaries of the most wonderful cross-breeze, bringing welcome relief after the scorching heat of the day. That was great fun; Llew met me there, and we all had a fine time, the birthday girl especially. Sometimes all I really need is a little bit of fun.
Now, I’ve been meaning to talk to you about books and time is getting away from me – I’ll be having a little break from DoctorDi after tomorrow, and I think my Christmas Eve post will be along the lines Pete suggested – ‘that was the year that was’ – so today’s probably the day for book chat. First, I found We Need to Talk About Kevin simply devastating; Shriver’s writing is terrifying in its acuity. And as I said while reading it, the novel made me flinch. It was uncomfortable reading, unpleasant and shocking, but her workmanship made me want to weep.
Next, I devoured the rest of the stories in Brothers & Sisters. I didn’t much love the very first piece in the collection, but I think that’s bound to happen in any anthology, it’s too much to expect to love every author one reads. But that leaves 11 contributions I really did gobble up, several of whom by authors I was reading for the first time. Of these, I already knew of Tegan Bennett Daylight because she impressed as a panelist (along with Charlotte) at Varuna’s Pathways to Publication seminar in Katoomba last year, and I loved her story of the dumpy, disaffected sister watching her sibling effortlessly take London by storm. Having felt gradually flattened in London myself, I related to the character’s experience very keenly, and very much admired Bennett Daylight’s understated punch. She has an excellent gift for fine detail. I must also mention Robert Drewe’s story Paleface and the Panther. As someone who struggles with the short form, I always feel I have so much to learn from someone like Drewe, who is so masterful over just 15 pages that I can only conclude he is truly in his element. Though I enjoyed his award-winning novel The Drowner, it was with his short story collection The Bodysurfers – a modern Australian classic – that I first developed my hopeless reader crush on the man. This story made my fan love swell. How does he establish place so uncannily well in so few words? He is the consummate showman, by which I mean his stories always show, rather than tell. Delicious. I also re-read Charlotte’s story because she told me she copped a harsh review over the Tasman, and I wanted to try reading it with a critical rather than friendly eye. I’m pleased to report I loved it all over again; the characters are funny and true and Charlotte’s tenderness toward them is the story’s great strength, because it allows the sisters to endear themselves to the reader in such unexpected, memorable ways.
Now I am finishing off the creepy stories making up the back end of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline, having shivered and cringed my way through the title story. Is there anything more disturbing than the Other Mother? I honestly doubt it.
I’ve also finished the first draft of a short story of my own, a 3,000 word number I’d been mulling over for some time. Llew’s read it, which makes a nice change (he’s still not read MS #1; 70,000 words seems to defeat him almost on a philosophical level…), and better yet likes it, so I’m going to let it sit for a couple of weeks before redrafting it in mid-January. So there you go – lots of reading and writing going on around here. Life is good.