A few different topics in brief today:
- You may have wondered what happened to the busted sewerage main gurgling beneath our communal laundry. Well, it’s still there. My good buddy Andrew from Sydney Water gave me a call at the beginning of the week to tell me I’ll be the first to know when they’re all set to start destroying our backyard. Thanks, Andy… although chances are I might have managed to piece it together anyway. I get the feeling something will give the game away.
- All our appliances are dropping like flies. It’s a kitchen aid conspiracy. It started with the dishwasher, although that was months ago now. Then a few weeks ago we lost the coffee grinder and the kettle on the same day. The microwave has been making its own arrangements for quite some time, but we have to respect its demonstrated flair for keeping us guessing, so for now we’re just trying to give it room to fully express its individuality. But now we have a whopping great problem of some urgency: the fridge is dying. The freezer is currently operating as usual, but down below, all seems lost. Our first sign that it too was planning a dramatic exit was its staging of a miniature Ice Age a fortnight or so ago, in which a sub-zero surge froze everything from the milk to the lettuce rock solid. Cue much wastage of food. But the bricks of bread and petrified parsley were far preferable to what we have now: lukewarm everything, which makes our fridge full of food that’s dangerous now as well as being simply off-putting. And that’s because it’s a bacteria jungle in there, what with all these wild temperature fluctuations, and you know what that means: a health and safety nightmare for Project Baby J. It won’t do. It won’t do at all. All of which royally SUCKS, because there is nothing more tiresome and boring boring BORING than forking out a truckload of cash for white goods. Blech! So unimpressed.
- One of the benefits of my changing routine is that because I am now walking instead of running, I’ve started taking Llew’s radio with me. I decided a little while ago I needed to start consciously engaging with the world more aurally because my workaday is so silent, and I must say, I’m really enjoying listening to Radio National on my walks. I’ve heard a couple of really thought-provoking discussions – one on the concept of merit I’ll come back to in another post – heard some fascinating history – including horrific details of young Australian soldiers fighting the Japanese in WWII along the Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea – and picked up a couple of great book tips I otherwise almost certainly would have missed. On the Book Show this morning, for instance, I became more and more intrigued by Frances Partridge (1900-2004), lesser-known member of the famed and formidable Bloomsbury group, and the subject of Anne Chisolm’s new biography.
I’ve not read any of Partridge’s works yet, being in the main various published collections of her diaries, but I know now I definitely shall. I’m interested in diary-keeping, being a long-time amateur diarist myself, but the interview with Chisolm about the biography made it abundantly clear that while Partridge had a colourful talent for observation, the recording of real life and real people, she had no discernible talent for fiction (despite numerous and dedicated attempts). Apparently the surviving examples of her fiction (short stories, or so I understood from the interview) just aren’t any good.
Well, I’ve worried a great deal about this very thing myself. And it’s something other people have often said to me, that my writing is better suited to non-fiction, and that I am barking up the wrong tree. I think you’d be surprised to learn how very free people are with these opinions about what sort of writer I am or should be – I’m particularly fascinated by this type of unsolicited counsel when it comes from individuals who aren’t writers themselves… I can’t quite imagine telling someone else how to do a job in which I have no personal background or expertise. Anyway, my problem is slightly different to Partridge’s (although my short stories stink too), because if consistent reader feedback is anything to go by, my fiction reads like non-fiction no matter what I do. And by that I mean, no matter what I invent using nothing more than my apparently limited imagination.
I actually rolled my eyes heavenward and groaned aloud reading the feedback from the agent who passed on the MS after a four-month deliberation, because her colleague said in her assessment, ‘I wonder if some of these experiences happened to the author?’ – Jesus!!!! Not this again!!!! While I would never pretend my own personality and experience of the world have had no bearing on the world and the characters of this MS, frankly I have created way, way too much out of thin air not to be sort of galled by this recurrent suggestion that it must be taken from my own life. It’s not, I could never make a non-fiction claim for it, it would be completely fraudulent to do so because it’s a work of fiction, and I don’t know what to do about my writing style somehow suggesting otherwise. I really don’t know what to do about it! But I do wonder if Partridge’s plight was at all similar, and if perhaps my own long years of diary keeping are in any way responsible for the current and evidently damning limitations of my fiction style. But irrespective of my own problems with the written word, I’m looking forward to reading about dear Frances’s forays.