Friday, February 26, 2010

Pale Fire

I'm getting to sleep, or verging on it. I've just read an article about Vladimir Nabokov's The Originals of Laura: A Novel in Fragments, the last novel that he outlined in carefully organised index cards before he died. The main character in his outline is called Hubert Hubert. It seems to me that the ultimate conceit of the buyer of this special and strange release (of which I will probably be one) is to be the shuffler of his post-humus deck of cards, determining the plot and path of his final, unfinished novel.

'If the reader so wishes they can detach any card ... by simply pressing along the frame. Then, by having the cards in hand, they become free to shuffle or re-arrange them in whatever order they deem to be closer to Nabokov's original design ... Without its cards, the book, now hollowed out, can be be shelved back in your library: its outer aspect remains unchanged, yet it now conceals a cavity in which you can conceal your last will, your house keys, a small flask of Old Calvados or your wife's favourite earrings.' 1

At Otago University we studied Pale Fire by Nabokov, a convoluted, complex and funny novel. Once, our tweedy professor could not make it to a Pale Fire lecture and we sat through a video of some obscure, earnest assholes vindicating the ethical sexual politics of Lolita over and over again. Nabokov's Lolita leaves me cold: that old homicidal Humbert Humbert gives me the creeps. I walked out eventually. I was the only mature aged, motherofdaughter student there. It only took fifteen minutes ...

So I am drifting off, thinking about all this and falling into deep, deep sleep.

I feel a torch light at my window and there's voices saying 'Sarah, Sarah.'

Something inside me understands that I must wake. I have to get up to work at 4.30 this morning to pick up nets but this call is an old call. I know this one. Spotlights at the window.

A paddy wagon.
The dog stirs and swaggers his lion walk up the drive.
'We've got your daughter.'
I pull on my dress. I have to turn on the light to find it. I know the curtain is a bit see-through. I walk up the driveway into flashing lights.
She's a fucking mess. Torn stockings. A dress an electric blue to hurt your eyes. No hand bag. No shoes.

She's crying in the cage. 'My mum will be so ashamed of me. She'll be angry!'
'Come on, darling. Get out.'
She's paralytic. She's screaming about punching holes in walls. 'It's bed time,' I say.
To the cops, knowing they see the best of us people at the worst times, I say, 'Her hand bag? Her shoes? Where did you find her? If you find her stuff, you know where we are.'
As a final goodbye, as they leave in disgust, I say, 'She'll grow up soon.'
'And we'll still be arresting her,' they say, as they walk away.

1. Simon Leys. 'Sins of the Son', The Monthly, Feb, 2010.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

To the Islands

Once upon a time, I stumbled across an ancient fireplace built from the rounded stones of a battered island and glued together with seashells. It faced west, totally secluded and away from prevailing winds: a quiet, sunny, still place, across the shark-strewn channel from the mainland.

I've never found it again. Every time I return, I look for that fireplace. I ask the locals about it, but they don't seem to know anything. The other day, I pulled away the reeds and flannel flowers to find the remnants of a stone wall - but no fireplace. I think about snakes every visit, due to Old Salt's stories of watching them swim over to islands in search of prey, and it slows up my search (especially in the island uniform of bare feet!).

Transposition Transmutations

Okay, so the Old Salt Blogs. Cut and paste all these gorgeous little tales into a word file, convert it to some kind of design program, lay it out, find the cash to print it. Print it. Easy.
Printing these stories onto paper renders them unreadable. There is no continuity, no narrative, no theme. The whole lot needs to be rewritten and reworked. Bridges need to be built, stories wrought completely out of shape. That conversational style of chatting about where I went fishing last night and what Old Salt said just doesn't work on the page, yet in blog format it is, ahem, seductively brilliant. It is a working case of the media shaping the content. I worry that editing of the Old Salt Blogs will polish the roughness and shining existentialism of the blog post away, yet it is plain to anyone that the polishing must be done.

We are working for the Easter long weekend. It will be cutting that present tense rhetoric text real fine ...

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Indigo Girl

Out of the letterbox and into my sweaty hands came volume 5 of indigo yesterday. Indigo is a biannual journal of Western Australian writing. Issue launches are always exciting but even more so this time, because there are two of my stories in there!
Delys Bird does a great interview with Tim Winton and there are poems, short stories, reviews and essays / non fiction. My story 'Toxicity' is in the fiction section and 'High Times at the Hotel Desiccation' in the non fiction. (I had to think about that one. Being a spinner of ripping yarns means 'fact' and 'fiction' are mercurial media for me. I get carried away every time. Actually both stories could paddle happily in either genre!)
These stories were posted on A WineDark Sea but I took them down, when I submitted to indigo. So, if you want to read sex, drugs and fatal attraction, or the mad happenings at an isolated Pilbara roadhouse, then buy the book! It's out now.

Monday, February 15, 2010


I have coveted, admired, dribbled over the Phillip Starck juicer for, oh, about twenty years. Starckie himself said, "Its purpose is to start conversations, not make juice." Well. Why should something so beautiful perform such a mundane function? Because, like a cast iron pot belly stove or a wooden boat, if it don't work, you can only look at it for so long.

It works. Joy. And I HAVE one. It's mine. A tiny wooden house makes for the judicious pruning of possessions that lack beauty or usefulness - and this icon of design makes me very, very happy. Thanks, Our Sunshine!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Friday, February 5, 2010


One of my favourite blogs is Bibliodyssey, and I am adding the link to Phosphorescence (below the moon on a WineDark Sea). The creator of this blog combs digital archives for images arcane, exotic and extraordinary. Here are some sparkly bits ...

A post on Indian folk art.
The Night Life of Trees,
Art by Bhajju shyam, Durga Bai and Ram Singh Urveti.
Design by Gita Wolf and Rathna Ramanathan.
Copyright Tara Books Pvt. Ltd, 2006.

A post on the art of Yuko Shimizu. Draft, intermediate and completed illustrations. Copyright Yuko Shimizu.

A post on book illustrations.
Cover illustration by R.Crumb, published by Black Sparrow Press, Santa Rosa.
Bring Me All Your Love, Charles Bukowski, 1983.

A post on nuclear power plant wall charts.
Guangdong Nuclear Power Plant: Twin unit PWR station located at Daya Bay, People's Republic of China. Wall chart insert. Nuclear Engineering International, September 1987.

A post on beastly botanicals.

'Ausberg. this manuscript features eccentric plant renderings and quite obviously refers to the Medieval herbal tradition ... the handwritten text is variously in Latin, German and Italian and the manuscript is made out of paper.'