Friday, September 13, 2013

On books

It was just delectable music and poetry last night at Liberte' bar, when Inkerman and Blunt launched (or partied in) their inaugural book Australian Love Poems 2013. Although Inkerman and Blunt are an Australia wide operation, there were so many downsouth writers published in this gorgeous lushy book, that we had an event all of our own.

I arrived five minutes late and immediately regretted my clompy heels on the floorboards in a room full of renaissance furniture and mirrors and silent listeners and poets. But the bookseller sidled over to me while I stood stricken in the doorway and said, "I've been reading your book. I finished it last night. I'm calling you Lightning Rod Sarah from now on."

I laughed out loud then because I know the scene that he was referring to. When Old Salt was hauled up by the law for fishing on a public holiday, Fisheries wanted to know what I was doing on the boat, hoping to prosecute me as well. Old Salt got me out of it by claiming that I was his lightning rod, on the day when lightning forked into the sea all around our little metal boat.

"I'll give it to the retail staff next," said the bookseller, "so they can talk it up at the counter. I loved it Sarah. It's a great book, really great. It gets into this country and the people so well. Dunno how it will sell over east but it will go well here."

The band began their answer back to the last poem. She sang in in Spanish, with violin, slide and a slow squeezebox to accompany her. It was just sublime. Close your eyes stuff.

This morning I had a meeting with a publisher about my next book, the one that isn't finished yet, the book that incited Predator Dreams, the book I've been writing and rewriting for a few years now. "It won't be ready as a manuscript until halfway through next year," I told her.
The phone rang in my bag.
"That's fine. Plenty of time," she said.
"PhD novels ... I can always see the PhD in them. They are so ... precise. I don't want to submit that to you. I have to write for the examiners by December and then I want six months to shape it up as a novel."
"That's good. Just don't give it to anyone else."
The phone did a 'you have a message' toot.

We talked about lots of other stuff and then I got on my bicycle and rode around the coast, back to the uni. I didn't see any whales, though I looked for them. I did see the catamaran full of tourists heading for the bay. I passed a woman walking who looked like she needed to walk some shit off her liver. I nodded and smiled at other walkers. I passed angrywomanwalker again. Then she passed me as I sauntered my bike up the hill. I wondered about her life. I could smell that pungent coastal heath flower. The black lizards have emerged from their winter sojourn and they stared at me as they slithered sluggishly away from the wheel.

When I got to the uni I checked my messages.
I guess I have a phone.
I just wanted to hear your voice. Um.
I have some of your books and maybe I should give them back.
Ring me if you so please or send me a message.
Hope you are okay.

My normally cast-iron stomach has been threatening mutiny for a week now. Despite my best efforts this Toa body does not usually let me down. So when I headed for the toilet with a roiling belly and an angry, sick head, on a single phone message, I knew something was wrong.

Recently, on the news that my friend was dying in a  far-off hospital, I took a geographical and drove out to Kundip. How did I feel as I stoked the fire? I felt twitchy, lonely and sad. I'd nearly rung him the day before because I was writing about my sealers approaching Investigator Island and I wanted to know the exact coordinates of Boxer to there. We'd sailed those very same sea roads in April. I didn't ring him and it turns out it was the same day he had his heart attack.

Was I troubled as I sat by the fire?
(A grey nomad who sat opposite the same fire the last time I was out there said that I had a bitter laugh.
"That laugh!" Ms Mer said to me once, because she likes my laugh.
I don't think I have a bitter laugh. I really don't.)

The people that I thought about that night on my flight to Kundip were my dying friend and my futureless lover. I needed someone to walk me over that rickety bridge, that bridge with the troll beneath. When folk die or are dying, I have burnt candles, diaries and mulberry trees. I've stoked a washing machine tub full of books. I've fucked under a blazing grass tree with sparks of resin showering over my bare skin as a cheeky wind kicked in. That night at Kundip I wandered around picking up dried branches of volatile leaves and throwing them on the fire, watching the flames mushroom into the sky and ash fall all around me. The branches burned through and collapsed into the coals. Then I threw on the pallets and stacked them high until light blazed into the sky and drowned out the stars. No one has to die for me to burn things, I thought ... but that night I said goodbye to a few of them.

In case you haven't noticed, this ramble is all about books. A lifetime ago, when a relationship ended or someone died, I'd only have to negotiate the CD's, pets, counselling receipts, furniture, photographs, children, pianos and debts. These days, I have to negotiate our books. It was the mention of books today that made me head for the toilet. Today was all about my books; the ones I have written, have yet to write or owe to ex lovers. Books. In an age of online media and instantaneous outrage, the most important things next to love, birth and death, are our books.


  1. Beautifully written and predictably obscure.

  2. I have ordered your book over here in the 'East'. So you have at least one sale guaranteed. Loved this ramble.Touched a chord. For me it's probably the things hanging on my walls. My paintings, family photos. Each of them has a story and are part of me and connect me to others and other times. But when the chips are down it's not the objects.

  3. Thanks Mr Hat. Stoked.

    And On Books was not about books, really.

  4. Probably wasn't about this either, but it made me think about this..

  5. Oh Ciaran, I watched this and wept. (That bagpiper ...) Then I showed it to Stormboy, a child of the content consumer generation, and both of us wept. 'What I have to offer is the very thing thing nobody will love'. It's a beauty. Thanks so much.