Monday, June 23, 2014

Write like a Motherf$cker

Oh hello there ...
So, I'm broke, have no work on the immediate horizon, bills unpaid, the weather is rancid, been avoiding company and I'm getting into the habit of wearing the same clothes until the hairs on my hairy beastie bits are growing straight through them.
And you know what? I'm deliriously happy

This from Ernest Hemingway:
I knew how severe I had been and how bad things had been. The one who is doing his work and getting satisfaction from it is not the one poverty bothers. I thought of bathtubs and showers and toilets that flushed as things that inferior people to us had or that you enjoyed when you made trips ... 
 But then we did not think ever of ourselves as poor. We did not accept it. We thought we were superior people and other people that we looked down on and rightly mistrusted were rich ... We ate well and cheaply and drank well and cheaply and slept well and warm together and loved each other.

I do wonder whether his wife felt the same way. Anyway, I can quote from Hemingway on A WineDark Sea, because a few weeks ago when I did have some money and was spending more time consuming stuff than producing stuff, I bought a first edition copy of this:

It arrived on my doorstep a few days ago. It smells beautiful. It has brown speckles over the pages like the brown speckles over my grandmother's hands. And then, you can turn another page and Hemingway just kind of saunters into your head and starts yarning.

And then!
This beautiful wee morsel of micro fiction by Angela Meyer arrived on my doorstep too! Winged from Melbourne west to me, from my most excellent blogger mate Jen (here).

So yes, I am rich - filthy rich - rolling in the paper stuff AND writing like a Motherf$cker. It's thesis work: research, references, footnotes and gnarly theoretical paragraphs and still I'm loving it. Look. Look at my desk. You can see I'm in heaven. Below are my favourite history books that have moved in and started arguing amongst themselves.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Stormboy and his girl

Better to have been listed and lost than ...

So Salt Story didn't make it to the shortlist of the Dobbie Literary Prize. I thought I should breathe this small sigh of information somewhere - seeing as the national broadsheets aren't clogging up my phone with requests for interviews about not being shortlisted.

But you know? Salt Story: of sea-dogs and fisherwomen was long-listed.
Yessss :~)

Monday, June 2, 2014

On smoking whale vomit

"It's an undersea smell, they say, briny, like the inside of a sea shell and slightly fecal to begin with, studded with buttons of squid bones. It will mature to become grainy, musky and precious for its rarity. To verify, heat a needle above a flame and slide it into the waxen flesh. The smoke will be white and sublime in fragrance. Miraculous."

An old whaler placed a piece of ambergris in my palm the other day.
"How can you be sure?" I asked him.
"Ahh, oh, I dunno, mate. This old bloke just gave it to me and said it was ambergris."

It was quite black, looked like a meteorite, felt waxy to the touch and weighed nothing. I held it in my hand and sniffed at it. It didn't smell like much. I wondered about the whale who'd once carried the lump of ebony stuff in its stomach through several oceans, hemispheres, for decades. How did 'this old bloke' get hold of it? Did he find it on a beach after a whale had vomited it up? Did he dive into the hot belly of a slaughtered whale and dig it out? Did someone sell it to him in a bar or a Nantucket souvenir shop?

"Let's sink a hot needle into it and see what it smells like," I said to the whaler. So we went from the carefully-curated museum in his lounge room, up the hallway, to his kitchen table where a forest of Worcester, Tomato and Barbeque sauce bottles stood over an understory of chaotic ashtrays, empty coffee cups and stacks of the old whalechasers' log books.

"I've got some needles here somewhere," he rummaged through the kitchenette, brought out a biscuit tin and reefed open the lid. He started emptying a whole sewing kit onto the table; a quick unpick, cotton reels and packs of pins and sewing needles. "Whaddaya reckon? The quick unpick?"
"Just give me a decent needle that won't burn my fingers."
He eased an upholstery needle from its cardboard sheath and handed it to me. I flicked the cigarette lighter and held the flame to the metal. He placed the ambergris on the plastic, flowered tablecloth and I plunged the red hot needle into the lump.

Both of us leaned in to get a whiff of the white smoke that plumed from the needle and then reeled away coughing. It was a bit like smoking hash from heated-up bread knives except this delivery system was via our nostrils. Mick must have got more than me because his coughing fit lasted several minutes (later he blamed it on a lifetime of White Ox), whereas I was merely bemused on how awful the revered, mythical ambergris actually smelt.
"It smells like shit burning," I said.
"It's really bloody stinky mate," He said once he'd drunk a cupful of water from the kitchen sink and recovered.

And it was. But there was something else beneath it; something sublime and utterly inexplicable.
Anyone who has read the perfect novel that is Jitterbug Perfume will know that under any fecal, nasty smell lies something more beautiful, something that goes straight to our old lizardy selves. Sure it smelt like burning shit but it also carried the very essence of sex, death and the nature of humanity. Both of us agreed about this. (This is coming from two smokers with no knowledge of perfumery.)
It was there, it was amazing and we smoked it.

Sunday, June 1, 2014


Someone was losing it tonight. When the air stills and grows cold before sunset, dinnertime dramas carry across the paddocks like a memoried song. Mostly it's Dave the Farmer shouting at his dog. His curses filter through the Karris and drift, complete and in all their unedited glory to my front veranda. But tonight it was a man from the valley beyond Dave who was cursing, shouting. Living in the gentile outskirts of town is quite different to tenement housing but kind of much the same when it comes to neighbours on a still night. After all the yelling and cursing, the revving of his car, the loud protests of his mates trying to stop him, the thumping bass of his car stereo, the romancing swamp frogs, the dogs setting up their howling and barking and the sudden honk of a heron flying home to roost ... well, the sound of his car getting bogged in the mud of a wintery driveway made me laugh out loud.