Friday, November 26, 2010

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

From the favourer: "Fahrenheit 451 was my gateway drug to all kinds of literature. I first came across it when I bought a computer text adventure game in the late 1980s for the Commodore 64 with the same title. Clues from the game had me scrambling for my mum's dictionary of quotations, or looking up chapter 2 verse 10 of 'Song of Songs', or finding a copy of 'Moby Dick' to get the opening sentence. Then I found out that the game was actually based on a book. This introduced me to the wonderful world of Ray Bradbury, where science fiction was about people rather than science doodads."

A bit like The Lost Estate, Fahrenheit 451 is a book I read Many Moons ago and can't remember much about the ending. In fact, before re-reading it, my memory of the ending of Ray Bradbury's novel amounted to: "I think there's a river."

The copy I'm re-reading was given to me by the favourer, a Voyager Classics paperback rebound into hardback by Apollo Moon - now defunct bookbinder who I have a soft spot for as we had all our Rowden White Library binding done there until they went under. Ah, the smell of fresh book glue. *sniiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiff* Reading a professionally bound book has the advantage over the glue-bound paperback as these are also stitch-bound, so you can bend the bugger back as far as you like and never hear the tell-tale splitting noise along the spine. (Sorry, I'm a bit rough with my books. I also write notes in their margins. Sorry again.)

Montag is a fireman. But unlike the firemen of our age, Montag's role is to set fires, to burn down houses that have books in them. Books are forbidden, and must be destroyed for the good of the community. Montag takes pride in his role as a fireman, enjoys spraying the kerosene and seeing the fire obliterate objects inside. The owners of the houses have always been safely removed by the police beforehand, so they're not burning people. Just 'things'. And at night Montag comes home and finds that his wife Mildred has taken a overdose of sleeping pills. He calls an ambulance, but instead of a medic arriving, the emergency is attended by indifferent technicians who whoosh in, coldly pump Mildred's stomach, replace her entire blood supply, and whoosh off in their craft again. Montag is troubled by the incident, but his wife's chipper amnesia about the whole event convinces him that things are probably fine.

Then Montag meets Clarisse. Clarisse is different to anyone he's ever met. Unlike everyone else, Clarisse doesn't sit at home all day, watching the floor-to-ceiling tv walls where "the relatives" encourage individual watchers to participate in their inane interactive plays. Instead, Clarisse has a sunburnt face from being in the woods all day. She shows Montag how old leaves smell like cinnamon. She watches people, and concludes that they don't talk about "...anything. They name a lot of cars or clothes or swimming-pools mostly and say how swell! But they all say the same things and nobody says anything different from anyone else."

Shades of Holden Caulfield aside, Clarisse is different and vibrant, and Montag is entranced. When he suddenly no longer encounters Clarisse on his daily outings, and shortly thereafter he attends a fire that burns more than just 'things', Montag is forced to confront his career and life in a way that will endanger both.

When I began re-reading Fahrenheit 451 (the title refers to the temperature at which paper catches fire and burns), I was quite shocked by how seriously good it is - and also how I had completely forgotten how seriously good it is. I'm a bit of a sucker for a depressing, technology-has-dehumanised-us world (which explains my small obsession with Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep). Like the world of Dick - let me rephrase that - like the world of Androids, Ray Bradbury questions the nature of self and humanity in an increasingly technological world.

Unlike Dick, Bradbury is less concerned with the blurring of boundaries between human and android, and more with the loss of humanity through the loss of the past. In the world of Fahrenheit 451, books that are "English-influenced" are forbidden. But these books weren't initially banned by a Big Brother-style government initiative, but more gradually and disturbingly:

"The bigger your market, Montag, the less you handle controversy, remember that! All the minor minor minorities with their navels to be kept clean. Authors, full of evil thoughts, lock up your typewriters. And they did. Magazines became a nice blend of vanilla tapioca. Books, so the damed snobbish critics, said, were dishwater. No wonder books stopped selling, the critics said. But the public, knowing what it wanted, spinning happily, let the comic-books survive. And the three-dimensional sex-magazines, of course. There you have it, Montag. It didn't come from the Government down. There was no dictum, no declaration, no censorship, to start with, no! Technology, mass exploitation, and minority pressure carried the trick."

Of course, this is the devil's advocate character Beatty - Montag's fire chief - speaking, and we can't trust him. But his words have resonance today, and that's why they're initially scary. I wonder about this character that Bradbury created. Someone so committed to their cause, but so torn apart by it that - well, I don't spoiler so you'll have to read the book to see what happens to Beatty.

I wonder about him because while he presents the most pessimistic view of their society possible (fine), he also contributes to a funny thread of elitism that runs through the novel (weird). Quite often, the book implies that only the 'chosen ones' will understand the value of books, and the rest of society needs to be literally razed before books can be appreciated anew. People like the previously inane Mrs Phelps, who displays a deeply emotional reaction when exposed to a book for the very first time, are ultimately lumped with the Mildred-masses. Also, prejudice against comic books. Also, when are three-dimensional sex magazines going to be invented?

I re-read this book furiously over one workday up to about page 100 (hi Clint, no I didn't read it while I was supposed to be working). But after that I started to slow down, and I can see now why I don't really remember the ending that well. It still feels a little anticlimactic, almost as if it's winding down/forward to the start of a sequel. And it does reinforce the elitist idea that only the chosen few will be keepers of the books, and also that they won't do anything until the times are right to accept them:

"...we're the odd minority crying in the wilderness. When the war's over, perhaps we can be of some use in the world.
'Do you really think they'll listen then?'
'If not, we'll just have to wait.'"

Honestly. Grow a pair and fight for it!

Anyway.

I've learned enough from reading (ye olde 30 year old reader on high speaketh to you) to know that the end doesn't always colour the book. And in this case, it really doesn't. Fahrenheit 451 was written in 1953 and still presents a smack-in-the-face of a world that is riveting, shocking, and truth be told, more than a little too familiar.

AND - sorry for max caps - RAD BRADBURY PREDICTED 'DON'T FORGET THE LYRICS':

"If you don't want a man unhappy politically, don't give him two sides to a question to worry about; give him one. Better yet, give him none. Let him forget there is such a thing as war. If the Government is inefficient, top-heavy, and tax-mad, better it be all those than that people worry over it. Peace, Montag. Give the people contests they win by remembering the words to more popular songs or the names of state capitals or how much corn Iowa grew last year. Cram them full of non-combustible data, chock them so damned full of 'facts' that they feel stuffed, but absolutely 'brilliant' with information. Then they'll feel they're thinking, they'll get a sense of motion without moving. And they'll be happy, because facts of that sort don't change."

But this is Beatty speaking again. So we shouldn't take what he says seriously.

Right?

______________________________________________________________

(Also, memory served me correctly. There WAS a river at the end!)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

And the winner is...


...Kirsty Eagar for Raw Blue! Yep, that's the book we all held up.

Woot!

The awards dinner was held last night, and was made spectacularly enjoyable by MC Casey Bennetto - I strongly believe all awards ceremonies should be presented in musical theatre form (especially as the introduction to the award for a First Book of History included the line "She didn't think the colon vital, she didn't pick a compound title"). There was also some amusing cross-room tweeted arguments about which of us was on the kids' table (I reckoned it was us, but was told: "Nup. Bloggers and cartoonists and plus ones on table 4 is kids table.") And then, there was FOOOOOOD:


Kirsty was there to collect her award, and gets extra points for mentioning the awards had been "tantalizingly blogged about". From now on my bio will read "Anna Ryan-Punch: tantalizing blogger."

It is a real thrill to give the award to this fantastic and assured first novel - the quality and polish of writing in Raw Blue is astonishing, as is the sophistication of structure (see, I mentioned structure!) and verisimilitude of the characters. Even the marginal characters and smallest details in Raw Blue never really leave you - for me, hollandaise sauce will never be quite the same.

It's a brilliant whack-in-the-face of a novel, and I urge you all to go out and buy it if you haven't already.

Oh, and the rumours about the dessert buffet at the Victorian Premier's Literary Awards are true. Just in case you were wondering.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Lost Estate (Le Grand Meaulnes) by Alain-Fournier

From the favourer: "It is as close as a book has come to being a dream that I have ever read."

Le Grand Meaulnes, alternately translated at The Lost Estate or The Wanderer, is a book I have a fairly long history with.

When I was 19, I went into Alice's Bookshop in Rathdowne St, and like many students before me, started chatting to the bookshop owner Anthony. For reasons I have absolutely no recollection of, he gave me a free copy of Le Grand Meaulnes (my copy's title was translated as The Wanderer), said it was his favourite book, and asked me to come back when I'd read it and tell him what I thought. I never told him. I've been back to the shop many times since, and he knows me because he knows Paul (partly because our courtship involved Alice's Bookshop in a big way*), but I've never told him what I thought about the book he so freely gave me.

So it's funny that this book should end up as being one of Paul's nominated favourites (though he first read it years after me).

Le Grand Meaulnes is a book about finding something perfect, losing it, and then spending the rest of your life trying to find it again.

In a quiet French village, a new schoolboy named Augustin Meaulnes arrives, and his charismatic nature leads him to be nicknamed Le Grand Meaulnes (The Great Meaulnes). His magnetic spirit and country charm make him popular with the other boys, but he disappears for a few days and comes back changed. On his travels, it is revealed, Meaulnes arrived at an isolated chateau (the 'Lost Estate' that titles many translations of the book), a crumbling, abandoned building that is suddenly populated by children, and enlivened for the purpose of a wedding. A stranger in their midst, Meaulnes is curiously welcomed as a guest, and catches sight of a beautiful woman who he instantly falls in love with. One night, however, the wedding is suddenly cancelled. All the guests hurriedly depart the chateau and Meaulnes is set down on the road. He spends the rest of his life trying to recapture the mysterious happiness that he found at the estate.

From when I first read Le Grand Meaulnes in about 1999, to my recent re-reading in 2010, I've discovered nothing much has changed for me about this book. It's a book where the plot is blurred by memory. I couldn't remember exactly what happened, who met/married who, who had children with who, who died. And on re-reading, I think it's because it's not the point of this book.

This book is like a dream. When you are reading it, you return to the page not entirely sure what is happening, and not convinced that the events of the last chapter actually happened. You discover the Lost Estate with Meaulnes, you lose it with him, and you suffer the dreamlike agonies of not being able to find your way back. He pores over maps, his friends are infected with his longing and try to map out the details of his travels, but the Estate remains elusive. And, just like in a dream, when he finds what he is looking for - suddenly it wasn't really what he wanted at all.

It's a book where the turn of the seasons is incredibly important. This is such a novelty for me - I can't remember reading a book where a frost or a spring breeze had such impact on my reading:

"Everything was icy: the waxed tablecloth with no linen one covering it, the wine cold in the glasses, the red tiles beneath our feet."

"I went down into the yard and suddenly realized it was spring. A delicious breeze, like warm water, was flowing over the wall, and during the night a fall of rain had noiselessly dampened the leaves of the peonies...We were leaning against the low wall on the little street and talking, bareheaded and with our hands in our pockets, while the wind alternately made us shiver with cold and at other times, with gusts of warm air, aroused some long-buried excitement in us."

I think a lot of this book is about the contradictions of adolescence. What Meaulnes - at fifteen - discovers at the mysterious chateau is that he can preserve the wonder of his childhood, but also capture the beautiful woman. He can have his cake and get laid too. Of course, this doesn't happen. He is dumped unceremoniously at the roadside of childhood, and can never quite remember how to get back to that magical place. But he continues to search for the woman and the chateau that seemed to hold the essence of his future happiness.

I think the way the title is translated is important. We're all familiar with The Great Gatsby, and how the title relates to Jay Gatsby. But Le Grand Meaulnes is rarely translated as The Great Meaulnes in English (partly I think because of the similarity to The Great Gatsby and partly because English speakers often mispronounce 'Meaulnes') - more likely we get The Lost Estate or The Wanderer. The first shifts the emphasis from the character to the place, the second shifts the character from being a person to a figure. Neither are really appropriate. The book is not really about the chateau, or the journey that Meaulnes spends his life trying to recapture.

As I write this, I'm furious that I'm writing all about Meaulnes. It's not all about him. The narrator, for one thing, is his best friend, one of several friends who are drawn into Meaulnes' orbit and his search for the chateau and the mysterious woman. They are drawn into his longing so much that their whole lives come to be about Meaulnes, his search, his longing. His hauntedness becomes their hauntedness. And it becomes the reader's, too.

It's a frustrating book, just like dreams are frustrating. It's not a book you read for rigorous characterisation, or continuity of plot. You read it like you are dreaming. You have to accept dream-logic. I finished reading this book for the second time about a week ago, and just like the first time I read it, the details are fading. I think this is why I never went back and told Anthony what I thought about it. I can't find my way to an evaluation of this book any more than Meaulnes can find his way back to the chateau. But what I will remember are the snap of the images, the huge sense of longing and pleasant melancholy, and the furious burning that if I could just look hard enough at the pages, I would find my way to the centre of this book.

________________________________________

*For those of you who are wondering, shortly after Paul and I first met, he gave me an envelope that had $40 of Monopoly money in it. The instructions in the envelope said that if I went to Alice's Bookshop and asked for the copy of Jules Verne's The Moon Voyage in the window, I would find that my money was welcome there. I did as instructed, and Anthony handed over the lovely copy of The Moon Voyage, already inscribed to me by Paul. I was embarrassed and excited and nervous and every time I look at that book, I remember that with a bit of love and eccentricity, scraps of toy paper can buy you a flight to the moon.


Monday, September 6, 2010

Victorian Premier's Literary Awards 2010 shortlists are announced!

And the books shortlisted for the Victorian Premier's Literary Awards YA Prize are:

Phew. I don't have to keep my mouth shut any more! Except about the winner, of course, but that's easier somehow. It's just a cosy little one-book secret, rather than a big rambling three-book secret. I think my secret limit is two books.

Big congratulations to all the shortlisted authors - I'm extremely proud and excited about our shortlist. And also congrats to the authors we longlisted: Kirsty Murray for Vulture's Gate, Richard Harland for Worldshaker and Bill Condon for Confessions of a Liar, Thief and Failed Sex God. You can read the judges' reports here.

Judging this year was a completely different experience to the 2007 VPLA - which makes sense I suppose, given that you have a completely different set of entries for the year, and a completely different set of judges. (Except me. I am not completely different.) One important difference was that we didn't have to write a judge bio for the website, or provide a photo. Which absolved me from the photo-choosing despair that I encountered last time! I was going to go with this one, in case you're interested:


Myself and my fellow judges (Pam Macintyre from Viewpoint Magazine and Leesa Lambert from The Little Bookroom) used the same judging process as the last time I was a judge - once the entries were received we all squirrelled ourselves away and read like the blazes, and we each created our own personal longlists for our next meeting. We kept our longlists a secret from each other until the meeting, to see if there would be any overlap.

In 2008, when I judged the award with lovely authors Kirsty Murray and Simmone Howell, our initial personal longlists had very little overlap, which I found fascinating. So there was lots of re-reading and re-evaluating done after our initial read-through. Our final shortlist and winner were arrived at through a lot of analysis, a lot of brain-wracking, a few more meetings, and a bit of voting.

I expected pretty much the same turn of events this year - when you give three different people a pile of 75 different books and ask them to pick the best ones, you'd assume you'd get some different answers.

So Pam and I turned up at the Little Bookroom on Longlist Meeting Day with our little piles of novels hidden in our bags.

I produced my longlist first. Then Pam produced hers. Then Leesa pulled out hers.

Each of our 4-book longlists overlapped by at least 3 books. Wow.

"So," Pam said, "Which one do we think is the winner?"

And we all held up the same book.

Then we kind of got the giggles, because it was so unexpected, and so exciting! We were unanimous before we'd even opened our mouths!

Narrowing down the rest of the shortlist took a bit longer - a bit of re-reading and discussing and voting, but given that we already had a three-book overlap in our longlists it didn't take too long.

So: a different year, a different set of entries and judges, a completely different judging experience. Last time I was pregnant, this time I have an 18mth old. Both years it has been exciting, confusing, and brain-tearingly full on. So has the judging.

I can't imagine what will happen if I judge this award again in the future. Probably I'll just have given birth to triplets, we judges will have a shortlist of twenty books that we CANNOT cut down any further, our heads will explode and someone else will have to judge the award for us.

Oh, and did I forget to tell you this year's winner? How terribly remiss of me.

Friday, June 25, 2010

1.38 metres of reading

I received the complete lot of books for judging today. 70 entries, 7 weeks til The Decision is due.

Luka very kindly helped me unpack the books:





I've judged this award once before, and I remember the stack of books was pretty tall, but I don't remember it being THIS TALL:



It's 138cm of books. Yes, I'm in my pyjamas. It's 7pm, aren't you in your pyjamas?

I'm also 179cm tall, which is pretty tall for a woman (or a man for that matter, but even more so for a woman) so having a stack of books come up past my boobs is kind of scary. Some of my friends only come up to my boobs. I'm not scared of them, though. That's different.

Looking back, in 2008 the stack was this tall:


I was about 3 weeks pregnant there, though I didn't know it yet. Aw.

There were 65 entries that year. Though there are only 5 more entries this year, it feels like a big difference in stack height.

Oh hey, but I'm wearing the same socks today!

Are books getting longer? Am I getting shorter? Can I get through 70 books in the next 7 weeks?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

There once was a man from Nantucket (or, Why I love limericks)

As some of you know, I write poetry. So I would like to tell you about my most favourite, no competition, above-all-rubies sort of poem.

The limerick.

I love limericks. There, I've said it. I'd rather read a good limerick than a good sonnet. That bastion of information (Wikipedia), says the limerick is "sometimes obscene, with humorous intent."

(I think I'd like that on my gravestone. "Here lies Anna Ryan-Punch. She was sometimes obscene, with humorous intent.")

The reason they're known as 'limericks' is the source of a bit of debate, but most sources say it's because they fit into a song, the chorus of which begins 'Oh won't you come up to Limerick', and any limerick slots into the verse tune. (When I was a kid we sang limericks to a similar sort of song, where the chorus encouraged: "So sing me another verse that's worse than the first verse, make sure that it's foolish and silly.") As you all know, the limerick is a 5-line rhyming stanza (aabba) written in anapestic or amphibrachic metre.

There. Educational part of the blog concluded.

Limericks are funny, mostly naughty, rhyming poems. What's not to love? Well, apparently some people don't like them. When I professed my love of limericks to my fellow librarian Alana, she said: "But they're lame, and they're always rude." She's probably right. I think this is why I like them. They appeal to my love of bad puns:

'I must leave here,' said Lady De Vere,
'For these damp airs don't suit me, I fear.'
Said her friend: 'Goodness me!
If they don't agree
With your system, why eat pears, my dear?'
(Anon)

They appeal to my love of swearing:

There was a young man of Nepal
Who had a mathematical ball;
The cube of it's weight
Times Pi, minus eight
Is four thirds the root of fuck all.
(Anon)

They often poke fun at figures political, literary and academic. Being married to a philosopher (and in having majored in philosophy at uni in a past life), among my favourites are the ones that poke fun at philosophers:

An example of Kant's sterling wit
Was his theory that farts could be lit,
And it's said that all night
By the flickering light,
He composed his 'Critique of Pure Shit'.
(Victor Gray)

This one is obviously a firm fave in our household (especially when needing to bitch about academia):

When a man's too old even to toss off, he
Can sometimes be consoled by philosophy.
One frequently shows a
Strong taste for Spinoza
When one's balls are beginning to ossify.
(Robert Conquest)

I'm not a big fan of the Edward Lear limericks (the ones that end with pretty much the same line they started with, and aren't rude, and as a result of both these things, aren't funny):

There was an Old Man in a tree,
Who was horribly stung by a bee;
When they said: 'Does it buzz?'
He replied: 'Yes it does.
It's a regular brute of a bee!
(Edward Lear)

See? Yawn. But there's a reply to this limerick of his that I find absurdly funny:

There was an old man of St Bees
Who was horribly stung by a wasp.
When they said: 'Does it hurt?'
He replied: 'No it doesn't -
It's a good job it wasn't a hornet!'
(Sir William S. Gilbert)

I love this. It's poking fun at how Lear's limerick is so lame, but even when I didn't know it was a reply to Lear, I still thought it was hilarious. It gets recited often at our family gatherings (which gives you an idea of how I came to be the person I am today).

There are people who are even more into limericks than me. The OEDILF (The Omnificent English Dictionary in Limerick Form) project aims to write one limerick on the subject of every single word in the English language. No joke. So far they've got 61786 'approved' limericks. I'm not sure of the details of the approval process, but I'm sure it's very rigorous.

Scholar of rudey humour Gershon Legman maintained that the true limerick is always obscene. But in case you think I am a bawdy old wench who just likes to make jokes about balls and boobs all day (you can lead a horticulture, etc.), I also love those rare limericks that manage to be delightful without being rude at all:

A psychiatrist fellow from Rye
Went to visit another close by,
Who said, with a grin,
As he welcomed him in:
'Hullo, Smith! You're all right! How am I?'
(Stephen Cass)

A combustible woman from Thang
Exploded one day with a BANG!
The maid then rushed in,
And said with a grin,
'Pardon me Madam - you rang?'
(Spike Milligan)

A wonderful bird is the pelican
His bill can hold more than his belican.
He can take in his beak
Food enough for a week
But I'm damned if I see how the helican.
(Dixon Merritt)

One of my favourite books of poetry that I used to nick off my mum's bookshelf is the Penguin Book of Limericks (ed. E.O. Parrott). It is now housed on my bookshelves between Ovid and Rilke (which is funny in itself). I probably wasn't really supposed to be reading it (given that it contains more sex and swearing than Deadwood and True Blood combined) but I thought it was great. I loved how the rhythm and rhyme scheme of limericks made me laugh even if they weren't terribly funny or I didn't really get it, and how the really good ones can still make me cry laughing. And I suspect that that the randy old Dean at Harvard was right:

At Harvard a randy old Dean
Said: 'The funniest jokes are obscene.
To bowdlerize wit
Takes the shit out of it -
Who wants a limerick clean?
(Anon)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

(Meal) ticket to read

Pretty soon I'll be embarking on another judging-related reading binge, which will mean even less blogging than usual (again!). But hey, I get paid to judge (why don't I get paid to blog?) and I like to know where my next meal is coming from.

On that note, I've been rekindling my love affair with John Forbes. Perhaps I'll keep him in mind when I can't face another novel:

Reading

funny
how the eye
goes right
to the line
where we left off
reading
but the brain
can't accept
how serenely
at one
with the book
we are,
the way
hunters once knew
- just knew -
when to throw
the spear & where
exactly,
in all
the bright world,
their next meal
was coming from.

- John Forbes

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A different sort of Mother's Day present

This Mother's Day, Luka has decided to wean himself from breastfeeding. He's 15 months, he's definitely finished up, and I'm more than a little sad.

It's been a slow process really. Since he started sleeping all night (by some kind of freaking miracle) of his own accord by mid-February he dropped the night feeds. Then he dropped the feed after his daytime nap (which was great, as it didn't mean I had to express for Paul to feed to him on the days I was at work). But he had still been having his early-morning feed with great gusto until about 2 weeks ago. Then, suddenly, some mornings he'd want to feed, and some mornings he would complain, and just want a cuddle or to get up and play.

At that point, I kind of knew we were finishing up with breastfeeding. So for what is now his 'last feed', I took careful notice of everything.

I walked into his room, grey in the half-dark of early morning, to find him standing up at the end of the cot. When he saw me, he lifted his little arms up and I gathered his warm little face up to mine. I sat down on the chair next to the cot, badly aiming as usual and nearly falling onto the floor. I righted myself and tipped him sideways into the crook of my arm. It's a movement that I never thought would have become second nature, given how ridiculously uncoordinated breastfeeding was at first.

As I pulled my singlet down, he opened his pink mouth, wide, like a little bird that's seen food coming. Every time I fed him it reminded me of Sylvia Plath's wonderful poem"Morning Song" about being mother to a newborn: "Your mouth opens clean as a cat's". He began to suckle quietly, slowly opening and closing his eyes, and winding his fingers through my hair. He always pulled at my hair, it always hurt, and I never minded.

I stroked his arm, his cheek, his side. I registered every curve of him. Eventually, he was nearly asleep again, and just rested his warm hand, fingers splayed, against my chest. When he rolled off me, full, I stood up and laid him back into his cot. His eyes stayed closed, but he stretched in that wonderful "punching the sky" move babies have, then lay softly asleep.

And the next day, when I tried to feed him and he complained and just wanted to get up and eat toast, I cried. And I cried for a few days after, but I'm not going to cry any more.

I'd always intended it to be his decision when to wean, but I'd always assumed I'd get sick of breastfeeding before he did.

We had a very good run. I was lucky, and I acknowledge it. I had the usual scrapes, cracks and bleeding nipples but really, we got breastfeeding established early and relatively easily. I can't remember much about the days in hospital - apparently the day I gave birth I had lots of visitors, and I've seen myself smiling in the photos, but I don't remember any of it (possibly as I'd been awake for 36hrs, plus *oh yes* I gave birth).

But I do remember the midwives at Cabrini were a huge help (apart from the crazy Irish one that slammed shut all the windows in my room, proclaiming "You let in a fly, the baby die!")

I remember my favourite midwife stopping me when I was trying frantically to get Luka to attach and saying: "Look at him. See how he's looking up at you? He's getting to know who you are, what you look like, how you smell. Don't rush him." She moved slowly and with difficulty, and only had full use of one of her hands, but that woman could handle a newborn baby like she had 8 good hands.

Luka was a frequent feeder, sometimes getting up to 13 feeds in 24hrs (which, like a lot of Luka's habits, I thought was abnormal til I got on the ABA forums).

There were some seriously difficult periods of breast refusal that I didn't really talk about or let myself think about at the time. The first was at about 3 months where I had to force his head against me to get him to feed (in our house it became known as the "fighty feed"), but he was still little and I usually won, and was determined not to feel rejected.

At about 6 months he suddenly went through a period of feeding round the clock every 2 hrs, and then backflipped to screaming and screaming when I tried to feed him at night (though nothing else would settle him). Paul had to walk him around until he settled, and then sometimes I was able to slip him onto the breast, although usually it took several rounds of settling.

These aren't great dramas by comparison to what other mothers have gone through, but they were dramas enough at the time. I wasn't the sort of mother that falls in love with their baby at first sight. When he was born, I didn't want skin-to-skin contact, I just wanted someone to take him away so I could go to sleep. Feeding him was a big part of our getting to know each other. I wrote in my diary at the time: "I am learning to love Luka by breastfeeding him." If I couldn't have breastfed, I know I would have got to love him in other ways, but that was the way it happened for us.

We breastfed for 15 months, and I will miss it. I will miss his quiet body against me, the thought that I am nourishing him with no help from anyone else, and how useful it made me feel when I felt I couldn't do anything else right.

So, a different sort of Mother's Day present. We have lots of cuddles, still. But it's the end of something important.

We've come from here:


to here:


The boobs are off-duty til next time round. But I'm glad to have had this chance.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Sending them into the wild

This afternoon I will release The Poky Little Puppy and The Velveteen Rabbit into the wilds of Carlton.

Want to catch them?

Details are here for Poky Little Puppy

and

here for The Velveteen Rabbit.

Happy book hunting!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Species of Spaces and Other Pieces by Georges Perec

From the favourer: "For me, it's a guidebook to the everyday; a framework for our immediate spaces; an elevation of the small things into special things; a gentle reminder that we create our own worlds everywhere, all the time, in all the smallest ways. Sometimes I read it just to reset my mind. It's a favourite because it makes new things possible."

Is it wrong that I decided to read this book next because the author has cool hair? It's in pretty good shape on the cover of the book, but there are other, even more spectacular versions:


And he obviously loves his cat:

So basically I was already rather fond of Georges Perec before I even started reading this collection of his non-fiction pieces. He's probably best known for his novel La Disparition - English title 'A Void', a novel of more than 300 pages that completely avoided using the letter 'e'. He also wrote a palindrome of more than 5000 characters!

The title piece Species of Spaces, is a gentle exploration of everyday surroundings and objects, starting with the page (that is being written on) and gradually moving outwards to examine the apartment, the street, the town, the country, the world, and outer space. Perec looks at common objects and places (the bed, the staircase) and the worlds we create around them. I suppose it's essentially a kind of philosophical exploration of our ordinary spaces, but it's written with such lightness that it's fun to read, rather than being...well...'improving'. Those of you who know me will know I'm a bit over Being Educated, so for me to persist with a non-fiction book it has to be accessible, and preferably funny. This book is often both.

There are lovely asides, such as the sub-section of the 'Bedroom' chapter, delightfully entitled: 'Placid small thought no. 1'. It reads:

"Any cat-owner will rightly tell you that cats inhabit houses much better than people do. Even in the most dreadfully square spaces, they know how to find favourable corners."

Some sections are quite touching, even if you can't quite pinpoint why: "We don't think enough about staircases. Nothing was more beautiful in old houses than the staircases. Nothing is uglier, colder, more hostile, meaner, in today's apartment buildings. We should learn to live more on staircases. But how?"

(Actually, I think the answer to this 'how?' is to live for a while in a residential college - most of your time is spent sitting, lying or hovering on staircases, not-quite-willing to part from new friends when you should have gone back to your room to study or sleep.)

Like Alain de Botton in The Art of Travel, Perec suggests ways to look at our surroundings in new ways - to really notice what is around us, rather than just assuming we have seen it before:

"Force yourself to write down what is of no interest, what is most obvious, most common, most colourless...antique shops, clothes, hi-fi, etc. Don't say, don't write 'etc'. Make an effort to exhaust the subject, even if that seems grotesque, or pointless, or stupid. You still haven't looked at anything, you've merely picked out what you've long ago picked out."

A section on tourism recalls Des Esseintes' discovery (in Huysmans' Against Nature): "Rather than visit London, stay at home, in the chimney corner, and read the irreplaceable information supplied by Baedeker" (a travel guide).

(An aside - isn't it funny how the more favourite books I read, the more they connect up? Or is it just that I remember books better if I write about them?)

Just as Perec can make a bedroom seem as vast as a planet, he can also make the world at large as relevant to us as our own bedrooms. Even though the keenest travellers will only ever see a fraction of the world's umpteen objects and corners, we each make our own world from what we do see. From cats in corners and beds to countries and continents, we create our own personal sense of "the world, no longer as a journey having constantly to be remade, not as a race without an end, a challenge having constantly to be met, not as the one pretext for a despairing acquisitiveness, nor as the illusion of a conquest, but as the rediscovery of a meaning, the perceiving that the earth is a form of writing, a geography of which we had forgotten that we ourselves are the authors."

(I had a little cry when I read that passage.)

Species of Spaces is undoubtedly the centrepiece of this collection. The rest of the pieces in the book (some of which grabbed my interest more than others) all show Perec's love of play - both wordplay and playful writing. My favourite pieces are (typically) the more flippant ones - like his list of 'Some of the Things I Really Must Do Before I Die', which reaches point #37 ("Make the acquaintance of Valdimir Nabokov") and then promptly concludes:

"etc., etc.
There are lots of others for sure.
I gladly stop at 37."

There is a brief musing on American and French verbs - Perec notes that while the French have no verb for zip fastening (while Americans have the verb "to zip up"), neither Frenchmen nor Americans have a verb that means "to drink a glass of white wine with a friend from Burgundy, at the Cafe des Deux-Magots, around six o'clock on a rainy day, while talking about the non-meaningfulness of the world, knowing that you have just met your old chemistry teacher and that next to you a young woman is saying to her neighbour: 'You know, I showed her some in every colour!' "

A piece examining small, everyday things ('l'infra-ordinaire' or the 'infra-ordinary'), challenges the reader to "question your teaspoons." Ours are quite questionable, having been mostly nicked from cafes by Luka, when we give him our coffee spoons to play with and he tucks them quietly behind his knees in the pram, only to be discovered once we get home again. Perhaps we will be able to measure out his childhood with coffee spoons.

There are even examples of the intricate wordplay puzzles Perec would send his friends at New Year, and 'indexes' that place "Freud, Sigmund" between "Fat men" and "Fruit jelly".

But my favourite moment is in Species of Spaces itself, where a particularly impenetrable sentence displays a footnote sign "1." at its conclusion. Oh good, I thought, he's going to explain it and I won't have to look up any of the words.

I look down to the 'explanatory' footnote, and it reads:

"1. This is the best phrase in the whole book!"

Georges Perec: Word-tease.

And what was this 'best phrase in the whole book'?

I suppose you'll have to read it for yourself.*





*I can be a word-tease too.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Free kids books


I have a copy of Anne of Green Gables, Mrs Frisby & The Rats of NIMH, The Velveteen Rabbit (new Donna Green illustrated version) and The Poky Little Puppy to give away.

They're secondhand, but in pretty good nick.

Would you like one?

Email me at greenknowe@hotmail.com and I'll send it out to you. But be quick! I've registered them on Bookcrossing (hence the post-it notes and bookmarks you can see in the photo). In a week, any unclaimed books will be released into the wild, where they will roam free and forage for readers of their own accord.

_______________________

* Anne of Green Gables has been snapped up already - 3 books left...
** Mrs Frisby has been claimed - 2 books to go...

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

From favourer #1: "I have memories of reading The Catcher in the Rye in the boarding school library at age 14. I laughed so much that other students glared at me. This book was a big surprise and I felt complicit in its naughtiness. I had met a new friend."

From favourer #2: "I loved The Catcher in the Rye and Holden Caulfield at 16, 21, 27 and 30 years of age. It is the only book I have read more than twice and each time I return to it, it reminds me that growing up is tough no matter what age you are."

J.D. Salinger's recent death brought this book to the forefront of my mind again, so it seemed a good time to read it. It's unusual in the list of favourites as it's one of only 3 books that got more than one vote from my friends and family (along with Siri Hustvedt's What I Loved and Dee Brown's Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee).

I've been trying to remember when I first read The Catcher in the Rye. Like most people, I know I first read this it in high school. I've been trying to narrow it down.

I texted my friend Nil, as I remembered us reading it at about the same time, but that happened with lots of books during our teenage years, and didn't necessarily mean we read it for a school class. But she thinks we read it in class with Mr Swanson, which puts it anywhere between 1994 (Year 8) and 1998 (Year 12).

I think I can narrow it down a bit more - I've worked out I must have read it before Friends started, because I distinctly remember not knowing how to pronounce "Phoebe". Given that Friends premiered on Aussie tv in 1996, I guess I was between the ages of 14 and 16 when I first read the book.

Now that I've got it down to a 2-year timeframe, I've forgotten why I thought it was important to work that out.

Oh well.

I remember that at the time I first read it, Holden Caulfield both fascinated and annoyed me, and that my friends and I adopted some of his slang in our conversations for quite a long time. Goddam phonies.

Salinger's 1951 novel (first published as a serial in 1945-6) is narrated in first person by Holden Caulfield, a 17-year-old who has just been kicked out of (yet another) high school. Holden is the classic disenchanted youth - he finds fault with everything in the world as it is handed down to him. Family, friends, movies - almost everything makes Holden feel depressed, lonesome, sad, or is labelled "phony" (his worst insult). Instead of waiting a few days to slink home to his parents when the holidays start, Holden gathers up a fairly substantial wad of cash and escapes to New York for a few days. He pesters old flames and old friends into seeing him, drinks a bit, encounters his first prostitute, obsesses about his family, and generally spazzes around for a bit. He wants to run away from what he sees as the superficiality of everyone around him, but he can't leave town without seeing his beloved younger sister Phoebe again.

The novel is told in flashback by Holden in the present day, but I had actually completely forgotten his implied situation at the very beginning and end of the book. On re-reading, it came as a bit of a surprise, but I still found it quite unimportant, which may explain why I forgot about it so quickly in the first place (sorry to be vague but don't want to SPOILER and all).

Holden has some vernacular. His derisive comments about everyone and everything are often hilarious, and despite the very dated 1940s slang, the rhythm of his speech sounds like my friends and I when we were teenagers, and still sounds like the teenagers on my train:

"Where I lived at Pencey, I lived in the Ossenburger Memorial Wing of the new dorms. It was only for juniors and seniors. I was a junior. My roommate was a senior. It was named after this guy Ossenburger that went to Pencey. He made a pot of dough in the undertaking business after he got out of Pencey. What he did, he started these undertaking parlors all over the country that you could get members of your family buried for about five bucks apiece. You should see old Ossenburger. He probably just shoves them in a sack and dumps them in the river. Anyway, he gave Pencey a pile of dough, and they named our wing alter him. The first football game of the year, he came up to school in this big goddam Cadillac, and we all had to stand up in the grandstand and give him a locomotive - that's a cheer. Then, the next morning, in chapel, he made a speech that lasted about ten hours. He started off with about fifty corny jokes, just to show us what a regular guy he was. Very big deal. Then he started telling us how he was never ashamed, when he was in some kind of trouble or something, to get right down his knees and pray to God. He told us we should always pray to God - talk to Him and all - wherever we were. He told us we ought to think of Jesus as our buddy and all. He said he talked to Jesus all the time. Even when he was driving his car. That killed me. I can just see the big phony bastard shifting into first gear and asking Jesus to send him a few more stiffs."

While The Catcher in the Rye has long been held up as a kind of rite-of-passage read for every sarcastic teenager, I wondered how (if?) Holden resonates with teenagers today. I was reading the book on the train with a few high-school students seated around me, and they started to talk about the book.

Girl #1: "Did you do Catcher in the Rye last term? Holden's pretty mad hey."
Girl #2: "He's interesting and stuff, but you wouldn't want to be his friend or anything."
Boy: "He really hates phonies."

So I suspect nothing much changed since I read him in high school - you either think he's badass or you want to tell him to shut up and take your Prozac.

I didn't really embrace Holden as my teenage anti-hero. Mainly, I couldn't stand the fact that he felt justified in passing judgement on everything and everyone, but it never occurred to him that he could be less than perfect himself. I also found it pretty hard to feel sorry for a cashed-up kid having a fancy-free weekend in the big smoke. But it didn't make him, or the book, any less fascinating at the time.

On re-reading it, Holden still annoys the crap out of me. His complaints are so relentless that sometimes I found it really depressing (to use a Holden word) to know that each time I picked up the book, I was going to have to spend time in his company again. It took me until page 161 (out of 192) to feel something for him other than annoyance, but when someone has pissed you off for so long, a moment of emotional clarity actually has more impact. And in true Holden style, it is understated:
"Then all of a sudden, I started to cry. I couldn't help it. I did it so nobody could hear me, but I did it. It scared hell out of old Phoebe when I started doing it, and she came over and tried to make me stop, but once you get started, you can't just stop on a goddam dime I was still sitting on the edge of the bed when I did it, and she put her old arm around my neck, and I put my arm around her, too, but I still couldn't stop for a long time. I thought I was going to choke to death or something. Boy, I scared hell out of poor old Phoebe. The damn window was open and everything, and I could feel her shivering and all, because all she had on was her pajamas. I tried to make her get back in bed, but she wouldn't go. Finally I stopped. But it certainly took me a long, long time."

The Catcher in the Rye interests me in different ways now that I read the book as an adult. I'm interested in how Holden admires children for the qualities he finds in them that he doesn't find in adults. His ideal job (although typically, he mis-remembers the song) is to be the 'catcher in the rye': to 'catch' children before they fall off cliff of childhood into the abyss of adulthood.


I'm interested in the way Salinger has Holden completely oblivious to parts of his character, but allows him quite an insight into other parts: "...what scares me most in a fist fight is the guy's face. I can't stand looking at the other guy's face, is my trouble. It wouldn't be so bad if you could both be blindfolded or something. It's a funny kind of yellowness, when you come to think of it, but it's yellowness, all right. I'm not kidding myself."

I'm not entirely sure if I like The Catcher in the Rye. But I can't deny that for the second time in my life, it compelled me to finish it in only a couple of sittings, and that I'm still thinking about it, and still looking up articles about it.

And I especially can't deny that I've had the "Comin' Thro the Rye" on the brain for at least a week:

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Reading to himself


Luka's worked out how to climb. This puts my bookshelves in mortal danger. Along with most of our possessions.

He's also worked out what you do with books after you've climbed up and got them off the bookshelf.

You turn the pages, you say something, you point a bit, you say some more stuff. Sometimes you make a "wheeee!" noise.

Nothing to it.



video

Saturday, March 6, 2010

10 YA books you must read?


Viewpoint Magazine has put out a call for the 10 adolescent fiction books you think are "must reads":

"Ernie Tucker has been writing reviews of adolescent fiction in English in Australia for many years. In his final review he selected ten adolescent fiction books every teacher should read. These are his ten titles:

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbit (1975)
The Nargun and the Stars by Patricia Wrightson (1973)
Of a Boy by Sonya Hartnett (2002)
Josh by Ivan Southall (1971)
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor (1977)
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing by MT Anderson (2007)
A Swift Pure Cry by Siobhan Dowd (2007)
Falling by Anne Provoost (1997)
The Giver by Lois Lowry (1993)
Loose Lips by Chris Wheat (1998)

He apologises for having left out sixteen other authors and is happy to argue for his choices.

What would be your ten must reads?

What would be your students' ten must reads?

Let us know at education-viewpoint@unimelb.edu.au and we will compile a select list that could be used in a library and classroom or as a source for discussion. Start thinking!"

I've been thinking about my list. It is inevitably personal, all over the place, and involves forgetting Very Important Books. But I think Tucker's list is probably the same. (Would you class 'Of a Boy' as YA? And I don't think he's separated children's fiction from adolescent fiction. So I'm not going to either, because it's too hard.)

So anyway, here are my 10 (not in any order):

The Giver by Lois Lowry (1993)
The Children of Green Knowe by Lucy Boston (1954)
Earthfasts by William Mayne (1966)
Black Juice by Margo Lanagan (2004)
Holes by Louis Sachar (1998)
The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier (1974)
Came Back to Show You I Could Fly by Robin Klein (1991)
A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L'Engle (1962)
A Cage of Butterflies by Brian Caswell (1992)
Climb a Lonely Hill by Lilith Norman (1972)

I've tried not to make it too 90s-centric (but I WAS a teenager in the 90s, so Brian Caswell, Robin Klein, Gillian Rubinstein and Gary Crew keep wanting to take over the entire list). The more I look at my list, the more I want to fiddle with it, take some books out (then put them back in again), try to work out what to do with trilogies/series, wonder if I'm listing books emotionally rather than intellectually, notice there are hardly any recent titles in there, and give up on the whole thing.

But I'm going to email it to Viewpoint anyway. Email them your own list (oh but also post it here so I can see).

Perhaps if enough of us do it, we'll cover every important adolescent fiction book ever written.

Right?

Saturday, February 27, 2010

What's in my handbag? My world.

I've always wanted to be invited to do one of those "What's in your handbag?" articles for a magazine. Now YA author Simmone Howell has given us all the chance. (You can also see the handbags of other lovely authors Penni Russon and Lili Wilkinson).

I was planning to carefully tailor my handbag to create the impression that I'm an artsy quirky hip young thang but LET'S FACE IT I'M A MUM WHO IS VERY ORGANISED so no one would buy it.

So I just dumped it out on the bed, shuffled the pieces a bit, and took the photos. My bag contents are from a day I'm at work, and doesn't contain a book because the book I'm reading is a proof and it's HUGE and doesn't fit in my handbag.

The bag itself is from Catherine Manuell (where I buy all my handbags as they're relatively cheap, always have lots of pockets, and she uses pretty materials):



And the contents:

My handbag is mostly REALLY BORING. Sunscreen, bandaids, pawpaw ointment, sunnies, keys (plus mini-sharpie for impromptu toilet wall graffiti), wallet, little container for cards that don't fit in the wallet, lippie/gloss, Moleskine diary, hand sanitiser, phone, various crumpled receipts.

Yawn.

But I like that the most interesting parts of my handbag are the parts couldn't belong to anyone but a woman, and most of them couldn't belong to anyone but a mother.

There's a dummy. It's not actually required when I'm at work (though sometimes I look longingly at it), but it's always in my handbag for tired baby emergencies.

There's a washable menstrual pad from Moonpads. I love these - I react to commercial disposable pads (to a requiring-cortisone-cream point), and these have been a godsend to both my wallet and my nether regions. They're machine washable and come in pretty and cute designs.

There's a breast pump. It was a work day, so I'd expressed twice during the day - partly for Luka (he loves his mum feed from a bottle while I'm at work) and partly so my bosoms don't EXPLODE during the day.

That's my bag, baby. And my baby bag.

What's in YOUR bag?



Actually, come to think of it, there's usually a pen in there.

Who took my pen?

Friday, January 22, 2010

An instance of comfort


I haven't blogged for a couple of months.

There's reasons and reasons.

The first reason is that I went back to work (3 days a week) on December 1st, which has been wonderful, scary, and full of organising. I express milk twice a day for Luka while I'm at work (in the archive room, gazing around at the history of Melbourne Uni's Student Union), and most of my thoughts have been centred around if I'll get a let-down and whether I'm leaving enough milk for Paul to feed him while I'm away. I've been 'topping up' his bottles by expressing between feeds on my days off and on weekends, but recently he's been scaling back his intake so I feel more confident that whatever amount I can "get out" at work will be enough for him. He's also been eating more (at last!) so that helps too.

I think I'm in the swing of it finally: I get home from work, sweep the boy up into my arms as he makes excited noises and bites my face (flattering, but kind of painful) while Paul puts the day's milk into the fridge. I cuddle the boy or play with him until he goes to bed, then if I'm working the next day I wash the pump and pack the next day's containers, my lunch, and the cool-bag. In the morning I feed the boy when he wakes (or occasionally I gently wake him first), pick up my bag, and go.

This doesn't include the time between putting him to bed and the morning feed. As those who know me can testify, Luka wakes up a lot at night. He always has, and now he has just turned 1, he shows no sign of changing the pattern.

But the mention of a 1st birthday is of course an excuse for gratuitous birthday-photo insertions:



Right. Back to the night times. Often I've got no idea how many times a night I go to him, but for the past few nights I've kept a piece of paper beside my bed, and each time I get up in the dark I grab the pen and make a wobbly slash at the paper. Luka goes to bed about 7pm. I usually go to him once or twice after that before I go to bed myself at 11pm. Between my bedtime and 7am the next morning the bit of paper says I get up between 2 and 5 times. I breastfeed him each of these times.

So, I'm a bit tired.

Now, here comes the contradictory bit. I reserve the right to whinge about Luka's sleeping, as I haven't had a night's sleep for over a year, and I wouldn't complain if he suddenly decided to sleep for...well, even 4 hours in a row.

But. Before you send me to sleep school, or recommend a controlled crying program (although I think it has the euphemism "controlled comforting" these days), I should say that while I can stand to listen to him cry, I'm just not willing to.

I've done it once. It was probably our worst night's sleep since he'd been born. He went to bed as usual at 7pm, fed at 8pm, 9pm and then after another hour just started screaming. Paul and I took it in turns for 5 hours between 10pm and 3am, and he still wouldn't stop screaming. I'd fed him, fed him again, walked him around, tried Panadol in case it was teething, given him some water, sung to him - and ran out of ideas. So at 3am we went to bed, shut the doors, turned on the fan, and waited. After 20 minutes of screaming (not crying or yelling, but screaming), he fell asleep.

He woke again for a feed at 4am, went quietly back to his cot, and I didn't hear from him again til his usual 6am feed. So. I don't know what all that was about, and he can't tell me. It was the first time that sort of thing had happened, and at the time I just didn't know what else to do. So I ran away.

That night made me think a lot about why Luka wakes a night, why usually a feed settles him, and why that time I couldn't solve his problems.

I've read some books that reassure me that I'm not 'weak' if I can't bear to listen to my baby cry at night. That's true, but the fact is I can bear it - I was really, really tired, and when I left him to roar for 20 minutes that night it didn't bother me AT ALL.

So I thought a lot more about teaching-to-sleep, or sleep training, or whatever you want to call it. It's worked for a couple of friends of mine. More than a couple, actually. And I'm glad it's worked for them.

But I Just. Can't. Do. It.

I CAN switch off from his cries, that's not a problem. I'm just not willing to ignore him. He's calling for me because he wants me - and while a feed settles him, I'm pretty damn sure that at over 1 year he's not hungry. But he wants me to be with him. He wants comfort. And I think that's a valid request.

Am I a softy? Probably. Definitely. Perhaps I just haven't reached the level of sleep-deprivation that would drive me to start a teaching-to-sleep program. But you'd think after having no more than 4hrs sleep in a row since 17th January 2009, I'd have peaked by now? Who knows.

And how does this relate to books, you ask?

Well, if I haven't mentioned it before, I'm really tired. And still reserving the right to whinge.

I've tried to keep reading the books on the favourites list. I started to read The Bourne Identity, and I stalled. So I started to read Captain Corelli's Mandolin, and I stalled.

All I want to do is read for comfort, and so I've mostly been reading Paul Auster. I'm aware I may be the only person in the world who reads Paul Auster for comfort, but from the first page of his books, I'm in a familiar place. It's a place where I can connect his allusions, his character names, and his images back and forth to his other works. It's a place where I know I won't be satisfied by the ending, but I also know that a 'satisfying' ending in one of his books would be a let-down. His books rough up against each other, they reference each other without creating anything you could call 'connection', and you're left with the feeling that if you just read them again, you might understand. But that's just part of the fun - because you wouldn't.

How strange that this discomforting kind of reading should provide my comfort.

But that's my story, my excuse.

Perhaps reading Auster provides a good correlation for my experience of motherhood: I don't know what I'm doing, but who does?


*This post brought to you between two feeds.