Monday, December 15, 2008


I have no emotional energy for him right now. He needs something from me. He needs me to keep him moving forward by slow increments. He needs me to put him in the world and he is resisting me at every turn. He wants me to find a time when it will just be him and me in a house at the beach where I can find his voice and I will do this sometime, but I have no time for it now. I get nothing back. I need input. I need to be filled up with all of the emotions that have washed pale in me. I cling to the last little scrap of passion but even this may be taken. I can't read. I long for images. I flick through big thick books with glossy prints but I want the smell of oil paint. I want the taste of linseed oil on my fingers. After this thing called christmas I will clear a small corner of my head for this book, but until then I will paint.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

with his one hand

with his one hand Evan can turn the wheel, adjust it just a little at a time, negotiating the highways almost imperceptable curve to the right. His body remembers this. Open road, the easy lean back in the drivers seat. The sound of the radio turned down too low to hear anything but a rattle of distant voices. Pared back. That is what he likes about driving, this cut down to nothing but a road and a view that changes just to keep things interesting, and the clamour of this thoughts relaxing into the room that the open road has made for them.

There is a pedal fitted to the accelerator that makes it just a small stretch for the break. He tests it now, bunny-hopping a little and the thing works fine. He is safe. Or not. It makes no difference. He might have died and that was fine. He is alive and that is fine too. He turns the radio up, letting the wheel slip free, feeling the car drag slightly towards the shoulder as he does so. There is a roar of laughter and a chatter of voices, too muddled together for him to untangle one from another. It barely matters. They are happy, they are laughing, everything is fine.

Friday, December 12, 2008

always time for art

so if I have no head space for words I will always have time for art. These pictures leaped out of the internet and shouted to become useful to my brain book. Here's what they wordlessly say to me...

when will I get time for this blog?

2009 is looking better...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Christopher suggested a course in poetry and suddenly it made sense to me. It didn't make sense because I wanted to write poetry. It made sense because of all the novellists I love how have honed their skills using poetry. I suggested that we three, the band of K/Chris's pool our resources and get someone to give us a short course. Or we could join on-line and meet together for beer and to discuss it.

I don't read poetry, but when CC suggested the idea he said "I want to know when to press the return button," and suddenly it made sense. I want to learn to pare my sentenses back to bare bones. I want to know how to contain all the emotive potential in a scatter of words. Imagine if my brain book could be simple but poetic.

Maybe I will just read poetry as a side project. Maybe we will still meet for beers, Chris Chris and Kris and discuss the construction of the things. I must suggest it.

In the meantime, Christmas in Retail Land is seriously cramping my writing style.

Monday, December 8, 2008


a little exercise in structure.

I am going to cook my boy a lovely dinner tonight, and as he is the queen of structure, I am going to use the tool at hand and get him to talk it all through with me. I will take notes. I will get scenes mapped out and at the end of it all I will be a little closer, because I have no focus at the moment and it all blurs into the same thing and I am writing myself into a tight little circle.

All this tonight in exhange for a meal.

a little each day

Just a little each day. This was the plan and so here I am thinking about the brain for a stolen moment. I am thinking about a scene where he endures some theatre/art/workshop day with a facilitator in her early twenties talking to everyone as if they are so excited to be involved in a group process with other brain damaged participants. I see him watching the speechless people straining past their paralyzed cheeks, drooling onto their best shirts, dragging their dead legs through a getting to know you game. I see him starting with the best intentions and then moving from disabled shakespere to his driving lesson. I see him driving and driving and seeing a sign leading him out of Brisbane. He ignores his instructors suggestion to turn back. He drives on. He wants to drive forever. He is not coming back. He decides that he will go.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Road Trip

Perhaps I should just get into the road trip, the moving forward. My habit is always to have my characters in stasis. They sit in a room or they walk alone in dark places, wandering about their daily grind. I have trouble puting them in motion. This is what I need for my character in this instance. I should get him onto the road as soon as possible. Driving on. In action we will find he comes out of himself I will learn more about him.

As soon as I get some head space I will take him out onto the road. My road trip. There he will find himself.

Friday, December 5, 2008


So this blog about my brain book has been sidetracked by my other work that is so imminent and urgent. I sold my first story to the US market and it went up on yesterday. I also got a contract from Text Publishing today. I have entered a new playing field. Along with this comes some stumbling blocks. My first review on was a harsh and completely unkind one. Reviews. I forgot about reviews. It makes me wonder about my book and its publication and the reader feedback. I have had to endure two very nasty reader comments on my furiousvagina blog. One of them I have saved and I come back to it ocasionally. I wonder why this man (it is always a man) has decided to have his own voice heard without having anything particularly interesting to say. It is the same on nerve. I am hoping that some of my regular readers will log on to nerve and balance up this very abrupt comment with something a bit more interesting.

I don't mind criticism. This is the point I would like to make clear. If you do not like my work, and you have a reason not to like it, then that is completely valid and I will be happy to hear and learn from your comments. It is the thoughtless chatter that I object to.

I should of course not bother reading the reader feedback. Like reviews in a magazine they can wear away at your soul.

When I am writing this new book, this embryonic thing, it is dangerous to expose it's barely formed underbelly to the possibility of mean and pointless feedback. I should hide it away as most writers do untill I am ready to unleash it. But this is not the point of the thing. The point is to watch a writer find her way through a book from beginning to end. The point is to interract with my audience and learn from them. I remember when I used to make television documentaries. I could always tell what was wrong with the thing when I brought it to an audience to view. Almost before I had pressed play I would thing - I need to cut that scene, or it is too long in the set up, or The charater is not likeable enough.

I want your reader comments. I want to know what you think of me. But I don't want someone to write - take this pointless crap off the internet, beause it is not pointless. Even the bad writing is not pointless. There is always a reason for everything I write and I hope that you, my audience will see and understand this.

I also kind of hope that you will log in to and go to personal essays and leave something more intelligent than what is there at the moment...

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


So I'm trying to kid myself that I have enough energy for this now. When I have spent a day feeling insecure and judged and never good enough, when I asked, have I become more arrogant? when I should have asked, have I become more paranoid? When I looked without touching, yet again. When I was snapped at just because I am not liked. When I have found a thread on the memoir that I need to follow. When I have a publisher and a deadline for that and I feel like I may have a stroke of my own just like a method actor, method writing as it were. When I can't finish a sentence let alone a thought. When I meet an author who is calm and so lovely and so personable and I think, I will never be like that. When I check the mailbox three times to see if the contract has arrived. When I think, what if I have made a mistake, what if it has all been some terrible joke? What if they have changed their minds and I am back to where I was. When I still have no kitchen to cook in even though it looks like I do. When my neck grits as if there is sand in it, and my back is the back of a woman my own age or older when I forget sometimes and imagine I am as young and full of potential as my friends. When I don't know why anyone has time for me at the moment when I am so scattered and so incapable of even writing a blog post for the brain book.

So there won't be a blog post today. So you will have to wait till I have more head space. So I hope that I will come back to it soon, but this is the Christmas rush and I am about to be stabbed to death by one fellow staff member or another unless I get it together or wear armour under my new frock.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


I had this idea about interstitial bits added into the brain book. This was all about the landscape of the mind. Originally I wanted to write an epic novel that was set in the landscape of the brain. The first third of the book would be when our character was still in a coma. The brain stem would begin the book. He would be reduced to basic functions, eat, defecate, sexual urges. We would see his life unfolding through these most basic of brain-stem activities. My book in my head was large and discriptive and rose up out of the brain stem to higher brain functions. The book followed the different areas of the brain and each section would be related to each area of the book. This was my dream. It still sounds like a great plan at this stage, but I wonder if I would want to read such an epic book. I like stories that are simple with few characters and an emotional core that is solid. I like simple things that are a clear and easy journey with challenging characters that I grow fond of by slow increments. This is the kindof story I like to read, therefore this strange and imaginary world of the brain my remain in my head.

It won't hurt to write some of it anyway occassionally, just for fun. But I may not do anything with it and it seems that this book will be a simple and strong narrative about a man taking a journey away from all he knows that will bring him closer to knowing about the ones he has left behind.


Must keep writing this incredibly humbling difficult new book. Must not relax into arrogant wankerdom. Must keep working on this hard and levelling difficult thing. Must stay honest...

Saturday, November 29, 2008


He opens his eyes and there is a pretty girl. there is a crazy slant to the world, but the girl emerges from the soft edges and she is pretty. This is the first thing that Evan registers, pretty girl in the smudge that is the world. He lifts himself higher on the pillow, only he doesn't really. There is a small movement, a rustle on the sheets that is a contraction of his muscles as he attempts a larger maneuver. He barely moves, and the pretty girl steps into the blur that vaseline smudges the edge of his vision and he is almost gone. He blinks and peers at the sift edges of her.

"Well, hello there."

His mouth is soft as unbaked bread dough. He can not be sure he has made words with it. He grins at her, an I've just woken from sleep bedroom smile, the kind he reserves for pretty girls who have woken up beside him.

"I feel a little strange this morning my love"

The girl steps closer. She peers into his face, she leans. Her breasts pull at her uniform. Nurses uniform.

"Are we playing doctors and nurses now?" he says.

A thin smile.

"Don't try to talk" she tells him. "Don't speak."

"There are no words between us." Evan laughs

Her brow furrows. "Your words may come back." She says, "Eventually."

"What do you mean? My words may come back?"

"You've had a stroke, Evan. That's why it is hard to speak."

But it isn't hard. He tells her this but it is as if she cannot hear him. A stroke? He is too young to have had a stroke, strokes are for old men who shuffle down the street with their faces all hanging loose and drool dripping onto their shirts.

He puts his hand to his face only his hand does not move, not even a fraction. He touches but he does not touch.

"I've had a stroke." he tells the pretty nurse in surprise.

"Don't try to talk," she tells him as if she can not understand, "There's plenty of time for that."

Good writer

Is being a bookseller making me a bad writer?

I have begun to read How Fiction works by James Wood. And so far I must say that it makes me long to have had a better grounding in the great writers of our time. I have never read Flaubert. My Marquez is patchy and mostly recent, I have not done gatsby - yes I will do Gatsby, I promise. I did all of Orwell but not I only remember the novels. I have a vague memory of the two books by Camus. No Tolstoy, nothing, not even a glimmer of Tolstoy. I am a disgrace. I know I will love Tolstoy, and Gatsby and Flaubert, although I am probably leaving the magic realism of Marquez for my less cynacle years. I am certainly comfortable with Melancholy Whores and the old man lusting after the 14 year old virgin. But Grass, Gunter Grass, I never even finished Tin Drum, and there is that copy of Faulkner beside my bed that I was loving and got distracted, now why aren't I picking that up right now?

Because I am a bookseller, surrounded by new and shiny things that I must play with, which is why I am hefting around the new Joyce Carol Oates, which if fine, good, but it is not Faulkner. Faulkner will feed my book. Faulkner will give me a love of stories well told. So now I reach over and pick up faulkner, because Joyce C O is good but even JCO probably loves and would like to grow up to be faulkner one day.

Friday, November 28, 2008


What is it about you that makes you unique? We have to see you wake into the world. This will be all of a paragraph. We need to see you take in these new facts of your life one by one as first, you attempt in vein to flirt with the nurse, the pretty nurse, the one that you would turn to first in any circumstance, your irritation that it is the unnatractive nurse that has the most time for you. The thing that irritates you most is that you have no control over something, perhaps it is just that the painting is skewed or that the un-lovely nurse has mispronounced a word and that he can't correct her mistake and that she does it several times until he is livid with his inability to put it right, this one thing. This scene this little unveiling will introduce him to you so that you know he is pedantic, confidant in his ability to charm, used to holding court, used to being someone who is being listened to, uncomfortable with listening. All this in a page, a short introduction to a man. This is what I have been needing for the beginning of this thing.

I need him to be fatally flawed in these ways and I need his first interractions with the world to show us this. I am supposed to read Gatsby. I have been told this by my friend - a friend I trust, and also by James Wood in his book How Fiction Works. I will read this book. I need input at this moment. I have run out of things to keep me centred. I need input now. This book will be a beginning for me. I will read it and respond to it and eventually I will work my way towards a beginning.

It is furiously busy at the day job and I am unable to find even my morning routine time. This morning I slept in and was late to work. I am grabbing a moment after work to find some space for this book I am trying to develop.

I must not fall into predictability because it is easy to do so. I must not be so tired that I write on automatic pilot. I must find this man in small moments that are surprising to me but that make so much sense of him.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


It has happened. Finally after so many years I will be getting a book published. Not just published, but published by my favourite publisher of all, Text. I was trying not to tell everyone but then my friend Benjamin Law couldn't contain himself and then it went out on his facebook page and Ben knows everyone, so everyone knows. Pre-publication publicity you could say. Also, everyone knows that something is wrong. I just grin all the time. I have never been happier. I keep imagining that I will wake up and it will be taken away from me somehow, but it has been three days and it is still true.

I must regroup - as they say. I am scatty and too excited to focus. I am not sure how to progress. Suddenly I want to race back to previous manuscripts, clean them up so that I can present my new and wonderous publisher (how good does that sound?!) with something else soon. I have four more manuscripts that have been shortlisted for something. My friend Mr Somerville is going to help me weed one of them that is overgrown and in a bit of a state but I am certain there is some beautiful gem underneath it all.

But what about this new book, my brain book. I thought about abandoning it while I made way for the new baby in the cradle, my memoir out in the world. But I want to plod on with it, just a little at a time. I can't stop making new things now. I have written 6 manuscripts in the last 12 years and I need to move on as well as look back. I can do it. I can continue to create this new book and fix up the old ones. I am sure of it.

I will do this.

My recommitment begins tomorrow.


He is not going to die. He eases himself up in the hospital bed with his good arm. The pillow is askew, but he heaves himself up onto it anyway. Tomorrow they will move him into a ward for the brain-injured. So many other instructions and information has flowed through his brain as if it were a colander, but this little gem has stuck. He has struck gold. He will be moved out of the private room with its television and its curtain and its hydrolic chair and a constant parade of visitors. He will not die, and now he must go about the arduous task of living.

Brain-injury unit. He thinks of creatures from a horror movie, locked wards with drooling, spitting, moaning half-humans clamouring for release. He wipes a string of spittal from his own chin and he is different. he is not like that, like them. He is the same inside. He is the person he was the day before the fall only peices of him have melted away and he must struggle to navigate his way through the maze of thoughts that go nowhere, losing energy down some corridor or another, turning back, trying to forge a new path towards that word or that memory or that idea.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


I will take a day off from this. A day off to bask. A day off to enjoy all the pleasure of a sudden success after twenty years of slogging away at it. A day off to know that finally it might get just a little easier. I know that it will be hard. I have been around so long that I know about the moments of insecurity and frustration and exhaustion that will follow. I remember David Foster Wallace and I know that it is not over yet, but surely even Daid Foster Wallace had this one day of pure and unadulterated pleasure that he basked in, as I am basking.

how it works

I get up at five oclock (I now use letters instead of numbers for things under 100. Listen to your friends when they correct your spelling and grammar useage). I make a cup of tea or take the tea that has just been made by my husband. He is much more dedicated than I am. He rises slightly before the alarm or just on it. He intersperses his writing with a series of exercises, pushups, situps. I sit on the couch with my computer these days. I used to hand write everything first before the blogging started. I am beginning to wonder if this is why I am having trouble getting into this story. Perhaps the computer is not a good medium for me. Maybe I should go back to my little black moleskine, double handling, but still it is how I have always worked. I like to work with music, but he likes silence and so I tolerate the quiet, mainly because I can't be bothered finding headphones. I reach for books. I read little grabs of them, skipping through pages, trying to inspire myself through other people's words. I read things that might have some impact on the work, Delillo, Boyle, Manguso. For other novels I have chosen Proulx and McCarthy and Ondaatje, my favourites with their strong accents that are easily ingested.

The light changes in slow increments. Now, in summer it is already bright when I move to the couch, but it slowly spills into the room, it must be the angle of the sun.

I flick between open tabs on the computer, checking the other blog, my calendar, my email programme. I read furioushorses if I haven't got to it the evening before. I am scattered. I haven't hit my stride and I keep one eye on the clock because I will need to shower and leave for work soon enough. Sometimes, at last, I even write something. Sometimes if I am lucky it will be something I can use in the novel. This is how it works.

Monday, November 24, 2008

procrastinating via writing (other things)

He stopped loving her because of the DVD. Later, long after he had packed his things and loaded them into the back of a friend's car, when he had drifted from couch to couch and landed unceremoniously in a small, modern flat at the edge of the suburban sprawl, when he had bought himself a fish and let it die three times before finally shrugging into the knowledge that it would be a tank for three golden snails that were far more entertaining anyway - eventually, then, he admitted that the DVD was ultimately to blame.

They rarely went to the video store anyway. He preferred to research programmes on the internet. She waited patiently as he spent days downloading entire HBO series. He knew that she was much more interested in immediacy. She was impatient. She bought things on a whim, dresses, art, plants that she let die slowly in the courtyard. She paced at night as if her body was rebelling against even the thought of sleep.

It was a terrible movie, this particular DVD. It was a new release and they would have to watch it overnight and then return it and he knew that he would have to be the one returning it because she would be working late. He felt an immediate rush of irritation.

"What's this?"

"A movie."

"A bad movie."

"No it isn't. I like it."

She had seen it before. The idea of this settled like grit in his lungs. He coughed. It was a bad movie. A terrible movie, and she had seen it and liked it and not even mentioned it to him and now she had borrowed it from a video store and probably expected him to watch it again with her and take it back before six the next evening.

"I got sausages for dinner." he told her. She was busy writing emails to someone or other. She nodded but she hadn't heard him. He could tell.

"Sausages and mash okay?"

Another nod. He wandered into the kitchen and took the sausages out of the fridge and they had not quite thawed but it wouldn't be long now. He chopped garlic and onions and felt his eyes sting and grow moist. He wiped at them with the back of his hand and there were tears, which was appropriate really, because he had begun to fall out of love and there should always be some emotional signal to mark this kind of thing. He wiped his eyes and pushed the chopped onions aside and his eyes remained dry as he pricked the sausages and waited for them to sizzle and brown in the pan.

They ate sausages and watched the DVD and it was awful. Truly. There was nothing to recommend it, and by the end of the movie he had fallen completely and utterly out of love with her.

"It's great isn't it."

He turned to her and noticed that her eyes were slightly red as if she had been rubbing them free of her own tears. It was the kind of movie that was designed to make the audience cry. It was a careful construction of plot and music and extreme closeups. It was about the loss of love, but ultimately, it was about redemption.

"I think it is my favourite movie." She said then.

And he nodded. He continued to nod slowly, sorting though it in his head, glancing about the room and spotting the things that he owned independently of her, tagging them for removal, the books, the CDs, the sandwich press, the one living plant amongst so many spindly corpses, the globe of the world she had given him but that he had never wanted and didn't particularly like. It was meant to light up but the bulb had broken and he had never bothered to replace it.

"Did you like it?"

And he nodded. He was exhausted, and it seemed pointless somehow to explain any of it, at this late stage, when he had just fallen out of love.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

laptop on your pillow

Nothing much changes. She logs in to her computer every morning and at night and there are messages but none of them are from him. She has an email recommending books she might like, she is warned about her download capacity from her internet provider, a man in Uganda has left her a rather hefty legacy that she could claim by providing her bank account details. And nothing much has changed really. She feels a little flat perhaps, but she cooks her meal and eats it listening to music turned up too loud. She runs a bath and soaks in expensive bubbles. Se climbs between chill sheets with a book and her laptop open on the pillow beside her. Sometime after midnight she closes the thing and watches the little pulsing light on the front of its snapped-shut mouth, a silent heartbeat. When she touches it it is warm.

Maybe she should get a pet, a cat. A dog would need too much maintenance, but a cat would be more self-sufficient. If he were there on the internet she would ask him his opinion.

Her: Should I get a cat.
Him: I dont' know, should you?
Her: It would be a long term problem to fill a short-term need. Like having a child because I want to buy a particular toy and have no one to give it to.

Perhaps she doesn't need anyone to run things buy. She is capable of providing his opinion for him.


It is about communication. When I was younger I would dream that my mouth was sewn up. I would paint this, and if not sewn, then a silent gaping scream. A throat parched and filled with sand. A dried fish shriek. Teeth crumbling to sand. No fish flash, no underwater echo, no dolphin trill or whale ache. This lack of speech is something more hot and sharp entirely.

I think about my grandmother and her angry silences, all her words fisted into her gnarled fingers. All of the things we don't speak about as a family, a little chain of boxed people and straight lines leading right back to her, our matriarch. I think about the way we have been quarantined from a family past and a family future and the only present is metered out in safe adventures of the kind the famous five might share, fanciful, polite, childish rescues from imaginary foes.

Without communication there is a removal from participation. Without communication we are laid bare. We are a dry open mouth. We are dead fish mummified. We are without a future or a past and the present is made up of the lies we tell ourselves.

I can not communicate.

We speak but it is all just flesh stretched over an empty armature. Chatter. A stray glance caught and returned says more, I think than the hours of blah blah blah.

Maybe that glance is enough for me and for my character. Maybe just knowing about the care that is shared will help me to understand him.

One moment: A held hand in a taxi. A good moment.

One other moment. We sit comfortably in silence and I know that it is fine to not speak. I glance at him. He glances back and there it is. We have shared this before on many occasions and we will share this again. We are here for each other. I can call him on the phone. There is no need to talk unless we have something to say. I know that I am loved and that is enough.

Another moment. A lying beside and a sly smile or a shrug of skin and we are grinning. The two of us. This is communicating. This is a sharing and I cling to these rare and perfect moments.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Thursday, November 20, 2008

procrastinating upstairs

I am sitting in the office upstairs where I have often worked before. This is a space I used to sleep in, or barely sleep. I would sit at the desk till I couldn't work any more. I would lie down on the futon and then it would be morning, but still dark and my computer would still be a bright space beside me empty of everything except possibilities. I wrote "His Father's Son" in this office. It was a book that exploded from me almost like a boil that has stretched too tightly and begun to weep. It hurt me just as much. I could say I became infected by it. I succumbed to the madness of that book and there was damage done to me and to others, but it was over quickly. 8 months in the writing, another two years of lingering, worrying, letting the idea go.

There is a box on the top shelf that says "Vivre Archive" from my book "A Little Death". There is a shelf in the next room filled with moleskine notebooks and I guess that most of them are filled up with "His Father's Son", the handwritten texts because there amongst them is a little red book in which it all began.

Right now Christopher is working alongside me and I feel the wonderful collegiality of his presence. He is a writer I admire very much, and only this morning I was thinking about his quiet and plodding commitment to his work, nothing like my erratic spark, errant firecracker, spluttering, blustering, scattering pretty light and then shooting off in some seemingly random direction.

Mozart is playing (his choice). Sitting beside him, writing like this somehow feels like the eye of the storm or maybe like traveling in his wake, like a dolphin in the wake of a whale.

I am not in the same focused space. I have been, but I am not today. Today I am tired and scattered but happy all the same. We are writing together, even if I am only playing with the past, chatting with a friend, glancing occasionally at overseas markets. I will have to get down to it sooner or later.

Here in this cyber-place I am treating you all to a lesson in procrastination.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Notes for the story

* This might have a dual protagonist set up

*For her it is all theory and ideas. For him it is all the practicalities. For her it seems an opportunity to find new ways to communicate. For him it is about finding ways to express his anger.

*Are these two separate stories that I am trying to mash into one.

*What happened to the road trip idea: Do I need to explore this first. I don't know which direction I am going in.

*Do not make any decisions about the book when you haven't had a good night's sleep

back to the story

I wrote a short story to kick start the brain book. It was a template of sorts. These explorations have strayed away from my initial source. This is a good thing I believe. But it may be time to go back to the story and dig a little into what I was trying to achieve. My writing on this project is traveling at a snail's pace. It is true I am distracted. I am stuck in that weird limbo where my other project is still out in the world. I am waiting for some word about it, rather anxiously. I am also sending a story out to overseas markets. The brain book is a little ticking clock which is edging forward, one tiny sliver at a time. Christmas is coming. The busiest time of year at work. I remind myself that January will be a time for writing. I am using my time to think about the book, but I know I am squandering it. I need to put a whole day into it once a week. I need to start living at the state library or upstairs in the office where I can hang pictures and make index cards for the wall.

Next week can be a new beginning.I am starting the regime in so many ways. Riding my bicycle to work, making friday my writing/reading day, no sugar. I am changing my drink of choice back to vodka. Wine just makes me see the pointlessness of it all. Vodka makes me play. I am also committing myself to more reading. Forcing myself to finish an only average book helped me to find out more about my own abandoned work. I will push myself to reading time. My evenings are perfectly set up for this. Anthony can watch television. I can put the headphones on and read.

This does sound like a whole bunch of new year's resolutions that will never be met, but I have this blog to keep me honest and I have a book to write and I will never get it written unless I jump on my own back and ride myself mercilessly.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

No words today

No words today. I am spending my time hosting event after event. Other people's books launched out into the world. Some of them so good. Some of them terrible. Some of them so foreign to me that they might as well be written in another language. I dream of my own book. I find it in everything I read or see or do. I find that my story here is sometimes popping up in the parallel world of furious vaginas. I find the post I wrote yesterday might just as well be fiction, copied and pasted into the book as it emerges. I struggle with relationships in the real world purely because I want to replicate them in fiction. I complicate a simple friendship to find out how it will play out on the page. I have not put pen to paper in days but I am working on it. I make notes in the margin of a book while I am on the bus, I plan a documentary project and think to myself - it will be good research for the book.

So no words today but my hands are plunged into the world and I am pulling up great fists of potential, panning the mud of life for a few fragments that might end up on the page.

This is the way of it, this writer's life.

Monday, November 17, 2008


No. No. No. Not Skype. Facebook. He touches his face. He paws at it with his one hand. His face is bruised from the fall but he pokes at the blue and blackened skin with a harsh finger.

"What? I don't know. I don't know."

He pushes the laptop away an she catches it in a slide from the bed. The nice nurse. The helpful nurse. The pretty nurse who says "fuck you then," snaps the laptop shut and then walks away with it. He holds his face in his hand. His shoulders tremble. There is an awkward heaving of his shoulders. Evan is suddenly aware of the other beds. The pause as other patients turn in his direction and watch him cry.

"Fuck you then." he tells them, but his voice is a jumble of syllables buried under his heaving breath and the small ugly sobs that he has little control over.

'I checked the obituaries from the day you went quiet'

Her unread message winking somewhere on the internet. He can feel it there but he has no access to it, no way to contact her at all.

'It's morbid, I know, but I checked to see if there was a death notice there. And I thought about if you had died, that I would never know perhaps. After months of speaking every day I wouldn't know. I don't even have your phone number. You are my imaginary friend and if you died I would not be able to join in the grieving.'

His unspoken replies. Suddenly it seemed quite important. The problem of her unread messages swelled to giant proportions.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

more writing

There has been more writing of late. I have felt the trickle of it gaining speed. I have an idea although it is not the initial idea. It is a side path and I think about back tracking but I have found something to follow and I follow it. I think about Don Delillo. There is something about this path that makes me think I might be meandering towards him in my efforts to grasp the task of an artist and transform it into words.

There is The Body Artist and Falling Man and Underworld. It is a theme that recurs. Art and life and art. It never works, or does it? I think about "Love My Way" and surely there are some classic examples, Proust perhaps I can't seem to find other examples of this but I am sure they are out there. For now I just have to describe her art which is a hunt for something really, a search for catharsis perhaps. Posession. I think of A S Bayatt and Patrick Suskind even. There are positive examples if I search hard enough. But for now I just think about Delillo, and how it never really worked for him and how it will probably not work for me, but I just have to try for now. There is nothing else happening here.

Friday, November 14, 2008

3 years late

So it is never too late perhaps. I drank a strong cocktail last night and it has brought me wisdom. I finished reading a novel that was okay, but not great, I had a four and a half hour conversation that I thought (at the time) was probably wasting time. I drank a fair amount of exorbitantly expensive vodka given to me by my once best friend and muse.

I woke up this morning and I knew what was wrong with a novel I had completed 3 years ago. It was a book shortlisted for the premiers awards, a book I tried to re-write, knowing that it could be something great if I hacked it into shape. It was a fragile thing of words and paper and couldn't stand up under my kind of over-zealous pruning. It went into the metaphorical drawer.

This morning I solved the puzzle. How did I make such an obvious mistake. I was swept up in romance. I wanted to believe in love. I wanted to believe in constancy when everything shows me that nothing is constant except my own stubborn nature. This is not a love story although I wanted it to be. It is a story about damage. All of my stories are about damage. I grin and talk on radio about how it is all good. All a part of the learning process, but he is right of course. I am a hard exoskeleton made of scar tissue, healed so stubbornly and quickly that even love could never carve through it. So with this new knowledge, I realise that my memoir is also flawed, as is the poor new thing, my brain book, and I am already forcing the embryo in the direction of my choosing.

I read a post that Christopher has written and I know I could never write like that because it is honest. There is nothing about me that is honest. It is all true, surely, but it is not honest. The honest core of me is so hidden that perhaps it does not even lurk inside me anymore. Perhaps when it emerges it will be something dark and wicked and untouchable. I heard a rattle of it in my four and a half hour conversation. I felt the sharp electric shock of some kind of truth.

I must go back and rewrite that book while this one trickles out into existance. Two books at once. I wonder how this will be done, but it will be. Stubborn scar of a girl forsakes the real world for the impossible dream.

Put your money on the table now because I will be out on the back deck crying before Christmas. That is a promise.

psych 2

He doesn't like her anymore. He has found another on-line friend, or perhaps, worse, a real life friend. He has woken up next to a new love and he has spent the day with her and he has spent the day with her and he will not contact her again.

This is the first thought. Of course there is always the possibility that life has imitated her art. He might be dead. She clicks away from the article for Reel Time she has been working on and finds her way to his name in her list of friends. There is one new wall post from someone she doesn't know. A work related question.

'Did you hide that file on purpose?'

"He just isn't there anymore." She tells the psych. "He was always there and now he has gone."

"And how does that make you feel?"

"Agitated. Lonely."

The woman nods and Rose rolls her eyes. Another hundred dollars. She writes 'Where are you?' on his wall and knows that this is something that she has seen on the walls of the dead. Wonders if she is writing his death knell, that e-ullulation that will echo long after he is gone. She knows that this kind of thinking is morbid. He has just found another girl, she tells herself. She has no claim on him. There have been no promises between them.

'Come on.' she writes on his wall 'you are making me paranoid'.

She waits another two days and still she hears nothing.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


She is researching social networks and she has no friends. The irony of this is not lost on her. There is also the difficult relationship that she shares with her family. She is easily diagnosed. She has been in therapy for a short while.

"Yes,"she says, "My fraught relationship with my family. Yes. 892 friends on Facebook and I am sitting at a cafe having breakfast with a good book. Yes. I got a video and popped a bottle of champagne on my birthday and my one phone call was from my mother and we fought."

The psychotherapist nods and charges her $120.00 for this piece of self diagnosis.

'You are better therapy' she types in an email to him. 'You should charge by the hour and then I'd be broke and then I wouldn't be able to flirt with you because of the patient, therapist relationship so maybe it is a bad idea after all. It is worth paying my psych $120.00 just so I can still flirt with you.'

He has not replied to the four emails she sent him yesterday. She has been working on her computer and she has watched for the little green lights popping up in her g-chat list but he has remained grey. Her faccebook page has remained open and the list of on-line friends has swelled and dissipated but he has remained notably absent.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Room of Lost Chatter

You enter a room. It is dark. The darkness begs for the kind of silence that can be found in libraries. There is some light. Lights are placed under the tables making lengthy shadows along the linoleum where the chair legs hover like spiders alighting on the earth. The rest of the light is from the computer screens. Each screen is different. Each screen has been carefully chosen to replicate the one owned by the person who has died.

It is difficult to read the plaques that have been attached to each of the tables. You must bend your head and peer into the grainy light from the screens and your own legs become spidery and shadow their way up the wall behind you. You feel the hair lift up on your neck. You feel all the laughter sighed out from your chest. There is a tightness there now. You sense their deaths and you are silenced by them. Their deaths are spelled out on the little plaques. Their names, their ages, how they died. They are young, most of them. There are a disproportionately high number of suicides. There is a murder. There are accidents, some involving motorcycles, others referencing other types of motor vehicles. There is cancer, and other long and protracted illnesses. Each story ends the same way.

You turn from the plaque to the computer screen. It is wrong to be looking as you do at the final days of someone you did not know, but you look anyway. We humans are curious creatures. It makes you shift uncomfortably in the hard-backed chairs. You feel your neck tighten. There is a sob somewhere inside you but you fight against it and you feel a headache growing. Myspace, Facebook. You are looking at the pages of the dead, the final posts, the final interractions. You read flippant asides and dates made for a future that will not be shared. 'I'm off to tackle the mountain' suggests a man who came off the mountain and died at the base of it. 'I love you always and forever' says another man who turned away from his computer and took his own life.

There are the messages too, the words that reach out beyond the world of the living. Go well my friend, they say, look out for me, I miss you.

Without a password, the families are unable to curb the life of a social network that has been abandoned. Death is not the end for someones Facebook page. The messages continue to surface, days, months, years after the event.

She has gathered them. She has presented them. She has negotiated with the families and made this space that is as quiet as a mauseleum. She has made us think about the ones that have been left behind, the people that have died. She makes us weep for them, this artist, this collector. And so, in silence, we move from chair to chair inside the museum of deceased social networks and when we emerge into the light we are a little sadened, a little moved. We blink. We adjust. We continue on.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The messages

These messages will not be in the book. The reproduction of messages are too overt. They leave nothing to the imagination. These messages are for me alone.

Dear E

It has bee three days since your last message. I fear you have found someone else, or a number of someones else as you are so fond of multi-tasking. Ah well, you may have moved on from our daily chatting but I have not. I have decided to keep bombarding you with messages. This is a mistake, of course. I know that girls should practice playing hard to get, but I have no time for it.

Today I listened to a piece of music that made me cry, Air on a G String, and yes, the ridiculous name just adds to it's poignancy. I listened to the Bach on my ipod. It was set to randomly sort through my library of songs. By chance, the Bach was sandwiched between "Debaser" by The Pixies and a track from my CD for learning French which taught me the French words for "I no longer love you. Please take your things out of my flat". It was not so muc the individual tracks but their placement, side by side that made them so poignant. The contrast between the Pixies and the Bach and the cold fury of the french language CD seemed somehow beautiful. I wanted to tell you immediately, but as you have not answered my last three messages I was not sure if I should make contact.

I am now readign Proust, and a graphic novel by Adrian Tomine. It is uncanny how similar these books are. I can move seamlessly between Way by Swann and Sleepwalking and Other Stories. Proust picks up where Tomine takes a breath.

Please answer this. Even just to say you will not answer this. You used to average 6 messages a day. Do you realise this? Three days break seems cruel.


Dear E

I wondered what would happen if you had died. This does seem morbid of course, but two weeks is two weeks. I can only assume that 1. you are away, 2. you are in love, 3 I have offended you in some way 4. You have died.

If you had died your facebook account would remain active until some member of your family deleted it. Your status update would continue to say 'Evan: Progressive Fingerpicking' for at least a few weeks before your status cleared itself and waited for your return. Your wall would keep collecting messages from friends who didn't know that you had died asking where you are and why you haven't been in touch. There would be private messages bundling together and unread. You would fave 17 invitations to become a zombie or accept a hatching egg or to go to exhibitions and profit-share theatre shows and people's birthday parties.

You have made me wonder what happens to all those Facebook and Myspace accounts abandoned by dead people. I have the urge to track them down and gather them protectively. I would make art out of them, an exhibition of abanddoned social networks. People could walk quietly into a room filled with computers, each account would be like a eulogy. It would demand a kind of silence, like the exhibition of photographs of people who had just died that I saw in London.

Have you died? It feels like you might have. Talking to you like this in such a one-sided way makes me sad.

It is raining here.

I realise I have no friends.

All my friendship and some love,


Monday, November 10, 2008

laptop revisited

There are messages waiting for him. There is a certain degree of humiliation in asking the nurse to help him with this.

Facebook. How do you describe something like this without the words you might need to do it. He mimes typing. She says 'computer' and he nods emphatically. He draws a line in the air between himsel and her as if the two of them were joined by an invisible thread. He points to the computer. This is a rough description of social networking. He uses his good left hand like a beak to talk talk talk. He points to her mouth.

She says 'talking'. Yes. He nods. He makes big exclamation marks in the air with his chin.

"Talking on the computer?"

Easier than he expected, but no, it couldn't be quite that simple.

"Skype" she said and he tilted his head from side to side. Not quite right, but almost.

She clicked the computer open for him. There was a plug for him to connect to. She put it into the side of the machine. He watched her moving the mouse, clicking on icons, everything too fast and strange for him to remember. I used to do this, he thought. I used to do all of this without assistance.

Skype. She clicked and there was a list of names. He tried to focus on them. They were people he would know.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

approaching things obliquely

I am moved by this. It is a huge emotional burden and makes space for itself in my chest and this causes me some pain. It is as if my organs are making way for the emptiness. I am holding this space inside me and it will spill out onto the page at some point. Right now I am edging around it. I am thinking about the initial real-world event that has moved me and finding ways to emotionally connect with it in the world that I am creating.

At the moment the real world is more clear to me than the world of the book, but eventually these things will exchange places. The book will overtake my world, the empty space will crowd out whatever is around it. Until then I will be a little sad and I will stare at the screen and wonder how and when I will climb inside it.

Saturday, November 8, 2008


They teach him how to open his laptop. This is the first humiliation. He holds it with his one hand. He tests the weight of it against his knee and he knows this thing. He knows what it can do, messages sent back and forth without the aide of a telephone. He does actually remember the women, their photographs posted, the images of them turned to jerky static lag, the one who removed her top and continued to talk with him as if she were completely dressed, the one who kissed the camera and made her face turn monstrous in his view. he knows that they are trapped inside this thing, but he balances it, watches the little heartbeat of it's light breathing in time to his own breaths and there is a catch to his. He is sad. He thinks that he might cry. There is always this flood of emotion overwhelming him. He does not remember crying much before the stroke. He feels like perhaps his eyes have become an open door between his heart and the world. He is no loner protected by their poker shrewd detatchment.

He takes air into his lungs and holds it there and touches the laptop with a finger, scratches his nail into the slit in the thin end of the thing. It must open. He remembers that it will open somehow. The (man in a suit) leans across him and he flinches. He can't remember the man's name, although he knows that he tolerated him. They chatted occasionally. The man worked there, somewhere close by. They had this and only this in common.

The (man in the suit) presses something in the front of it and it pops open. A screen, a keyboard. Evan feels his shoulders heave. He sees (man in a suit) look away, his brow knit tight across his forehead.


I am aware of my audience. Every time a little fragment of actual writing sneaks out and onto the blog I feel exposed. These are initial forays into the unknown. The writing may be poor, directionless, just experiments with character and setting and voice. And yet I have been putting it out into the world before it has barely begun.

A friend who has been reading this blog expressed his concern. I was a little confused. I wasn't certain what I had written at 5am that morning. I realise now that I have been quite candid with an audience, albeit a small audience. I talked about the relationship between depression and writing, two aspects of my life that have always gone hand in hand. I wonder about the relationship between a writer and her audience. So many writers have told me that they never think about their audience as they are writing their first draft. They allow a private intimacy between them and the work. A secret affair.

I have to admit that at 5am I am also not thinking about my audience, I am just thinking that I have made a committment to posting a new blog post every day and I have to write something before work and I feel tired and uninspired and I am still not sure where this book is going and it has been over three weeks and I want it to be well under way.

This is the process of writing.

I remember it from the last book and the book before that. Still I long for the time near the end of the book when it is all falling into place. I am itching for traction.

Untill I get a break to just focus on the book you, my audience are going to be reading posts that are about a troubled process. If I could just have a week to focus on the book we would see some serious work emerging. For now, this is my daily grind.

Friday, November 7, 2008


There were beautiful women at the other tables. That was the thing with this cafe. People made an effort. They dressed for breakfast in fashions that were expensively casual. There was makeup, subtle, or playful, blue eyeshadow and little swirls of pink on cheeks that complimented a spray of pink or orange hair dye. People glanced at each other, coveting. They glanced at her table but they looked away again. He noticed this. He made his face seem cheerful, his default setting. She looked up from her book and closed it without marking her place or memorising the page number. He watched her clumsily push her seat back from the table, spilling a little of her coffee. She thrust her hand out to him and when he took it he noticed with relief that it was warm and dry. She had a firm enthusiastic handshake.

He smiled warmly. He felt exhausted suddenly, a tiredness that crept up on him and lingered.

"Hello." He made his voice sound bright, interested. She stared at him too firmly. He noticed that she barely blinked. The beautiful people at the other tables laughed and toyed with their fromage fresh with wild berries. He shrugged into the chair. She was reading Proust, Way by Swann, but he noticed she had turned the book face down as if she were embarassed by this. He only knew what it was by the little picuture of Proust on the spine. He knew it was the new translation and he wanted to ask her how it compared to the one he had read but she curle her fingers over the book self-consciously and slipped it into her handbag.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


I have been getting up at 5am to write. I stare at the screen and feel tired and wonder where it is going and why I am doing this instead of staying tucked up in bed where it will be warm and there might be an easing of the nightmares that still rattle around inside me.

So instead of writing I begin to read. Reading is a part of writing. If I read something inspiring it will make me think about the way it was constructed. I will be encouraged by something beautiful that has been printed and bound into a relatively attractive package. I will want to compete with my own work. This is the plan anyway.

I have been sliding into depression again and even the idea of writing exhausts me. Instead I will read and I will repond to what I am reading here and in my work. After all it is all a part of the process of writing.

I am a slow reader. I read each sentence carefully. Where my fellow workmates tear through books I turn their pages ponderously. I stop and think and move on. I read like I swim, slowly and consistanty. I need glasses and I squint at the page because I never wear them. The words blur and shift and are difficult to pin down. Often I get a headache for my efforts.

I am reading "The Two Kinds of Decay" by Sarah Manguso. It is a memoir about a girl who gets a blood disease. It sounds like a misery memoir but it isn't. It is sparse and clean and more life philosophy really. The medical things make the reader squirm and there are a lot of medical things. I like her lack of sentimentality. Her writing reminds me of the writing of a friend of mine, very mannered and restrained, just the back of a whale protuding from the water, the rest is hidden and lumbering and huge. The rest is left for the reader to discover in herself.

I think about my friend Mark as I read this book. Yes I knew it would come around to talking about my friend Mark. Mark had a stroke almost two years ago. His recovery has inspired me to think about the brain in this way. He is the same man, only changed because of the damage inside his head. I think about the time I was visiting him in hospital. I think about the hope and the possibility for recovery and the feeling like something is happening that might make things better. I think about the after-time, the slow moments when it seems like nothing is happening. The time it takes for him to adjust to the world, the un-learning. He has spent the past six months learning about the things that he can no longer do. He is learning, but this process is removing things from him one at a time. He is settling into loss.

I remember when I was filming him, hoping to make a documentary about his recovery. A friend of mine turned the camera on me and started to ask me how it was to be supporting Mark through this. I started to cry. I didn't feel sad, but it is there on film, me bursting into tears and weeping. 'I can't communicate', I told her and the camera. 'I can't communicate'.

I sit each morning at 5 am and I look at my computer screen and all the hope that I have gathered around me though the night dissipates. When I was a child I had a recurring image of me with my lips sewn together. I look at my computer screen and the image comes back to me without any trouble at all.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


I am sad because of the writing. Everything can be tracked back to the writing. If the writing is good then I am momentarily happy but then the real world intrudes and a heavy melancholy sets in and lingers.

Sometimes I wonder if I have to get into this kind of heightened state of sadness to be able to write well. Some of my best work has happened when I am sad.

This kind of depression is not new to me. I have been experiencing it since I turned 15. Too much and I can not sit on the desk at all. A small dose of it and I cannot communicate with others which is the perfect kind of solitary confinement to begin writing. It is also too easy to accept the world as it seems when you are happy and confident. You are not pushing against the world. You are not encountering its hard edges.

I am being cruel to one of my characters in this new book. The one who looks a bit like me. I am not sure if this is a good or a bad thing. I walk out into the world and I have lost my edges. I have been getting up early, 5.15 and writing and I am tired all the time. I am finding novels tiring, except the Faulkner, but I shouldn't be reading the Faulkner because I am a bookseller and I have to read new release fiction for Christmas. I am finding that I am becoming angry about novels, about their failings. Then I am feeling like my own work is destined to be fatally floored like the novels that I am reading at the moment.

My character will hurt the girl who looks like me. He will hurt her because she is too eager and unattractive. He will hurt her because she is me and I have something against myself at the moment. I feel sorry for her but I do not feel sorry for myself. I feel angry at myself for being a lazy writer. For plodding along, one paragraph a day, for wasting opportunities that I might have taken. I see other, younger writers who are running into their fine careers and they deserve it but I am saddened by it.

I renew my commitment to hard work but I am exhausted already by the thought of it. I start a memoir which is clean and interesting and unsentimental and I think that my own memoir, which is being read as we speak will not be clean and unsentimental. I think that I might be boring. I feel judged before I have even begun. I can see the floors in my new novel before they are written.

I am declaring my insecurities and this in itself makes me feel insecure. There are so many books out there and so many writers and life just goes on and on and on. Tomorrow, I will get out of bed at 5am. I will be focused and I will not pause tho whinge or feel sorry for myself. I will just write. This is my re-commitment.

Monday, November 3, 2008


She was already there. She was perched on her chair with her legs angled away as if at any time she might slip from the table and out onto the street. She seemed unsettled despite the novel pressed open on the table. the coffee half drunk. There was lipstick on her cup and her mouth was a red pout in a thick face. She was unlovely. It was unkind of Evan to think it, but this was the first thing he thought. She was the kind of girl who would blossom in internet chat rooms or on the phone. She was plump, but not in that cute fleshy way that some girls were plump. Her extra flesh seemed like a jumper in summer, too full and suffocating. Her face, which might have been pretty, was a thing hidden in a mess of chins and big hair. The lipstick saved her lips from dissapearing entirely amongst fat cheeks and a dimpled chin.

She knew it probably. Any girl who could sit at a cafe with such little conviction had a sense of herself and the judgements of those around her.

She was sharp and funny. He had to remind himself of this or he would have hovered in the doorway for a while before turning around and walking off into the city. She was clever and made him laugh and knew all his secrets. He took a breath and stepped into the caffe. He was flooded by the scent of burnt coffee, grease on a hotplate, someones too-strong perfume.

Sunday, November 2, 2008


The weather map was on the television. He stared at it. There were numbers listed in neat rows and he knew what they meant. Brisbane. Max 30 degrees. Late afternoon storm. He knew what this would mean. It was information that had been communicated. A simple transaction. He closed his eyes, turned his head away from the screen. He struggled to remember what he had seen. Something on the television. Something about the weather, maybe. This was as far as he could take it. When he opened his eyes and looked back at the TV it was sport. He was almost certain it was not sport that he was struggling to remember. It was something weather related.

His brain was an open fist and any information seemed to trickle through his fingers. When a nurse came to take his bloodpressure he said "Hello, hello." and had to wonder if this was a repetition, if she had arived an hour ago and if he had already greeted her several times in the interim. He distrusted his own responses and his memories. Perhaps it would be safer to ignore her, nod without comment. He struggled to even say the word 'hello'.


I asked one of my favourite authors, Gerard Donovan about endings. I thought perhaps at this early stage it would help me to focus if I had some idea where this was going to end. It would help with the subtle metering out of things.

"I think an ending grows organically out of the story and should be a moment where the entire story sweeps in front of the reader's eyes again--not as a summary, but as a fresh review with the new impact that there is no more to come." This was a part of Mr Donovan's answer and it perfectly describes the ending of his novel Julius Winsome which ends so effortlessly that I had to back track and read the ending several times just to see how it worked.

The thing with an ending is that it often obliterates the rest of the novel. If for instance there was a slow patch earlier in the text, a perfect ending will make the reader forget about this. At the same time, a slow or dragging ending will ruin what may have been a wonderful piece of work. Take the ending of Ian McEwan's novella, On Chesil Beach with a last chapter that falls heavy and leaves you exhusted with it's dates and facts and clumsy tripping towards the finish line.

With my unpublished manuscript A Little Death (a thing that is still close to my heart after all these years), the ending came before the rest of it. I wrote the ending first and although it changed and shifted, I found that the core of it stayed intact. It made the writing easier. There was a place to aim for. With another manuscript "Paper Dolls, Holding Hands" I knew where it was going. I had the thing in my head. The ending turned out to be somewhere in the middle and perhaps this is why the book drifts off like a song that is faded out rather than coming to a complete stop. This works for the text in its own way but it is not ideal. With "His Father's Son" I didn't know the ending at all and I still think the ending of that manuscript is the wrong one. I want to go back to it and tear the second half off it and replace it with something more complete, but I still haven't found what this should be.

I just finished my memoir and when I came to a particular scene and wrote a particular line I knew that this was it. I had to stop there. I had to go back and work up to that scene because I had found my ending. It made emotional sense.

I have a sense of the ending for the Brain Book in me. I know how it will feel, happy and melancholy at the same time. A compromise that will be fine but not ecstatic. I know that he will not make a sudden and miraculous recovery like Jill Bolte Taylor who wrote "My Stroke of Insight." This ending is a slow acceptance. He has been pushing against something for a long time, holding on to his past before the stroke and the damage to his brain. At the end he simply has to stop pushing. Stop trying, and when he steps back there is a clear path and he realises that he can take it and that it won't be so bad.

This is not specific. I am not sure how this thing will play out, but I know the colour of the ending. I can see that picture by David Casper Friedrich with the man standing at the edge of a frozen lake looking into more ice, more sky and this is the way it ends. A stepping back and looking. The end of a struggle and the beginning of something new.

I am constantly sad. I know that this is because I have not developed traction. I feel sad and I feel lonely. I feel like I have let go of a friend. I have completed something which is like a separation. I am on the verge of tears most of the time. I am looking back towards the dark spaces that I have been struggling to avoid. I will have to fall before I can begin to climb again. I feel like I am shimmying across the cliff face, holding on by the tips of my fingers. I need to let go. I need to feel the pain of something over and the overwhelming exhaustion of looking up at something huge and unweildy that is about to begin.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

unhappy endings

In life things don't end the way you want them to. Either they are too neat or they are disapointingly flat or the problem just drifts away and we forget our question. I am dissapointed by endings. Michael Ondaatje has dissapointed me occasionally with his endings. Tim Winton so often trails away. My friend has pencilled his own ending into his life and I am sad about it. I want my book to have an ending that will make the journey so much more worth while.

I am going to take my boy out and talk to him about this book. He is the structure head from heaven. I seem to be struggling to find my way. He is a useful tool in the creative process. I know that I need to find some sense of structure to make this work for me. I don't know where I am going. I am just drifting along writing the occasional scene but it is not gelling for me yet. I will write a structure map. I may even draw it up and hide it on the inside of the cupboard where it will not be intrusive in the house. I will write it on the blog.

Friday, October 31, 2008


Ways to procrastonate whilst avoiding writing that new novel which has not developed any traction yet:

Obsessively check through the last book for inconsistancies.
Chat with your friend on Facebook.
Research overseas markets for short stories.
Read a page here and a page there of non fiction books that might be called research materials
Go to GOMA and look at art and try to find ways to call that research.
Cook meals for the entire week ahead of schedule just so that you will have more time to write later.
Develop a play list that fits with the new book - songs in a particular mood.
Line up all your related books on the writing desk.
Cut out pictures from magazines that relate to the book
Buy photography magazines so that you can cut more pictures out of them
Go through the last book one more time just so it is out of your system.
Dishes. Don't forget the dishes
Hang clothes up
Tax. Got to do the tax.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Lost things

There was a man in the bed beside him with a dent in his head. Evan tried not to stare at the man but it was difficult. The man's skull had caved in in the perfect shape of a fist. He paced. Evan felt the pent-up energy spilling out of him and into the room, infecting everyone as if it were viral. The man would groan and swing his legs off the bed and suck breath in and walk the length of the room and back before expelling the breath and swinging himself up onto the bed once more. Sometimes the nurses took him by the arm and led him gently back to his little area of the world, dragging the curtain around the bed and the sound of their voices would be calm and soothing.

Sometimes he felt like pacing. He felt the drag of his body on the hospital bed and wondered if he would ever lift himself out of it again. He remembered running, running for the ferry, running to catch a paper taken and played on a breeze. The surprising pleasure of a fast pace. This would be lost to him now.

There was another man, this one with no visible damage, just a certain slowness when turning his head, an unfocused glaze when asked a question. Evan found that this vague other worldly look disturbed him. The man was in a wheelchair and he manouvred it slowly from one side of the ward to the other. Sometimes he wheeled the thing towards a wall and stopped there, staring into the light green paint as if an image of the Virgin Mary had suddenly emerged from the fingerprints there.

Evan knew that quiet searching stare. He caught himself halted, wondering, struggling over the things that he had lost. The names of people he had known until a handful of days ago, the confusing progression of days and weeks mapped out on a calendar, numbers, fragments of conversation. Television shows. He could hum entire theme songs and not bring the name of the show to the front of his mind.

Lost things, all of them, lost things.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


He used to be able to cook. He looks at the book and there are words in it and it is clear that these words are instructions. There is a picture beside the words and he can imagine the food on the plate. The words are the method to make this jumble of ingredients into some kind of order.

He used to like to cook.

He remembers the pleasure in it. Cooking, wine and music. These three things in a quiet house and the scent of garlic infusing the evening. These pleasures that he never took for granted, but he took their ease in his stride. He stands with the book open and the picture glaring it's accusation and he can smell it, the meal that will be made from it. His good hand remembers the chopping and the stirring. It is in his body, this memory. 'I am a good cook' he thinks.

He looks at the lines of text and the ingredients are clear, chicken, garlic chopped, wilted spinach. He has layed out the ingredients on the cramped surface of the bench top, each one measured exactly. He glances at the potential of it, the meal in waiting. He looks back to the book and the crawl of words on the page. Three words next to each other make some kind of sence, the list of ingredients match perfectly to the food he has assembled. The paragraph is more challenging. The paragraph is almost impossible. When put together like this, the words become a sauce, each letter, each word indistinguishable from the next. It is all the coloured by the concept of 'recipe'. The words make the picture illustrated on the right, but together they are liquid, swirling into each other, impossible to pin down.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


I heard about a study done with people who were in a coma. The researchers hooked them up to an MRI. They asked them questions -" imagine watching a tennis match." They saw a particular part of the brain light up at the thought of this. "So, imagine you are walking around your house" - another part of the brain sparked. Two different sections, two different thoughts. These people were in a coma. They were thought to be in a vegetative state.

"If you are in pain, imagine you are watching Tennis. If you are not in pain, imagine walking around your house" A yes no answer. A conversation of a kind.

I stood by his hospital bed and he could say yes. He could not say no. I remember this, but the lack of a clear 'yes' seemed to indicate he was not completely agreeing. This was an important step at the time. This was a way of communicating. I remember struggling to form questions that were simple. True or false? But life is more complex than this. I struggled to find the simple things in life but there were none.

This is an interraction that I must replicate. A man. An ex-wife, the simlicity of yes, no answers, the complexity of the relationship that they are dragging behind them, the enormity of the journey that may lie ahead.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Mobile Phone

This was a mobile phone. He touched it. They said the words 'mobile phone' and he remembered these words and the words 'text message' and scrambled to keep them on the tip of his tongue. He chanted the strange but familiar sounds over and over in his head but they were slipping away, even as he toyed with them. He weighed the metal object in his hand and it was familiar.

He used to use one of these things, the thing with the name that he had freshly forgotten. His thumb twitched. He held it up to his ear and listened to the silence. Nothing. It was just a heavy metal object. There was a screen on the front of it and two buttons on the sides. He pressed these and numbers appeared on the front of it. A light glowed. He used to use this and now it was an artifact from some alien place.

The nurse plucked the thing from his hand, his only hand. He watched her open it, and of course it opened. That was the point of it. It flipped open and there were buttons with numbers. It was both a revelation and a memory. It was something to do with the numbers. Calling someone, contacting someone. It had something to do with the numbers.

He found he had made a fist around the thing, he slammed it against his knee. He thumped it against the sheets. He was crying. Like a baby. He was crying. The nurse took the object out of his hand and folded it up into himself. He cried and he pointed to the thing with his hand, his only hand and he wanted to say 'what is the name of it?' but he could not. He couldn't do anything except grunt, and it made him cry. Baby crying.

"The mobile phone?" she lifted and tilted it, flipping it open and closed, open and closed.

"Yes." he said, sobbing. "Yes. Yes. Yes."

Saturday, October 25, 2008


I swing back and forth between possible characters. A few weeks ago I was so fired up to start this book. I was ready to write, but I still had my memoir to complete. I put the energy on hold. Now I seem to have lost my way with it.

I know that beginnings are difficult but I always forget how difficult until I try to begin something new. I am up and down with it. I think perhaps I need to sit with the books about brains, quietly reading for a while but this might also be an excuse.

I write:

Chris, Christopher, David, John, Jonothan, Frank, Gerard, Gerald, Paul.

I write:

You have a name that is short and practical. A workman-like-name. you have just turned 32. You are full of unearned confidence. You are deeply insecure.

We meet in our insecurity. We meet in our alienness, in the dammage in our heads. We both fail to communicate. We meet with our inability to accept the truth.

I am reaching into my guts yet again and searching for my own failings because a character must be floored. Without these floors we can not see ourselves in them. Whoever I become when I write this book, I will be cobbled together from my failings. Only with this beginning can I find some change by the end of the story.

For some reason I remember books I have read by T C Boyle. I don't want to write a book like this, although I enjoy them. Perhaps I am following the wrong path with this. I think about Cormac McCarthy and Annie Proulx and Ondaatje and I feel myself hovering at a twisted road shrouded in dead branches. I want to push through the lantana scratch and snarl. I want to find my way through. I want this path, not the clean and obvious one. I know that I am making life difficult for myself, but I will go to the shop now and buy a new McCarthy and begin to read it. I will find my way to this story via and different route.

The masturbation bit

His penis. He places his hand on it, against it. His right hand. He cannot hold it as he once could. His fingers are thick as if fresh from sleep. He is separated from their fragile grip, this peice of meat on the end of what was once his arm. He must nestle his hips against the dead flesh and it feels like someone elses hand laying heavily on hi. He folds the fingers around it. He has less of a grip than he once had.His movement is restricted. His fingers curl but there is a point where he could no longer force them into any kind of shape. They are stiff. Resisting the insistance of his moulding. Still there is enough contact here to provide some kind of feeling. It is a simple thing to lift his left hip, push it against the heat of his hand, a succession of lifts. It becomes a rubbing. This is the kind of exercise that his OT would reccoment, gentle repetative movements and it does indeed feel better. It is a gentle stirring, not the quick explosiveness that he remembers from the before time, but it is a distraction and he continues to push his penis against his unweildy hand, surprised by the little ejaculation when it comes, a quick climb towards the edge and a spilling over. An unexpected reward for his furtive exercise.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


This is a process of nesting. Sometimes I go through images in art books at the library and find something that has the feel of what I am looking for. Sometimes I gather lists of related texts, books that are written in the kind of style that my new book will be written in. Occasionally, if I am stealing someone I know to embed in the character at the heart of my book, I will gather pieces of information about him, like a stalker, pinning pictures of him to my wall in the office, stealing pieces of our conversation and writing them up on index cards.

It is easy to misdiagnose my intention, but I am writing a book. I need to harness my little obsessive traits and turn them into something. It is part of my process of nesting. I have bought a new moleskine. This also happens. A new moleskine for each project. To finish my memoir I needed a reporter style notebook which was perfect for the task. This book has caused me to buy a soft cover moleskine. This is lighter than the other ones and I have never used this style before so it is fresh for the project. Of course I do not need a moleskine to begin it, but it is a kind of readying. It is a psychological girding of my loins. It is foreplay. I can’t seem to settle into the writing of the thing. I have written a masturbation scene. I think I could perhaps write sex. But this is not my new book. This is my last book with its talons still in me. Maybe I will need to explore his sexuality before I can move on. Maybe there is nothing left of me except sex.

I had a dream when I was finishing the last manuscript. I dreamed that I was cut open and there was nothing inside. This image haunts me. Perhaps there is nothing left for me to tell. I am completely exposed and there is nothing but the furious monkey masturbating inside this human-skin, laughing maniacally. Maybe.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


The scent of antisceptic. The tightening of his throat. He was perhaps suffocating. He gulped air like a fish and he longed for something, someone. He thought of his grandmother, her soft hands in his hair. The comfort of her. The scent of powder, Johnson's baby powder her white powdery fingerprints on his skin. It seemed for a moment that this memory of his grandmother had more substance than the room around him. He was perhaps 12 years old. He was drowning in air. It was a reaction. She told him this in her soft voice, her sing-song accent, fingertips softer than the skin of a child and cool against the strangle-heat of his face. She told him to relax and he relaxed into the comforting softness of her belly. If he died now he would know that he was loved.

He opened his eyes and she was there but it was not her. It was a parody of his granmother, someone all skin and bone, beaky face. A jut of shoulderblades, a punishment of cheekbones and elbows and writst. It was not his grandmother at all.

Wife, he thought. Ex-wife and the suffocation was not the simple tightening of his throat, a reaction to a drug that they had given him. This breathlessness was all the things he had thought but not said, lodging against his voicebox. A congestion of words.

Shouldn't have married her, too young to know, failed, did bad, destined to make a mess of it all, destined to be together and apart. Shouldn't have had the wedding, the separation, should perhaps have filed for that divorce.

He closed his eyes and his grandmother stroked his face and it would be all right if he just lay here quietly in his care.

"You almost died," she said to him

He opened his eyes to the jut of her knit brow. He felt a peice of himself shrivel, a little death, a little choking pressure on his lungs and his throat and he was overwhelmed suddenly by the state of things.

"Just relax," she said, "I'm here now."

She touched his face and he couldn't feel her fingers on his skin. The right side of his face. The dead side. He wanted to feel the cool powdery softness of her skin but there was nothing. She was nothing to him. He closed his eyes and breathed in the bitter bite of antisceptic and he drank down deep breaths into his heaving lungs.

Ex-wife, he thought, ex, nothing ex. But every time he opened his eyes she was here with him and she would not be exorcised.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

context and memory

A large part of memory has to do with context. If you are in the garden you will be more likely to remember the names of plants. When I am at the bookshop I remember book names and authors. I remember them with my body. If I am looking for a particular book and I remember the title but not the author, I put my hand up as if to remove the book from the shelf and then I check what letter should be under my fingertips and then, mostly I will remember the name of the author based on the first letter of her name that I have just discovered through the touch of my fingers. Sometimes I will remember it visually. I will picture the cover. I will picture the words in the kind of type that is on the jacket of the book, and then, if I squint, I will remember the name of the author or the title if this is what I am looking for.

When you wake up in a hospital with a brain that is still swollen, the damage as yet uncertain, this is when your memories of illness will be strongest. These will be triggered by the smell of the place. The feeling of waking into your own history of pain. You will remember having your tonsils removed or a broken foot. You will be transported back to these moments. This is what I will work on now. The next bit. My next bit.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Recycling stories

I write a part of a chapter and I have been here before. I have written a short story that explored an early version of the idea at the centre of the book. I struggled over ideas and images that would explain the kind of waking into the world that you would have. Confused, finding some things clear in memory, and other moments lost just beyond the edges of a swollen bruised brain. I wanted to explore this coming to the idea of the change in a kind of slow awakening. I go back through the story and trawl for ideas and images that could be re-used. I do not like traversing the same territory. I become bored of an idea if I have written it once and come to some kind of peace. Still. The ideas that are contained in this earlier version of the story are vivid. They are well worked. I want to use some of this in the current version.

I know I should just put the old story aside and start afresh but I can't stop fiddling with it. My character has changed. I have found a voice that it fresh and exciting. A voice that I am in love with in that flippant way I have of falling completely for a person or concept or book and remaining faithful to it for a time before waking up one morning wondering what I might have seen in it at all.

My character was older. He was middle-aged, tired and jaded and struggling with the loss of his identity as a sexual being. This was a theme I visited in my memoir. This is something I am finished with now. Today I can't imagine why I ever worried about my sexual identity. Today I am sexy and alive and without fear. Today my character has grown young. Perhaps he is in his early thirties. My new conundrum is not about age, it is about communication. It is also about beauty, which is something I still wish I could hide myself inside. My character, therefore is not beautiful. He relies on his wit and charm to make the conquests that he does. All this is what he looses when his brain is damaged and he wakes back into a world that is completely changed for him.

This is a segment from my earlier story that I am toying with, inserting it into the current draft, honing it back to its component parts. This is procrastination really. This kind of close work should come at the end of things, but I am avoiding my first human interraction. I am wanting to sit alone with my character for just a while longer:

He moves his toe. He knows it is moving because he can feel the rub of the sheet against his skin. His toe is thick as the trunk of an elephant, heavy as a car. The corpse of his leg drags at his hip. He moves his toe and he surfaces from the effort of it, panting.

The woman notices the movement in his toe and her eyes become wet and glassy. The woman is his wife. Ex-wife. Wife. He doesn’t know what to call her after all this time. He is surprised to see her here next to his bed. There is the relief of months between them. The acrimony finally dulled from a shriek to a sigh.

He can’t remember her name. He can’t even remember his own name. He wants to tell her that he moved his toe, but he can’t remember the word for toe.

“I moved…” he tells her, and her brow furrows.

She opens her mouth and sounds spill out but they aren’t words. She is underwater and her mouth is filled with mud. He can hear the mud popping from her lips, one drop at a time, each bubble of nonsense accompanied by a tear. She has forgotten how to speak, he thinks. She has replaced language with this gurgling.
“I moved,” he says, “I moved my –“ no word for toe but he strains to move it once more for her to see. His face is red with the effort. His teeth bite down against pain.

She opens her mouth and there are the bubbles of sound, rising. He almost laughs. She never made sense even when they were together.

Amongst the trickle of sound from her mouth there is a word he understands. It is the word he was searching for. Toe. He now understands the word toe. He moves his toe. He remembers movement.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Letting go of the last book

I don't understand my character. I don't understand him because I still have the last book in my head. All I can think about is how he will try to race the nurse off into bed. I think about him masturbating. I wonder about his penis. I have gifted him with a foreskin because I have an intense but passing interest in foreskins at the moment. I am interested in his masturbation which is furtive and full of regret. I am interested in his lovemaking which is less robust than he would have us believe. He is all talk. He hides shyly behind his own bravado. On the rare occasions that he has been in bed, sober, with a woman, be becomes quiet and shy and follows wherever she would lead him. I cannot think about him without thinking about sex.

It has been a week since finishing the last book and I am exhausted by the run towards its completion. I sat at a desk until my back ached and my head throbbed. I stood up to pace or to masturbate, quickly, thinking of nothing but the next chapter or the next. My body has been wrecked by the rigor of it. I have become hard shelled, snapped back inside my casing, safe but quivering. I think about sex with my new character because the old book is still in me, but I have no connection with him. It bothers me. I feel that we cannot communicate. We have nothing to talk about.

I sit with him but I am ignored. We have nothing to say to each other, my character and I. I try to lie with him and I am still aroused by him, but I am all sharp edges and grit. My last book is still around me. I am coocooned. The sooner I shrug it off the sooner I will be free to climb into another skin, his skin. I name him tentatively and know that this is not his name. I have to find his name. I have to be naked with him for a while, quietly. I have to shed years and my gender. I have to know why he insists on being quietly optimistic when I would shrug and underline my existential angst. We two are not one.

It has only been a handful of days, but I do not want to give it time and space and silence. I want to press him into myself, I want to take on his shape. I want to speak with him and through him and into him. I want to abandon myself and the last book. I wish it were out of my hands, I wish I could send it out into the world where it would not nag at me.

Then, maybe then I will begin to enter his body.

Pigs and marriages

He had been grilling a pig on a campfire. This was a dream, of course. Even in the scouts he had never grilled a pig on the campfire. He could still smell it now. He lifted his hand but he did not lift his hand. He rolled onto his side but he did not roll onto his side. He swung his feet onto the ground but he was still a leaden body in the sweat of his bed. Not his bed. Hospital bed. He was confused. He called for his wife but his voice was lost to him. He opened his mouth and pictured his wife and there was a void where her name should be. He reached for his laptop but his arm refused to obey the impulse and his laptop wasn’t there anyway. He smelt burning pig. Ex-wife, he remembered with a kind of excited relief, All that shouting and crying and thumping of walls behind him now. Ex-wife. Bacon, definitely the smell of bacon, and a name came to him. Rose. He reached for the laptop again, where was the laptop? Where was his arm when he needed it.

Someone leaned over the bed and he thought it might have been his ex-wife and he flinched. It was a stranger. A nurse in an ill-fitting uniform. He opened his mouth and there was a sound from it that he didn’t recognise. He was speaking underwater. The echo of it was too loud in his head. He struggled with the aquatic mess of syllables.

“Ro-“ he said, “Rose.”

“Jacob. Good morning. How are you feeling?”

“Rose,” he said.

“You’re looking so much better this morning aren’t you?”

He wanted to say, am I? He wanted to say, you should see the other fellow.

“Your wife was in before.”

His wife. He smelled gardenia and wondered if this was a direct reaction to the words ‘your wife’ just as the smell of bacon seemed to fit so neatly with the idea of Rose. The nurse leant closer and he realised that it was the smell of her perfume. A wonderful womanly smell. He noticed the tight pull of her uniform across her breasts.

“She’ll be back in half an hour. She said to tell you when you were awake.

He wanted to ask her exactly where he was, exactly what had happened. A stroke. He had had a stroke. Someone had said this to him or he had guessed it. He remembered the feeling of faintness and the fall. He remembered the fall. He put his hand up to his face but his hand stubbornly refused to move at all. He had misplaced his hand. He tried to find it, His left hand travelled across his body, came to rest on a lump of flesh that felt colder than the rest of him. His hand. He touched the fingers and knew that this is what he was holding.

“Rose.” He said and the scent of bacon sizzled in his brain.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Roses and Bacon

One of the girls had become more inventive than the rest. He had begun to enjoy his adventures to the mailbox. The odd-shaped packages he would find there.

Snail. It was the title of her project. An experiment in snail mail, things made out of paper delivered the old fashioned way. She had sent him index cards the other day because she was using index cards at work. The index cards had titles on the top line, like ‘Paper project #25”, “Projected paper #26” and then there was something flirtatious written underneath this. He saw himself in her a little. He had met her once in real life and she was older than he was and shorter and quite unattractive and she made him laugh out loud. He could have fallen in love with her except for the physical aspects. Maybe he could choose to ignore these anyway, learn to navigate by his internal compass instead of the visual stimuli that he had learned to rely on, but still there were other girls sending him mediocre poetry. He had options. No need to leap to anything just because she was interesting and funny and smart. The irony in this was not lost on him.

He looked around for his computer. He thought he would message her now. See if her little green light was all lit up. She worked with her computer on and she was always there, rarely too busy for a quick exchange. His computer would be on the ground beside the bed where he had left it. He turned on the pillow. He identified the feeling he was experiencing as pain. He was strangely removed from the pain and wondered if he had drunk too much or taken drugs or something. But then he remembered the anesthetics and he wondered why he was on anesthetics and then he remembered completely and sank back into the pillow.

He thought about her. The ugly girl. Rose. The kind of name your grandmother might have, or a girl in a fairytale with pearly skin and midnight hair. When he was chatting to her on Facebook and when there was no way of actually seeing her, he imagined her like that, dressed in a Snow White bodice with her breasts pushed up and offered to him above the velvety fabric like the sweet steamed buns you could buy in Chinatown.

He thought that he would like to chat to her right now about what had happened, he could make a joke of it. Even a stroke could be funny if you framed it right. He thought about her and he was overwhelmed by the scent of frying bacon. Odd.

He thought about a table, nothing, a lamp, nothing, his brother, nothing, but when he thought about Rose he smelled bacon and he began to feel hungry.

He couldn’t be sure how long it had been since his last meal. He hadn’t eaten since before the stroke, the evening. Muesli for dinner. He remembered saying something clever to one of the prettier girls on MSN about the endless cycle of meal times and how he liked to mix it up a little. He was explaining to her how he was marinating some lamb strips for breakfast kebabs, lemon delicious for breakfast desert. ‘You are hilarious” she had messaged back. She had spelled hilarious incorrectly. He had to physically delete his subsequent correction of her spelling. Girls didn’t like it when you corrected their spelling.

He corrected Rose’s spelling all the time. Rose liked that. He was sure of it. She teased him about it in that flirtatious way she had of pointing out his actions to him, telling him exactly how she was framing their interaction, deconstructing their relationship as it was unfolding. He wished she was more beautiful in real life, or at least less ugly. He wished she could be someone he could fall in love with, but she wasn’t.

He smelled bacon and he raised his hands to fold them across his stomach, but it was only one hand. The other had not obeyed his brain’s directive and it lay at his side like a lump of solid meat, a dead thing, road kill.

Oh, he thought, I can’t move my arm.