Friday, August 31, 2007

Conversation after listening to our heartbeats

This is the conversation I had with Frederique after she asked to listen to my heartbeat (boom-boom) and I listened to hers:

Fred: What does it mean?
Me: It means my heart is busy pumping blood all over my body. It means I'm alive and so are you.
Fred: What happens when you get this people again?
Me: Which people?
Fred: This people (she points to herself)
Me: Another person just like you?
Fred: Yes.
Me: That never happens. You are unique. There is only one little girl like you in the whole wide world. Just one Frederique.
Fred: (sadly) Oh, pleease.

Which reminds me when I was a kid I used to lie in bed at night, looking up at the underneath of the top bunk, picturing how big the world was, how many millions of people lived in it, and how somewhere there must be another girl just like me - another actual me - only living a completely different life. Which in turn reminds me of the incandescent The Double Life of Veronique. It's a powerful dream. On the one hand uniqueness and individuality is something we are taught to value, but the idea of a double, of multiplying ourselves, a perfect self/other, a living mirror companion is nevertheless passionately alluring.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

New Book!

Hey! Look!
It's in stores officially as of next week I believe.

I love the cover. The green and red are magical together. The green is actually the best green I've ever seen. The blue's pretty good too. I've seen a few of these Chomps and I have to say, without bias of course, that I like MINE the best!!
Cover is by Anna Walker, who I must remember to kidnap sometime and have her be my friend (because friendship under duress is the best kind, then they can never leave you). Look at her website. I want to be an Anna Walker picture, preferably a little bird.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Lili reminded me about this piece of video.I found it a while ago (every now and again I search for poetry on You Tube) and made Martin and Zoe - the future teachers in my life - watch it. Now I'm making you watch it too. But you should. It's really really worth it.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Museum of Dust: Celeste Olalquiaga

Museum of Dust: Celeste Olalquiaga
The Museum of Dust has been quiet for a while, but something stirs within. I had almost given up hope of a reawakening, but just enough hope remained that after reading Ampersand Duck's recent Wunderkammer post on Sarsaparilla I had a poke in there for old time's sake.

It's a fabulous blog to stroll around, a beautiful cyberfiction, that will lead you away and back again. There's a museum of dust flickr group too. It's one of those online things that baffles slightly, mysterious and yet utterly, curiously fascinating.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Two Thoughts on Undine's Magic

Sometimes I think we are part magic, that what animates us is a kind of magic, that our psyches, our selves, points towards a kind of alchemy, both physical and ethereal in nature. What makes us who we are? What mysterious concoction of environment and genetics? What binds this stuff together? I think that's the magic in Undine really, the stuff that binds together the physical world and the world of ideas, where ideas act even more directly on the physical world. And not just ideas but our ever mysterious, ever important emotions. Perhaps all this signifies a neglect in my scientific education, but perhaps I chose on some level to neglect some aspects of physical science, in order to pursue my own wild half-baked theories about the universe.

I read in the paper (the Hobart Mercury in fact, so it must be true) that the current belief is that there was not in fact a big bang in which the universe, but that our universe is actually born from the remnants of an ancient universe. I read that and thought, 'Oh, so that's where Undine's magic comes from.'

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


Occasionally I like to put poetry on here, just for edification purposes - everyone needs to be extended now and then. Anyway, I was going to put The Waste Land here, by T.S. Eliot, but really who's got time for that? This version's so much better.

Waste Land Limerick


In April one seldom feels cheerful;
Dry stones, sun and dust make me fearful;
Clairvoyantes distress me,
Commuters depress me--
Met Stetson and gave him an earful.


She sat on a mighty fine chair,
Sparks flew as she tidied her hair;
She asks many questions,
I make few suggestions--
Bad as Albert and Lil--what a pair!


The Thames runs, bones rattle, rats creep;
Tiresias fancies a peep--
A typist is laid,
A record is played--
Wei la la. After this it gets deep.


A Phoenician named Phlebas forgot
About birds and his business--the lot,
Which is no surprise,
Since he'd met his demise
And been left in the ocean to rot.


No water. Dry rocks and dry throats,
Then thunder, a shower of quotes
From the Sanskrit and Dante.
Da. Damyata. Shantih.
I hope you'll make sense of the notes.

-- Wendy Cope

Scissored and stickered from here

Friday, August 17, 2007


Oh it's hard coming up with those post headings sometimes.

Anyway, I'm going to fiddle around with the template over the next few days. I do like this one, because it reminds me of being in a nice old lady's wallpapered living room, with elevenses on a tiered plate and cups of tea in china cups with pictures of roses on it. But sometimes I find the very long narrow posts hard to read. And the formatting goes funny and photos sometimes look a bit odd.

So I am looking to go back to the cleaner look over Eglantine's early days. Don't be alarmed if everything seems to swing about for a while as I play with it. We will resume normal programming soon. Let's hope I don't accidently delete the whole thing.

Edited to add:
Okay, I think this is it. I can no long be bothered fiddle-faffing around.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The loveliness that is the world

Imagine waking up to this in the morning.

I is one happy lady.

Plus there's this little Q&A from the lovely Ben Payne, all round good guy and possible part time caped crusader (it would not surprise me, oh no, not at all - he seems the type that might rescue kittens whilst wearing a rakish disguise).

And how much do I love the internet? That there are people out there, real live ones, and the thing they really want to do is write about YA. I'm feeling the love, I'm sharing the love, love is all around. Love is all you need.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Martin's favourite movies:

Love Actually
Princess Bride
Dark Crystal

I had to check and make sure it wasn't Shawshank Redemption.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Thinking about story time - the end

In stories time goes back and forth. Things that happened many years apart can be laid together as if they are (and indeed for the reader they are) occurring concurrently. That which is fractured and fragmented is presented as smooth and seamless. A while back Justine Larbalestier blogged about the hardest thing to do when you're writing a novel: transitions or as Kingsley Amis put it, 'getting your characters out of the pub and into a cab'. Attached to this, and a separate issue too (but another transitional issue) is the passage of time. Everything in Undine happened over the course of about a week, and Drift was a similarly intensely packed time period. But in Breathe I needed more time. Time time time. I needed time that seemed to flow naturally and inevitably forward, but time that behaved like time does in real life, sometimes days just pass. The circular journey of return (dinners and dinners and dinners) that marks the passage of days continues and nothing occurs to interrupt this seeming flow, if a novel was a daily account, a diary, it would be pages and pages of 'nothing to report'. When we look back on our lives we probably see it in this way, episodes of note and in between an aggregate memory of undistinguished days: dinners, breakfasts, showers, sleep.
Story time is more like memory time than real time and like memories, stories have gaping holes. Except at the same time anything you have set in motion will continue (in an implied way) until you stop it. So that if you have a character getting fat and suddenly there's a flickering of calendar pages or the winding forward of a clock (like in a movie), the implication is your character will be fatter. Or sadder or sicker or happier or more in love...
Sometimes stories are about time. Like The Time Traveler's Wife. Then story time almost becomes a metafictive element, the fabric of storytelling and timetelling begins to show, like the seams in a patchwork quilt beginning to fray so that instead of seeing the quilt as a whole, you begin to notice its parts.
Coraline is more about time than I thought it was. It's all about time. It's about time passing and time not passing, about the paradox of the endless summer, of repetition and return occurring so frequently that time almost seems to be in a continuous loop, and yet underlying the endlessness of time is the bitter note of time's perpetual end - the end of summer, the end of days, the end, the absolute end.
What does The End mean? And so it continues? And so it ceased to be? And so the story became transformed into something else, something textless, like a caterpillar becoming a lighter than air butterfly? Where is Undine now, now that I'm no longer writing about her? Where is Coraline, now that her story is finished. Perpetual cycle, the journey of return, they exist of course at the beginning again. Caught forever in their stories. Is The End an arrow back to the first line, the first moment of the story? Or does it point somewhere else, somewhere new?

Thursday, August 09, 2007

facebook 2 - worlds fall in

Sometimes I think time behaves like an alternate universe, that the me-who-I-was-then is still there, perpetually existing and I could sidestep into that time. Sometimes memories are so sharp, so clear it's almost like you're looking through a gap straight into that concurrent past. Sometimes I long to walk through a memory (Fred's first days, the afternoons in various shared houses, sitting outside with friends in the sunshine, drinking beer, laughing hysterically and feeling young and free).
Of course I am not alone in this - it marks us as temporal creatures - the pastness of the past is part of our shared melancholy (part pleasure, part pain). This is why movies like Peggy Sue Got Married succeed, a movie I once bought an ex-rental copy for $3 at a closing down sale at a video store, and therefore have watched more times than substance or quality would demand of the viewer - yet it is perfect comfort food fare. And why is it comforting? Because it suggests a chance to do-over. It says we can go back to an earlier event knowing what we know now, and see things for what they really are. Perhaps this is where something like Facebook is so seductive. It's - potentially - like a party where there's all these people you knew at different times in your life in the one room.
But tell me now, does anyone REALLY want to go to a party like that?
Don't get me wrong. I adored Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion, simultaneously laughing and cringing, wholly identifying (does everyone think they didn't quite fit in high school?). Zoe and I occasionally talked about going to our 10 year high school reunion, worrying that the most interesting thing we'd done, like Romy and Michelle, was move to Melbourne (except that they moved to San Francisco or something). But my 10 year reunion (I believe attempts were made to organise one but there wasn't enough interest, perhaps because so many of us were living away from Tasmania or perhaps because ten years wasn't long enough to feel we'd truly left those selves behind) fell when I was 25, and I was in the throes of an existential crisis. I felt no inclination to go back when I was so unsure of how to go forward.
These days I'm extremely happy with my place in the world, happier than I ever would have expected to be as a teenager. Which is not to say that high school was utterly traumatic. But without a doubt the four years I spent at Taroona High weren't the best years of my life. Thank god. I'm glad that I'm qualified to say with utter conviction to my own daughters when they're in high school 'It gets better. It gets so much better.' The people I shared that time with are now, for the most part, strangers to me. To reacquaint myself with them seems a peculiar exercise and I am not quite sure why I would do it. And yet I seem to have joined a (small) group on Facebook created for that purpose. What drives me? What drives any of us? (the overwhelming tone is 'good lord, why am I here?') Of course the uncomplicated answer is that there are people in that group who I genuinely liked back then, who I thought were clever and funny and interesting, who I wish well, and would love to hear what clever things they've done since. It's mostly curiosity I guess, it's the epilogue, the 'where are they now?' But there's other psychological impulses at work, clearly, because part of me is uncomfortable with it. It's partly I guess to measure change, surely if they have changed, I have changed, if they have not changed, I have not changed. How much of who we were then is in us now, how much can you tell about a person by the teenage school persona? The part of me that wries YA is especially interested in this.
Who are we to each other? It's a strange and distorted mirror, looking at the people who shared your childhood or adolescence, not because they loved you, or because they chose you, but because they were simply there. High school is intense, not just because you're a teenager, but because of the degree of daily contact you have with a group of people of odd number, too many to care about them all, but few enough that you are connected, and that connection oddly lasts throughout life. I would not choose (and have not chosen in adult life) that degree of society. There's a reason why I'm a writer, why I worked from home even before I had children. It's a strange mirror, a mirror that tells us what we are not as much as what we are, a mirror that gives us glimpses into the sideways universe where we are always 15. (Why does that thought give me a cold shiver of dread? Always 15? Perhaps it's time to go break that poor girl out.)

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

thinking blogger award

I almost forgot about this!
Lili Wilkinson, author of Scatterheart, has given me a thinking blogger award. I'm fully chuffed, especially since I enjoy Lili's blog immensely.
Part of the award is nominating other people (yes, really this is a meme), still it's nice to tell people you notice them and care, so here are my awards in no particular order. It's skipping over lots of other people who I adore so this is kind of my top five of the moment. I must admit I don't read anywhere near as many blogs as I would like as frequently as I wish I could. And I tend to be a lurker.

1. Perry Middlemiss's awesome blog Matilda, which is an incredibly informative resource, giving a great overview of what's being reviewed and talked about in Australian books, and occasionally dipping into the treasure trove that is Australia's literary past. The nostalgia is perfectly balanced with thoughtful commentary.
2. Ever thoughtful Janet of Muppinstuff, who I think is actually a master (mistress?) of the blog form. She writes about personal things in an intimately personal but never sentimental or saccharine way. The snapshot of her days and thoughts are honest, rumpled, sometimes a bit knobbly - you never get the feeling she's edging her photos or her life with a vaseline gloss. She also ties visual imagery and text together in an interesting way.
3. Blue Milk is a blog I don't read regularly, but when I do I am blown away by how articulately she expresses values and thoughts that swirl around in the undercurrent of who I am, a side to myself I don't often express. She writes in a way that is never self conscious or contrived about feminism and motherhood and I find her breathtakingly smart and searingly honest and sometimes uncomfortable, because it tests me.
4. Even before I knew that I know her (we went to matric/college/senior secondary whatever together but she blogs under a different name), I loved Jamila's blog. It's a blog about so many things - art, ideas, motherhood, Islam, faith, beauty, selfhood...I'm not sure if she's still blogging, but it's worth reading through the archives regardless. I adored her back then, and we were friends, but I still felt I admired her from a distance because in some ways she is a difficult person to get to know (and perhaps so am I - I think I have always been a little private), not in a cold way, merely inscrutable. Anyway, she is still inscrutable, but this makes reading her blog all the more rewarding.
5. The delightful Meli started commenting on my blog a while ago, so I trotted off to read her blog, as is the natural order of things. Anyway, I'm glad I did. If you click on no other link today, click on this one, her post on paragliding. It's truly awesome and it will make you believe you can fly.

More Coraline

A trailer for the book (not the stop-motion animated movie, which is out in 2008).

And another quote:
“I swear it,” said the other mother. “I swear it on my mother’s grave.”
“Does she have a grave?” asked Coraline.
“Oh yes,” said the other mother. “I put her in there myself. And when I found her trying to crawl out, I put her back.”
Neil Gaiman, Coraline

Quote of the moment

“Nobody sensible believes in ghosts anyway––that’s because they’re all such liars.”
Neil Gaiman, Coraline

Sunday, August 05, 2007


I joined facebook just to see what it's all about. I suspect it may actually be lowering my IQ.
It's an oddly fragmented/fragmenting experience, and yet strangely compelling.
Anyway, on a completely couldn't-be-more-unrelated note, Martin talked to the tenant who is currently living in our new house and she says that kangaroos come and visit the front garden some mornings (right up to the veranda), kookaburras and rosellas feed out of her hands, an echidna was recently rampaging through her flower beds... Doesn't it sound idyllic? Who will I be when I live there? I can't wait to see the house again, we haven't been back to St Andrews since we bought the house. Martin and I both tried to draw a floorplan and completely disagreed on where the bathroom is and where the dining table goes. But we both agree there is one of each. So that's comforting. It feels very surreal and distant, we asked for a 90 day settlement, which is 3 months and a quarter of a year, so I guess that's why it feels like a long time away. I think settlement is October 10.
Okay back to reading Chekhov for the class I'm tutoring... (must not check facebook must not check facebook)

Friday, August 03, 2007

because it's cute

Una calls stewed apple 'stupid apple'.
And she calls outside/the backyard 'backside'


Thursday, August 02, 2007

Hot Fuzz

We watched Hot Fuzz a couple of nights ago. It's a movie made by the same guys who did Shaun of the Dead. I loved Shaun of the Dead. It was clever, funny, silly but it was still a bloody good, bloody scary, bloody bloody zombie movie. Hot Fuzz is the same, only this time it's a cop movie, but like Shaun of the Dead it works in its genre while simultaneously spoofing the genre, while also paying homage to the genre. I think the pacing is slightly off and there were a few times when my attention wandered (for example, I'm not one for protracted gunfights). However, sometimes the slowness in the build-up is perfect: like the beginning of Shaun of the Dead (which is the best example of foreshadowing I have ever seen), Hot Fuzz has all this deliciously eerie tension and atmosphere, which focuses on seeing the bizarre in the everyday. The editing is virtuosic, for example the journey at the beginning from London to the country town is a truly astonishing and surprising bit of film-making.

I also loved that they spent so much time showing the blossoming and then deepening friendship between the two main characters. What's so beautiful about these movies (yes, I meant to use the word beautiful) is that they both have real heart. The relationships are achingly real, within all the jokes and schlock and viscera and physical humour, and the actors spin from playful to serious on a dime, flawlessly.

Watching Hot Fuzz made me happy. It made me really, really happy.