You are currently browsing the monthly archive for November 2012.
You know, six months out from a book launch, you just can’t wait for the big day – it’s all just too exciting. Then there’s the week of the launch and you start counting down the sleeps. But then the morning comes and you think, why the hell do I do this? It’s the nerves: will anyone turn up? But there’s also the anxiety around a story, and the people of the story, who have been private for so long, years, all of it being made public: will the words and their intent come alive for readers?
In the end, people do attend book launches, and the book is officially sent out into the world, and you wake up the next morning and think, Wow, what a night; did that all really happen? Thank you so much to all those who came long to the launch of I’m Ready Now at Electric Shadows Bookshop in Canberra on the Thursday just gone. A packed-out independent bookshop is always a thing of beauty.
McEwan on the novella
I’m Ready Now is a novella, and some people have asked me what this strange beast is all about. It’s the million-dollar question – if there can be million-dollar questions in the world of literary fiction – and many have tried to come to a definition. Back in October of this year, Ian McEwan wrote the following in The New Yorker: ‘I believe the novella is the perfect form of prose fiction. It is the beautiful daughter of a rambling, bloated ill-shaven giant’. It’s a great line. But in a feature I wrote last year for The Canberra Times on the novella, John Clanchy dived deeper: ‘Whatever we call it, the novella isn’t a novel that’s run out of puff; it isn’t a short story that’s meandered beyond its natural length and lost its way. I like working with the novella because it shares some of the most attractive features of the novel – its expansiveness, its multiple layers of theme and plot – at the same time constraining them with features normally associated with the short story: intensity of focus, singularity of narrative voice and architecture, discipline of length. But all the while remaining a distinct species, not a hybrid.’
What some are thinking
As to the launch itself, a huge thanks to journalist and writer Chris Wallace for cutting the metaphorical ribbon. What’s the best thing a launcher can offer a writer? A close reading. And no bullshit. Chris, who is infamous for calling a spade a spade, offered both. Amazingly, there’s already a review of I’m Ready Now: it’s over at the unstoppable literary blog Whispering Gums. What I love about the review is that it begins with some reflections on the launch, and the independence of these reflections make them more valuable and interesting than anything I can do here. But the writer of the review, Sue Terry, also gets the books, so much so that she concludes that ‘I’m Ready Now is about living imaginatively and about liberation, but it is also about how the past can stall us if we don’t get it in the right perspective’. Those last few words, about how the past can grind to a halt if we don’t frame it correctly, really do get to the heart of the book.
Thanks again to everyone who came along to the launch or sent warm wishes. Special thanks to Marion Halligan, Karmin Cooper, and editor Nicola O’Shea who really helped to bring I’m Ready Now to life through offering very astute suggestions. And, of course, much gratitude to Greg Gould and Lesley Boland from Blemish Books for publishing I’m Ready Now (along with Fall on Me last year). I can only write what I want to write, and what I’d like to read, which means that I may never have the biggest readership in the world (though one can dream), so it’s brilliant that Blemish has made such a commitment to me as a writer and to the novella as a form of story-telling. What now? I just hope that I’m Ready Now is read. One final time: thank you. Until we meet again.
Your copy is here
I’m Ready Now can be purchased through your local bookshop or you can order it directly from Blemish Books – that link will take you straight to Blemish’s online store.
About a launch
Somehow it’s all happening at once, so to keep track of everything that’s happening, and to share some of the goodies, here’s a very rare mid-week Under the counter post. Firstly, just a reminder that my second novella with Blemish Books, I’m Ready Now, is being launched tomorrow (Thursday) night, at 5.30pm at Electric Shadows Bookshop, Mort Street, Braddon, ACT; it’s a thrill to have journalist and biographer Christine Wallace cutting the metaphorical ribbon. Cue sleepless nights and trembling hands.
Over the last few weeks I’ve been leaking bits and pieces about I’m Ready Now, so to keep the tradition going for a little while longer, this novella manages to meander its way between Hobart, Melbourne and Sydney, and northern Vietnam and south-west Ireland also get a mention. And ‘Sail On’ by The Commodores features, and this is a band that can apparently walk on clouds – make of that what you will.
Relating to I’m Ready Now, the increasingly influential literary blog Whispering Gums recently asked me for a guest-post. I wrote about novellas (no surprises there), raising children (yes, you read that right), and how family-life is the raison d’etre of the contemporary Australian novel (I really believe that). Oh, I also mention zombies. Massive thanks to Sue Terry for the opportunity.
An anthology of giants
More broadly, I’ve mentioned before that a story of mine, ‘Severance’, which was first published in the Canberra Times in 2003 and republished in Island in 2004, has been included in The Invisible Thread: one hundred years of words (Halstead Press), which celebrates the Centenary of Canberra in 2013. Creative Director of the Centenary – and singer, writer, and arts-luminary-in-general – Robyn Archer says in her introduction: ‘The anthology includes names such as Roger McDonald, David Campbell, Blanche d’Alpuget, Barbara Blackman, Rhyll McMaster, Alan Gould and Jackie French; but there are also equally beautiful emerging voices such as those of Omar Musa, Nigel Featherstone, Sarah St Vincent Welch and Melinda Smith. That so much good writing, past and present, should emerge from this region is a powerful challenge to the silly cliché of Canberra as a city without a soul.’ Needless to say, it’s a real treat to have work included in these pages.
Oh look, I’m now on YouTube
The tireless editor and project-manager of The Invisible Thread, Irma Gold, who is a very fine author in her own right, has video-interviewed seventeen of the writers involved, including yours truly. You can watch the interview here. Mostly I talk about how ‘Severance’ (which, perhaps, has turned out to be my biggest hit) was written, the benefits of living in Canberra and now Goulburn, and juggling everything that life throws at us. The Invisible Thread is being launched in Canberra on Thursday 29 November.
I hope you enjoy the links, but it’d be great to cross paths with you in person at the I’m Ready Now launch tomorrow night, or The Invisible Thread launch next week.
- Disgrace by JM Coetzee
- Holding The Man by Timothy Conigrove
- The Blackwater Lightship by Colm Toibin
- Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx
- In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
- The Riders by Tim Winton
- Last Orders by Graham Swift
- Eminence by Morris West
- The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishigo
- The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
Twenty-three things these books have in common (and I’ve been thinking about this for ages, years really, and for a long long time I had this list up on my wall and I’d add to it and take things off until now I think it might actually mean something):
- They’re all late twentieth-century literature
- They’re all set in relatively contemporary times (i.e. 1980s and beyond), except, perhaps, Brokeback Mountain, In Cold Blood, The Remains of the Day
- The main characters are all men, except those in The Blackwater Lightship
- They’re all written by men, except Brokeback Mountain
- They’re all about men, even The Blackwater Lightship in a roundabout way
- The writers are all Caucasian, except Kazuo Ishigo
- They’re all fiction, except In Cold Blood and Holding the Man
- They’re all set in the Western World
- They’re all dramas
- Only one of them is gay-lit per se: Holding the Man
- Most of the main characters have clear occupations: academic, schoolboy, cowboy, butler, priest
- They all understand their political context
- They all ask questions about nationhood, except The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
- The passage and complexity of time is very important to them
- Family – in the broadest sense – is at their heart
- They all have strong senses of place
- Apart from Brokeback Mountain, they’re all single point-of-view narratives – simple
- They’re also all relatively straight-forward in terms of structure, but they lead the reader into tough and dark terrain: murder, mental illness, racism, religion, homophobia, right-wing ideologies, death, grief, the weight of history…but there’s also a whole lot of love
- They’re all driven by clear ‘what ifs’ e.g. Eminence: what if the Pope-in-waiting was in fact an atheist
- The prose is accessible, sometimes understated, but always beautiful
- The writers appear to be burning to find something out through the writing of their works
- There’s an overt sense of warmth and humanity – this is their true power
- My life would be less without them