Good lord I am tired. Part of it is insomnia: while other people lie awake thinking about their mortgages, I lie awake thinking about my word count. The rest is just trying to exist in this exhausting city with one day off a week.
For the past few weeks I’ve been corralling words into pens of meaning, barking after ideas which refuse to go in the gate and join up with other ideas, and chasing half of my writing out to pasture because it’s irrelevant. I’m desperate to just curl up in the sun and sleep, but there’s no chance of that, because it just keeps on fucking raining, doesn’t it? Where the fuck is summer? I have short skirts, frocks and stilettos that need wearing and a tan that needs acquiring.
And to cap it all off, the sow at work who DOES NOT STOP TALKING … EVER … wrote on the whiteboard yesterday; ‘The longest day of the year is June 22nd from then on it starts getting darker and my birthday.’
Aside from the fact that this is grammatically incorrect and the solstice is on the 21st, I do not need reminding that winter is back on its way. Winter means depression, and no light, and more tiredness, and horrible coldness … so of course her birthday would be on the day that it starts getting darker.
What a jolly barrel of laughs we are. But then, that’s nothing unusual.
So … to keep H happy we must think of some Happy Thoughts.
Viz: I have just finished the best book I’ve read for ages – and I’ve been reading quite a lot of good things lately. If you need something to read, pick up Helen Dunmore’s The Siege. The writing is bordering on exquisite, and the subject matter – an entire city of people starving to death during the siege of Leningrad in 1942 – is fascinating. But what makes it so captivating is that it’s a very feminine rendering of war, in the sense that it’s the women keeping everyone alive because the men are away. I’ve read other good war books – Primo Levi’s If This is a Man and the inevitable Birdsong (which has probably the worst sex scenes I’ve ever read, although the battle scenes are brilliant), but they don’t depict the experiences of women in war very well. Because of the attention to detail, and to the sights, sounds and smells which the female protagonist is feeling – there is this very delicate, almost sensual web laid across the utterly bleak landscape. As well as this, I had the sense that the author was handling the reader carefully by making sure that nothing really bad happened to the important characters, because if it had, it would have been too depressing to bear.
And on top of it all, Dunmore is a superb writer and I was feeling somewhat inadequate by the time I’d finished the book. But that was partly because I’d read a bad review of my novel on the web while I was bored at work. The reviewer, Gillian Dooley, is a librarian in Special Collections at Flinders University and reviews for the Australian Book Review. In the ABR website she says, ‘Reviewing is necessarily subjective and I will always express a forthright opinion, but I hope to tell readers enough to decide for themselves.'
She was certainly forthright when she wrote, ‘White might have done better to write the novel in the diary form, giving the narrative more immediacy than the conventional past tense she has used. But then again, there are so many things wrong with this novel that I’m not sure that any merely technical alteration could save it.’ But was she allowing the reader to make up their own minds? I should hardly think so. A good review finds the positive and negative things in a work and I believe this is also how you should approach teaching creative writing – never put someone down unless you have something with which to buoy them up. And the novel was in diary format, and it didn't work, so I rewrote it in third person, even though this meant writing it out again for the third time.
How does one learn to disregard their reviews? They almost precipitated Virginia Woolf into a relapse each time they came out. I guess it’s just a case of thickening your skin. Mine is tough, since I’ve been writing for years, but a review like this still makes you think, ‘Ouch.’ But then you forget about it.
On the plus side (since H likes all manner of shiny linings), on the website for the gay and lesbian bookshop in Darlinghurst, they had put three little icons next to my book which said:
The only other one (in the lesbian section) which had all three was Dorothy Porter’s new book El Dorado.