Entitlement is now on the shelves and in the stratosphere – see Book.ish, ReadCloud, Amazon, Google Play and Kobo. Alas, the ebook version is only available in Australia, so for those overseas, hard copies can be bought online from bookshops such as Avid Reader, Riverbend, Readings, the Coop bookstore, Booktopia and Penguin. You can also read the first couple of chapters on Book.ish. The novel had a wonderful send-off into the world with a launch at Avid Reader in West End. Friends flew up from Canberra, Orange and Sydney and spilled into my flat in the late morning of the 31st August. I had baked L and H a birthday cake, and subsequently set off the fire alarm with sparklers.
The swag of friends had, wisely, hired a bus to ferry us around. We checked L&G into their hotel in South Bank and lunched outside GOMA, then shopped for knitwear for SP’s party, to which we were heading after the launch, at the Red Cross in the Valley. B, who already had a knitted tennis dress, sourced a blue and white loosely knitted frock with pockets, which I appropriated. On the way to the launch I realised that I’d left it behind.
‘It’s not that important,’ H said.
‘I paid ten dollars for that dress!’
‘Ok, we can get it afterwards,’ he murmured.
At Avid there were already a few people I knew milling about. H unloaded the red wine and bubbles from Blowfly. Sister turned up wearing the same Sacha Drake dress as me, but in blue.
‘I thought you were wearing Alannah Hill?’ she said.
‘I’m wearing an Alannah Hill belt! Besides, I told you I’d be wearing this dress.’
Within minutes, it seemed, the bookstore was crammed with people. I couldn’t believe that some three years ago I had arrived in Brisbane knowing three people – my sister, a friend from uni, and a friend from school – and now I knew enough to pack a bookstore to the rafters. It was testimony, I think, to the friendliness of Brisbane.
I was in conversation with Kris Olsson, author of The China Garden, a muted and carefully crafted work about lost children published by UQP in 2009, and which, a year later, won the Barbara Jefferis award. I didn’t realise the similarities in our works, in terms of our obsessions with lost children, until later. All the same, I was delighted to have such a contemplative author launching my novel.
I said a few thankyous, enlarging on those in the book’s acknowledgements, to people who had made the novel possible. It is a Brisbane book in that it followed me from a room in my sister’s house to my own place (care of Parental Unit), and that all the days I spent in paid work at Autism Queensland and the University of Queensland helped me to write it, and all the friends I made in each new circle were interested and supportive, and helped me to get away from it now and then. I thanked Fiona, too, for her bookclubs at Avid which, when I arrived in Brisbane after doing a fairly rigorous PhD in London, were a way of keeping my brain from starvation and of meeting people. I thanked Krissy, too, for being at the forefront of the initiative to reinstate the Queensland Literary Awards, and Kris for helping to launch the book.
Finally I pointed out that in our family, we were pretty terrible at saying that we loved each other. ‘So,’ I said to H, ‘I wrote a book for you instead, and I hope you like it.’ Then I did a reading before I could burst into tears.
Kris’ questions were intelligent and leading, canvassing the inspiration for the work, how I’d researched it, my relationship with H and the themes of loss. There were a couple of questions from the audience. P1 stood up so I could see him and asked, very clearly, ‘How do you get the motivation to sit down day after day and write?’
I smiled at that, P1 and I having canvassed this topic before, and explained that I needed to write as a way of containing my emotions and, often, frustration about being deaf. If I didn’t write, I started to feel a bit sick. I asked Kris if she felt like this too, and she agreed. Mum asked Kris if there were autobiographical elements in her works too, as Entitlement was predominantly drawn from my memories of growing up on our property, and Kris replied that by the third novel, certain themes or obsessions certainly began to appear.
We sold a whack of books, which was splendid, and after shooing the people out of the bookshop, I went down the road for Indian with my friends, Bris Vegan and Southern Imports alike. The food was a long time coming, and L began to look a little grey, while I started to lose the plot after finally being allowed to drink some champagne.
After dinner we dropped off L&G and, coming out of the hotel, took a wrong turn in the party bus.
‘Don’t go over the bridge!’ I shouted.
We went over the bridge.
As I waited for H to get into the right lane, I replied to a text from P, who was stuck at an airport in Bangkok.
‘What’re you doing?’ H exclaimed. ‘You’re the only person who’s familiar with Brisbane and you’re texting your boyfriend.’
‘Right!’ I shouted, fortuitously recognising where we were. ‘You’ve gotta go right!’
We made it back over the river to home, where I changed into my loosely woven (read: somewhat airy) knit and we set off for Bowan Hills. B, L and I had a bit of a dance on SP’s living room floor, then I stupidly sat down and was so exhausted I couldn’t get up again, so H took me home.
The next day SP was missing in action because he hadn’t gone to bed until 6am. We brunched at Little Stanley Street, where my southern friends witnessed some truly awful table service, then L, getting into the spirit of things, acquired some Briz Vegan attire through the purchase of some thongs. We found some grass, sat in the sun and read the paper, while I dozed and burnt an exposed strip of skin on my back. Afterwards we ambled to GOMA to see the sculpture exhibition, which had some interesting pieces, including rotating fluffy car washers, in which I wistfully wished I could stand.
The next morning we brunched at SP’s, but this time R was out cold due to extracurricular activity which hadn’t allowed him any sleep. B lay in the hammock and read my novel, while I picked up Jim Crace’s Arcadia from a pile in SP’s room and sat in a cane chair in the garden, shooing away SP’s puppy when he gnawed the chair. It was, altogether, a truly lovely weekend.
Since then I have been waylaid by exhaustion and scuds of illness, unable muster the energy to do anything about my diminishing fitness levels, or move onto my next book, which is frustrating. My agent has insisted I have a rest before starting the next project, but I told myself I would write an intro and first chapter on Praed during September and, being stubborn, I’m taking next week off work to do it. And to generally reboot, pick up my social life again, and sleep and sleep and sleep.