‘Missing Travel?’

Until early 2020, large numbers of Australians were committed travellers and expatriates: known to drink too much in Bangkok, backpack through Vietnam, trek in Nepal, as well as tour the Dalmatian Coast and climb Mt Kilimanjaro. In the process, they wrote about it — for better or worse — in books from Sarah Turnbull’s Almost French to Sarah Macdonald’s Holy Cow, as well as in blogs, reviews and social media posts. https://www.smh.com.au/culture/books/missing-travel-a-book-is-the-best-ticket-to-have-right-now-20210913-p58rac.html

‘What I’m Reading’

Reading Literary Blockbusters on Ngannawal Country

On Ngunnawal country, the Canberra bubble continues to expand, with its brutalist architecture, national institutions, consulates, and blue-tinged gums from which the Telstra Tower on Black Mountain (aka the Syringe aka the Spaceship Docking Station) emerges. It is not a place well-known for literary production or for the celebration of literature. The roads with their infernal on and off ramps, circuits and curves, are arrayed in patterns to facilitate communication with aliens, or for devil worship. Canberra/Ngambri manages to be the nation’s capital, and remote—provincial—estranged from the artistic and literary metropolitan centres of Australia and the wider world.

Ten Terrifying Questions (via Booktopia)

1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born in Melbourne and ‘raised’ there for a time, although we travelled and moved overseas to Canada for six months when I was three, and then we spent about six months in London when I was nine. When I was fourteen, we moved to Adelaide. I completed a year at university in Melbourne, then relocated to Sydney to finish a veterinary degree. https://www.booktopia.com.au/blog/2021/09/17/ten-terrifying-questions-with-lucy-neave/

‘Myth-busting women and literature’

The myth I’m busting is: ‘Women writers are too preoccupied with frivolous topics – hence, chick lit.’

The contention is that women writers—and by implication readers—are concerned with trivial and frivolous topics. As a male writer once said to me at a party—a famous and political South African writer—‘there’s too much kitchen sink fiction published these days’.

‘Kitchen sink fiction’: he’d had a few drinks, we shouldn’t hold him entirely responsible for this phrase, which has lodged in my mind, even though it was spoken almost ten years ago. I interpreted this phrase as being a statement about women’s (or men’s, I suppose) writing about the domestic sphere, although I may have been wrong. To a man who had been imprisoned under the apartheid regime, the domestic might have seemed like a luxury. ‘Kitchen Sink fiction’ connoted the kind of fiction written by people who had lived a comfortable and privileged existence.

‘Fantasias for flute’

MEG’S BROTHERS WERE lucky. They joined the army when they turned eighteen: first Liam, then Stuart. When reveille sounded, they sat up in their bunks and pulled on their boots. They washed their faces with a towel dipped in cold water, raised their arms and rolled on deodorant, then drained cups of sugary coffee in the mess hall. They weren’t required to consider existential questions; they simply had to do their jobs.

When Meg’s alarm sounded, she felt like a caterpillar, safe on the underside of a leaf. The central air kept her cool, so she slept cocooned in blankets. She sat up and lifted the window blind to look out at the night sky. It had a brown tinge: suspended dust. She’d seen the same sky two months earlier, on the night she’d arrived in Abu Dhabi.

What constitutes discovery?

The experience of writing fiction or making art often entails the feeling of having made a discovery or realisation. For fiction writers, this realisation can inspire the revision of the manuscript. It can feel momentous, as though the change to the manuscript needs to be made, or the manuscript is flawed and needs to be amended. At the same time, such a discovery may feel as if it cannot be communicated, or can only be communicated to other writers.