“Nan Shepherd’s “The Living Mountain” (1977) is a meandering diversion of a tale that aims to help you to see the world “as the world sees itself”. Shepherd frequently gives you an eagle-eye view at the same time as describing the view from the snail beneath your feet and the hair on the back of your neck, so that your understanding of this place, the Cairngorm Mountain, is multi-faceted and omnipresent. She feels the mountain with all of her senses, describing the incredible ability of the hand to experience textures, temperatures and touch, and she mourns the loss of this daily exploration of the world with our bodies as much as our minds. Her major plea in this book is for us to live “all the way through”. You will find yourself dreaming of sleeping on a juniper bush, to be woken by a robin’s claw. Hovering over yourself, one part of you will be in a mountain in Scotland, while your body fulfils its functions at your workplace.”—
Have a safe and happy Christmas, everyone. I’m off to wrap and write cards and clean up my house (yes, it will take a week. It will!)
Enjoyed very much hearing Tim Minchin’s terrific ode to Christmas with the SSO on the ABC last night, particularly the softening of a rather stern violinist’s face just behind him, to the right, as he sings the last verse. Videos online don’t stretch to the SSO concert yet, but this one is very good.
“George’s Shakespeare and Company goes beyond the standards of a “good bookshop,” the defining aspects of which, for me, include being well-curated, able to surprise me with the right book at the right moment; reliable, with a solid backlist; and not outrageously expensive. George’s vision for Shakespeare and Company was to make all of this readily available in his “rag and bone shop of the heart.” But because of his particular genius, he created a space that was so much more than just a shop: it was an experience. Many people today are quoting the lines that are prominently displayed in the shop: “Be not inhospitable to strangers, for they may be angels in disguise.” A self-proclaimed “tramp,” George Whitman welcomed all those who tramped through his doorway. He presided over a community, and we are sad to see him go.”—Maitresse: On George Whitman, 1913-2011
Very handy, I have just finished reading this rather seductive new book from Mr M. Maybe I prefer Prochownik’s Dream, maybe not.
It is beautifully written, as always, humorous, energetic and thought-provoking. Along the lines of, how do we keep these arty people out of our storytelling? what kind of story does a biographer tell? Funny old Heide place.
It’s that time of the year again, when everyone is posting their “Best Books of the Year” lists. And few places do it better that The Millions, who ask authors to name their favorite books of the ending year.
Here’s a round-up of our titles in The Millions’s lists:
When I come upon a bad assonance or a repetition in my sentences, I’m sure I’m floundering in the false. By searching I find the proper expression, which was always the only one, and which is also harmonious. The word is never lacking when one possesses the idea. Is there not, in this precise fitting of parts, something eternal, like a principle? If not, why should there be a relation between the right word and the musical word? Or why should the greatest compression of thought always result in a line of poetry?
This heart-rending article appeared in the November 25-26 Weekend Australian Magazine. Regrettably it is now behind a paywall - I had a fulltext copy emailed to me courtesy of my public library’s subscription to Australia and New Zealand News Stand.
I was away, taking a much-needed break myself, when this article appeared about the relinquishment of an 8 year old boy, Sam, to the State in Queensland by his mother, who could no longer care for him on her own.
I only found out it had been published when letters appeared in this weekend’s magazine. I’m publishing a large chunk of it here and I will contact The Australian to ask them to put it all online again. But you can find it yourself quite easily from a State or local library website.
I have not known many days as awful as the one on which I gave up my eight-year-old son Sam. His departure itself had been uneventful. To an outsider it might have seemed that a run-of-the-mill Saturday morning outing was about to take place. I had strapped him into the back of the four-wheel-drive, kissed him as many times as he would allow and held my daughter’s hand as the vehicle reversed down our driveway. The driver returned our waves with a cheery toot of the horn but my little boy sat expressionless, looking straight ahead. There was nothing unusual in that either. His could be a hard eye to catch.
Depending on what perspective one chose to take, it could have been considered the beginning or the end of my life. It was the end of purgatory but the next destination did not feel like either heaven or hell. Rather, another in-between place, a post-cyclonic wasteland - or even the real world. That was a place I had not lived since 2004. It was certainly the end of my longing for a miracle. I had finally stopped hoping that my child would be restored from the mysterious neuro-psychiatric disorder that had swept tsunami-like into his life in the four months prior to his third birthday. This mysterious condition had robbed him of his ability to speak, to move freely, to do almost anything that boys like to do.
What I find toughest to deal with is this woman’s continuing psychological suffering since her son being taken into care. Her struggle to return to normal life involves crucifying her body at the gym so she can sleep:
In the months that follow I find myself struggling to find equilibrium and giving in to tears that rise as naturally as breath. I am unmoored by grief that seems rawer than it did five years ago. For so long, hope and fear had battled for supremacy in my thoughts while adrenalin and fatigue co-piloted my body. Now, when all of the above have decamped, I am left alone with myself, a redundant shell, and even less of a mother than ever for my daughter, the child left behind. Born just as the catastrophe struck, she has no experience of parenting that is more than cursory, or of what life might be like in a home that is not a fortified asylum. I did this not just for myself but for her - to try to give her normality and a mother who once in a while might be able to come when she called.
Exercise becomes my solace and I spend hours in the gym each week or pounding the pavement, hoping to buy some private peace - or at least a straight stretch of sleep. After six years of half-slumber, straining to hear the manic giggle, the shout or the cry that would herald a 2am start to the day, it’s not so easy to just roll over and wake up at seven. And there’s grim satisfaction to be had from forcing the body to work beyond its normal limits; counting the reps and increasing the time the flesh can withstand the insult. My pleasure in the pain does not go unremarked, even in this space so scented with the sweat from oversized arms and washboard stomachs. “You’re like a machine. What do you think about?” is an enquiry I have heard more than once. The answer is “exactly nothing”, and that’s the reason I can be found here every other day. I need to keep a lid on my own emotions while I help my daughter to process hers, to understand that we are still a family, a small, fractured family, not the woman and child we now appear to outsiders to be.
The Weekend Australian Magazine, November 25-26, 2011.
Nobody should be forced to such a decision, should they.
Today in 1893 Sylvia Townsend Warner was born. We are proud to put back into print three of Townsend Warner’s novels: Lolly Willowes, Summer Will Show, and this past August, Mr. Fortune(an edition that combines both the novel Mr. Fortune’s Maggot and the follow-up novella The…
The tough but charming Schwartz, who has made millions of dollars in property development, has been in publishing for 37 years, and has had a rollercoaster ride during his colourful career. But he’s always bounced back, and nowadays bankrolls book publisher Black Inc as well as Quarterly Essay and The Monthly, which turns out some of the best writing in Australia.
So does he have power? “Yes, I think we do make a contribution,” he tells The Power Index.
And we agree, because his small publishing company, with its 25 employees, is the most significant left-wing voice in Australia. Schwartz’s audience is not that big—Quarterly Essay sells 15-20,000 copies and The Monthly 30,000 (with 120,000 readers)—but it has plenty of powerful people in its ranks. “With numbers like that, there’s no way we can influence society at large,” says Schwartz, “but we do influence the influencers”.
Australians living with a disability have the worst quality of life in the developed world and their employment opportunities have hit rock bottom, according to a report issued today by PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Currently almost one in two people with a disability in Australia lives in or near a state of poverty while globally, Australia is at the bottom of the heap, ranked last out of 27 OECD countries, with those with a disability 2.7 times more at risk of poverty while the nation fares little better in rankings for employment opportunities, listed 21st out of 29 OECD countries in that category.