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December 20th, 2005

Updates in the Random.

I think my eyes are dying.

I've hit, just tonight, forty thousand words in A Year in the City. That's just under half way. Today was the second season, 'Autumn (the Fond Farewell)'. Rewriting moves pretty quick, really, in the final stages now, and yeah, I'm going to make updates like this. Feel the joy. You know why I'm making these? Because I'm stuck in this tiny room typing to meet the deadline I imposed. The deadline that allows me about three months of dissertation rewriting, which is about what it'll take to hammer that into shape, I'm sure.

I sent a text message to a friend asking what her middle name was. Evelyn, apparently.

My friends are all minor characters in A Year in the City. It's a personalised city, a subjective city, which is one reason, but the other one is simply that it becomes mind numbing to continually think up new names for minor characters. So my friends are like actors: they play junkies, sisters, criminals, lovers, musicians, aunts, and whatever else I can come up with. They approach it like they would approach being a zombie in a horror film, mostly by moaning piteously over the phone or in person and threatening to eat new born babies. I tell them it's not that kind of novel. They tell me that they always suspected that I was a boring author, which is why they've never read my shit.

This is also why I asked for a list of the music that J. had listened to throughout the year. She told me she felt used for research purposes, but she doesn't know about the months I paid to have a private detective follow her around, recording everything she did.

It's for the novel, I promise.

Aurealis finalist stories trickle in to me. For some odd reason, it appears that a whole lot of editors have taken off on bloody holidays and reply to my emails by saying, "Sure, when I get back from drinking vodka with Russian mobsters, I'll send you the story." Actually, that was Paul Haines' email. I am suspect. He has such violence and I always suspected it was connected overseas. True story: the first time I met Haines, he was dressed as a member from the Taliban. Fortunately, Lea Greenaway, who I've never seen, and thus can't associate her with brutal regimes that burn television sets, and who is also the director of the awards, is going to send me down the stories in the next couple of days.

In case you're wondering, I am also a character in the novel. I am the author.
My parents never read to me as a child.

My parents were (and are) largely unliterary. The earliest memories I have of literature are those cheap and trashy Mills & Boon romance novels, which belonged to my mother. Also, I remember green covered guides on how to live with cancer that were hidden under my parents bed, none of which I understood at the time, of course.

The first book I ever bought was H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds. I was in year five, a couple months after my father's death, and a book club started. Throw in some money, get a book, that sort of thing. I really liked the Star Wars films, so I thought, naturally, I would like this book about alien invasion. I read about fifty pages. Most boring piece of shit ever, was, I believe, my opinion at the time. I've still never read the book. Might still be true.

The stories I remember from my childhood were told to me by a friend of the family. He would tell his kids (and consequently my sister and I when we went up for holidays) these stories about a dog called Blue. I don't actually remember what Blue did in these stories--saved little boys and girls, I guess--but the way he told them, with pouncing delight, and loud howls and barking, were just about the coolest things I had ever heard.

Consequently, I have a theory that writing for the page requires different skills to performing fiction for an audience. You can do a lot on the page that doesn't translate vocally, and you can do a lot, vocally, that doesn't read with any real interest. I often act my dialogue out before writing, however.

Every now and then, I toy with the idea of creating a performance, but then I realise I don't know shit about performing. But one day, perhaps.

The second book I bought was called Space Demons and was written by Gillian Rubenstein, who is also Lian Hearn. Space Demons was about a bunch of kids who play a video game that, slowly, starts to creep into their real world. I ended up buying it because a teacher was reading it slowly in class, and I wanted to know how it ended. I've always been a touch impatient, really. A week is a lifetime to me.

The third book that I bought was somewhere in High School, and was Dragons of Autumn Twilight, by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. I never quite got Hobbits, but I got golden skinned wizards who betrayed their friends for power, knights who got killed by old friends who stupid but noble reasons, and everything that flowed from that series. Later, I learned that Tolkien's prints were throughout it, and later I also learned that this kind of fantasy is basically one huge young adult section in the bookstore; but when I found it, I was the right age to know nothing of that.

I never read short fiction until the end of High School and then, I was only reading it because I was interested in getting published. I had been told, you see, that short fiction was a good stepping stone to publishing novels. I should've paid more attention to the fact that the person telling me this had done neither. Still, many people believe this. Perhaps that is why a lot of writers and wannabe writers read short fiction.

I grew tired of fantasy because as I grew older, it stayed simplistic. It wasn't until I found Fritz Leiber that I began to see how it needn't be, and while there are plenty of examples of fantasy that isn't simplistic, I believe the core of the genre is. It's why I have been drawn to that tangled mix of overlapping genres, where fantasy crosses into surrealism, realism, historical fiction, crime, and so on and so forth. The mongrel genre. I like this centre, for this overlap is more interesting than the centre of any specialised genre, I believe.

I wonder, at times, if writing is nothing more than a selfish, indulgent thing. No. Let me rephrase: I know that writing is a selfish, indulgent thing. I cannot compare my contribution of a bit of fiction to society with someone who, say, works as a social worker, or in any of those similar fields. Yet, in opposition, fiction does give something to society, even if it is just a communal escapism, and who is to say that's a bad thing? But the nature of that question is very demanding and, within itself, self indulgent, and there are times when I find it problematic.

Michael Ondaatje's Coming Through Slaughter is his best novel. I bet you thought I'd forgotten about books, yes? But it is true. It's one of my favourite novels.

My girlfriends have, in the past, requested that I read to them. I've never really understood it.

I adore books. They are touchstones for memories. I like to watch them yellow and curl and age, but mostly I like the comfort of them, the knowledge that, by touching the cover of one, I can remember a moment, a time, a place, a person; and within the books are ideas, thoughts, characters, places, concepts, things to challenge, things to disagree with, things in general. I rarely lend my books for this reason, but I'll buy copies for people if I think they'll like it.

I do not like having books signed. If possible, I'll avoid it, but you know how it is, sometimes, with authors you know. Itchy pens. I also don't like signing books for people. I don't like leaving the stain of my presence, though I know others don't see it that way. I'm also uncomfortable with that whole relationship between authors and readers when a book is given over to sign. My friend once said that the reason he didn't like live music was because there was a worship angle to being in the crowd, and looking up at the band who look, he argued, out on you. I disagreed, naturally, but I get the same vibe at signings. Of course, many people disagree with me, which is cool, but the whole thing just makes me uncomfortable. I secretly long to be reclusive, I think.





This began as the 15 Thing About Books and Me thing that, apparently, went round a while back. Not sure when. I'm not reading blogs at the moment, so I'm out of this loop, probably till I've finished the thesis. All I'm doing is writing in a blog.