Monday, March 29, 2010


Some people, when presented with a crisis, will stand up and take control in a calm, sensitive manner. Others act like total tits. Some people will try and centre anything on themselves, and others will cry in corners for weeks. Some people, like my dad, will be bastions of self-control and concern, up until the point where they can't resist making some sort of joke. Others, like my brother, will be charming and cheerful. And some people, like me, get quietly angry (at goodness knows what) and have the urge to knit, because goodness knows they can't do anything else to help.

I've been thinking about all of this, partly because I'm interested in trauma culture but mostly because on Saturday evening my grandparents Gill and Phil were in a terrible car accident. They're both in pretty bad shape, but should be fine (in a few months). My brother and I spent most of yesterday in RNS Hospital with Rob, our step uncle, waiting and waiting and waiting until we could see them. When we did see them, they were both pretty out of it. And because I couldn't do anything, I fidgeted. Which is where my desire to knit came from, presumably. And I thought about how we deal with trauma, and as my mind is wont to do when I think about trauma, and trauma culture and memory culture and all these things I've read about but never actually studied, I ended up at what is considered the Heart of Australian Identity, ANZAC Day, and had to go breathe into a paper bag for a bit.

Perhaps I am one of those people who makes everything about them.

I can't begin to describe how relieved our family is that they're alive. (and making rude jokes about nurses)


And when mum and dad got to the hospital (they'd driven for four hours from Orange) suddenly everything got a whole lot more real. Everyone looked tired and older than usual. Watching Dad was bizarre, and I think I probably haven't processed all of this, so I shouldn't really be thinking about it. Phil did lots of silly morphine talk.


Sunday morning saw Lottie and I going on our daily walk, wherein she drags me around for an hour and I trip over things and wonder why I'm awake at 6.30, when it's still dark. At that time of day, it's as if nothing bad has ever happened. Lottie snuffles and mumbles to herself and is just so dear that I feel we could spend all day walking.

Monday, March 22, 2010

with eyes that had gone intensely blue

I have spent all afternoon trying to write something about how wonderful E.M. Forster's Maurice is. It's a beautiful book on so many levels - the story, of Maurice Hall and his awakenings & growth - mostly sexual, but also spiritual, political - the rejection of urban England and civilisation - the love between Maurice and Clive and Alec - Maurice's heartbreak, which is so very devastating, like every first heartbreak is - the writing itself which is so tense, so perfect -the sense of change in the air -the way you can see Forster in the story - that, (according to Leavitt in the intro essay in the penguin 2005ed) Forster writes himself out of the story -the ending, which is so dearly vague as to let you think that maybe, maybe happy endings exist.

I loved this book. I've read it five times in the past week, which is not a massive thing because it's only 214 pages, but there's so much there. This is the best criticism of English culture I have ever read. This is the best gay novel I have read, because I think it's one of the best real love novels. The fact that this is a gay novel, written in 1914, is essential to what makes it great . I could go on and on and on about Maurice. But instead I think I'll cross my fingers and hope you love it as much as I do.

His mind had cleared, and he felt that they were against the whole world, that not only Mr Borenius and the field but the audience in the shed and all England were closing around the wickets. They played for the sake of each other and of their fragile relationship - if one fell the other would follow. They intended no harm to the world, but so long as it attacked, they must punish, they must stand wary, they must show that when two are gathered together majorities shall not triumph. And, as the game proceeded, it connected with the night, and interpreted it.
-page178-8, Maurice, E.M. Forster, Penguin 2005ed.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

seven hundred billion stairs

The first two weeks of term are always draining and raining. I spent the first week in a daze with "buy notebooks" on my hand, trying to remember the names of people I'm sure I've met. There are lots of orange tanned people. None of my lecturers can work the projection system. There's standing in the massive line at the bookstore to spend over $200 on textbooks, then another hour in the second hand bookstore to spend far too much on Shakespeare and books that I don't need for school, but want to read anyway. The stairs still steal my breath. The bus line gets longer every year, and they still haven't realised that they need more than one bus at midday.

It's good to be back.

Although I feel a little out of place, like someone is going to tap me on the shoulder and ask me where my mummy is. Like I've been let into second year by mistake, and the computers haven't noticed yet.

The subjects I'm taking are mostly history based, so as I've been doing the readings, I've managed to forget that there's this thing called the Internet. Really. When reading about trade routes or city walls in 15th Century Europe, or sex hierarchies in Ancient Greece, I'm sort of amused and awed by the way people found something to do with their lives other than post comments on Facebook. Which is what every student with a laptop is doing during lectures.

While I'm still managing to make an idiot of myself in tutorials, my lectures are interesting (so far) - my Modern Europe; Renaissance to Revolutions lecturer managed to make city walls almost as interesting as the awful things people used to do to one another (reigniting my interest in Heloise & Abelard). My History of Sexuality class isn't so much about sex, as it is about what people think of sex, identity and the relation between the two. And the two subjects link quite nicely with one another, as does my third class (yes, I'm being lazy and doing 3 classes. I couldn't find a fourth one I liked)

I did run away from Creative Writing, but it was more of a considered retreat. I found myself sitting in the first lecture being ridiculously worried by the number of people wearing berets. I myself own two berets, but had forgotten to wear one that day. I then realised that I would spend the entire semester in a ridiculous state of self derision and judgment, which would result in much unneeded angst and bad writing. So I enrolled in Shakespeare & Renaissance Drama, and couldn't be happier. The lecturer is brilliant, and the fact that we get to study other playwrights from Shakespeare's era is awesome, because the sex-violence-nexus focus of the time is fascinatingly dangerous, scintillating and so very clever.

I don't think I really wanted to be a writer anyway - a creative writer at least. I don't like the word "creative" as it simultaneously says "what we do is better than academic writing" and "this isn't real work". The idea of there being a correct way to write is also unnerving. But what terrified me most was having to share my work every week. I don't like having to explain my choices to people, and will often attempt to blind you with library science and intertextuality if you ask me to justify myself. "If Marcel Proust did it, so can I!". Why I'm trying to justify my choice to drop Creative Writing is beyond me. I'm happier writing papers with an academic edge, working on developing my own voice in essays. Is that nerdy? I don't really care.

Back to Shakespeare. We're currently studying Romeo & Juliet. I once saw a production of R&J done by girls from my school and boys from the local private. The concept somehow involved Bruce Springsteen songs as musical interludes performed by ex-students. The masquerade scene had Lady Capulet dressed as a naughty Red Riding Hood. Having never read the play until now, I was quietly pleased that it's much much funnier and bawdier than any school production is ever allowed to be.

And while the stories Shakespeare told are old hat to us, I think it's important to remember that at the time, this was new - it was fresh. The tale of Romeo and Juliet went against all social conventions, and today still forces a judgment of the characters. Richard the 3rd (one of my dear favourite plays) is amazing political propaganda for the Tudor family, as is Henry VIII. The plays also saw the invention of phrases that are still in use "beast with two backs" and "forgone conclusion" being but two. My highschool English teacher, when asked why we had to study Hamlet, placed her hands to her expansive bosom and sighed. "Because, my darlings, are we not all, in some way, Hamlet?" What she lacked in clarity, she made up in gravitas.

I suppose I could have just said "I took Shakespeare because it fit in my timetable" instead of waxing lyrical, but waxing lyrical about things is what I'm best at, and what this blog is all about.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

i think too loudly

UM. I think if you added up all the words I wrote in February and did some sort of mathematical thing with them, then you'd find that I did write about 25 words a day. Just not on every day. What happened was that real life got in the way. Insomuch as I have a life. I got sick, my computer got sick, my dog needed lots of walking and there were lots of books to read . (and my merlin series two dvd arrived, so there was lots of laughing to be done). But now I'm back at university, and thinking more than I do in the summer.

I've been thinking about misanthropy, and how it's becoming something we like in ourselves - most of our conversations are complaining, we actively deride the mainstream, nothing is ever good enough. It's beginning to worry me, but I'm counteracting it by looking at pictures of puppies, people with tattoos and making faces at babies - that's one of my favourite things to do, make a funny face at a small new person, and seeing their reaction. Most babies grin with delight at getting attention, some look confused. When I was working for CullaChange, a woman was having a very serious discussion with my coworker Dee, while I poked my tongue out at her baby. When they finished talking and the woman looked at her baby again, the baby stuck its tongue out. The mother said "Where did you learn to do that?!?". One of my more awesome moments, I think.

I've had non awesome moments recently. Sometimes I am a nasty person. I have a competitive streak that never found a sporting activity to keep it quiet. So I measure myself up against everyone else, and find myself wanting, every. single. time. It's getting boring. I also hate admitting that I'm wrong. All this leads to inarticulate stomping around. I know what's wrong, but I can't get it out, because I feel stupid. (And also, I feel like in this post-therapy culture where everyone's fucked up, we're becoming more cynical about people having bad days.) So the past few weeks saw me stomping around because I can't have what I want, but someone else can, but I don't want to get what they have the same way they did, I want to do it all on my own. Does that make any sense at all? Probably not.

This all culminates in me having to have an awkward talk with my father. My parents and I aren't talkers. It's awkward. I never got the sex talk all my friends did, my mother and I don't have heart to hearts. We talk about books or theories more than we talk about our feelings. Anyway, the awkward talk about what's wrong with me (because it is nearly always me) involves a clarinet, a hyperactive puppy and three tissues. I admit that I am not a nice person, but that I would like to be. My dad says possibly the best thing he's ever said to me (however cheesy it renders on here)

"So you aren't a nice person. But you want to be. That's the most important thing. You want to be good, and you try."

And then he compared me to Lancelot*, and things went back to being academic.

*people think Lancelot was the bravest knight. But he was always the most scared, and had to work the hardest at not running away. It doesn't seem as important when you learn that Thomas Malory based Lancelot on his perception of himself.