Exercise; Write 3 versions of the opening of your autobiography. These versions should be distinctly different in some way.
(suggestion of abuse in (2) - nothing explicit)
There’s so much I want to fill you in on. I guess I should start with the funeral. We played Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins, and everyone sat in a circle so no one would have to turn their back to the coffin. It must have been late June, winter. Heather says it was hard to explain everything to me, she didn’t have any nice stories about heaven to comfort me with. She says I started sucking my thumb again after the funeral, and carrying my cuddly blanket around. She had to replace the satin ribbon around the edge because I wore it out running it through my fingers.
There are loads of photos – adored only child and all that. My curls grew longer and darker, by the time I started school they were brown. There’s a picture of me on the first day, with my socks pulled up to my knees and a bright yellow school bag. Heather says I didn’t even look back.
I loved writing, even then. I’ve got some of my stories, mostly deeply moralistic, heavy with themes of peace and conservation, even animal rights. The same hobbyhorses I ride today.
But the first poem I had published was a letter to you. I wanted to let you know that we hear echoes of you - as though your footsteps are just beside me. Sometimes I listen to the concerto over and over for hours. Running the notes through my fingers. Sucking the comfort from them.
Perhaps it would be easiest to start from that day, and work outwards from there. I don’t even know the date, although it’s one of my few actual memories, a brief snapshot, like a scene caught by a flash of lightening.
It was rainy that day, but not stormy. I was wearing my baggy Levi’s with daises painted around the ankles and the button up fly. (That means it must be after Steph arrived. I must have been 12, maybe 13, but I’m guessing).
The rain, and the jeans. The rough texture of his shirt. Drawstring. Naked skin. Pain.
There is that split second of realisation, in the middle. Before that second there is the past; that happened to someone else. After that second, everything disintegrated.
My life began at 3:34pm on Sunday July 27 2003, aged 22 and three weeks. I know people throw around phrases like “life doesn’t begin till 40,” and no one pays much attention because they’re just being cheesy and metaphorical. Other people claim to have had a spiritual rebirth, a new beginning. That’s not what I’m talking about. I started to live just under a week ago. Sure my heart was beating and my lungs were sponging up the air for a couple of decades before that. But they don’t measure life by the heartbeat these days – doctors can keep your heart with machines for years after the life has left you. It’s the mind they’re worried about. Consciousness, awareness.
For 22 years my existence consisted of dislocated images, like stills torn from a film and thrown together piecemeal. I existed trapped in the present moment, with no grounding in the past, and no view to the future. I had no sense of my self existing from moment to moment, no sense of who I was over time. On the outside, I could go through the motions of living, but on the inside, I was empty.
If I were to write an autobiography that started from my childhood, I would piece together my life from photographs, letters, and stories told by friends and family.
If I were to write an autobiography based on my experiences, I would start last Sunday. I curled up amongst the stones on Moa Point beach, and I cried.
Suddenly I’ve lost faith in the pool safety at Kilbirnie.
“They should be fine in the little pool,” she says to me as she leaves. “There’s two lifeguards keeping an eye on things.” So I’m about to wander over to the big pool with the eldest…
Next minute this little kid gets kicked accidentally, and crawls out of the pool with blood pouring down his face and arms. He runs past the two lifeguards, who are so deep in conversation with each other that they don’t notice, and reaches his mother, sobbing hysterically. She bundles him up, and carries him past the lifeguards, who still don’t notice. She grabs some hand towels from the changing room, and mops up most of the blood. Turns out it’s just his nose that’s bleeding, but there’s blood everywhere. His mum takes him back to where she was sitting, and finally one of the lifeguards notices. She shouts something into her walkie-talkie and runs off to get some more paper towels. Then the two lifeguards spend about ten minutes cleaning up the trail of blood the length of the poolside, meanwhile they’re too busy to notice any kids who happen to be drowning...
I instantly grew eyes in the back of my head and the ability to identify 6 year old boys on the other side of the pool with their backs turned…
Want to know the best way to get wet without actually getting into the pool? For rapid saturation I recommend practising waterpolo passes with 7 to 9 year olds.
I miss waterpolo. Anyone want to start up a social team? Of course then we’d have to find another team to play. Guess we could just play five on five. Why isn’t it easy? Like getting together and kicking a soccer ball around. And no one I know has even played before. *Sigh.*
When I grow up I’m going to design an intelligent, wise and sensible email system. One that says "are you really really sure you want to do this?" when you click the send button. One that flashes up "may I just point out that you're going to regret that last paragraph tomorrow..."
I’ll make millions. And save a lot of face. Mostly my own.
I think I might go to the States. Yeah yeah, I hear the knowing chuckles of those of you who know about the woman I met at a poetry reading last week… more on that later, perhaps. But really, it hasn’t got anything to do with that. It’s just… I was born there. I feel as though one day I should go back and check out my hometown. See the sights. Visit out the Great Lakes again, now that I’m old enough to do more than just cry the whole time. Maybe head over the border to Canada while I’m there. It just feels like something I should do. I’ve even got a US passport, it’s just gathering dust in a drawer back home.
Hey, thanks to Richard D. Bartlett for the GeoURL tip-off. I can’t decide if it’s really nifty or just kinda scary. It was fun working out my co-ordinates though, I had it down to 4 decimal places, and stopped short of pacing out how many meters south of the road by bedroom was. Then I chickened out and rounded it off to 1dp. I figure I leave enough details lying around, if someone really wants to track me down and stalk me then it shouldn’t be too hard. But the idea of someone actually being able to follow me around with a GPS? Yuck. Anyway, I’ve been added. Click on the link under rings.
And check out the pretty picture of all the websites glowing...
At one point during the evening I definitely had enough for the bus trip home, but when I actually got to the bus stop, I couldn’t find it. And I wasn’t going to get paid until 3am or whenever it goes through. And it was cold. And I was f’ing tired. I tried to track down several friends who live in the CBD, but none of them were home. What were they doing at 10:30pm on a Tuesday night? What, do they have lives or something? Freaks! I collapsed on a park bench and sulked for a while, contemplated bawling but I didn’t have the energy. Thought about sleeping there, but did I mention how cold it was? So I started plodding towards home. And some random slightly drunk but lovely guy saw me looking miserable, asked what was wrong, and gave me the money for the taxi home. I love the random kindnesses of humanity.
Sometimes I wonder what would happen if I clicked on "delete weblog." Would it really disappear? Just like that? Irretrievably? How many times would it ask if I was really really sure?
The taste of you clings to me
like a skin of memory.
I find myself touching
the echoes of words
tracing the outlines that linger
pale ghosts in the air.
Grief is like an instrument
that sharpens the edges of the world.
Each blade of harakeke
is polished by the sun.
Each stone on the beach
tells its own story.
She says to me
Death is like salt and pepper.
The salt of tears
Ashes tossed by the wind.
PG blog (contains mentions of abuse)
Having suggested in the previous post that there is “evil” in everyone’s heart, I’m wondering what form my own dark side takes. And I think the part I am most ashamed of is being careless with other people’s virginity.
There’s something terrifying about knowing that you are someone’s First. The realisation that another person’s impression of sex is about to be shaped by your hands… and probably by other parts of your anatomy. The responsibility is heavy. Are they really ready? Are they truly over their Christian guilt trip? Do they really what they’re getting themselves in for? Do they know what they want? Play your cards wrong and they might regret this for the rest of their lives. The first time is like to become burned into their memories.
Yeah, I remember the first time vividly. “I made you bleed,” he said, but I didn’t feel any pain. I felt numb, and my limbs were like ice. I wanted to be sick. I wanted to cry, but I felt like I had turned to stone.
I wish I could say that the first time I had sex consensually it was like loosing my virginity all over again – he treated me as though it was my first time. Looking at me anxiously, checking I was ok. “It gets better, really it does.” But I was way too used to the motions, and too scared of the emotion. I watched the procedure from far away. Laughed and sighed and groaned in all the appropriate places. Told my arms to wrap around him and my lips to brush against him.
I wish I’d been a more compassionate deflowerer myself. I knew how to drive people wild with pleasure on a physical level, but I had no idea how to guide them through the emotional journey.
I just wish I could get more involved if I chose to.
Ah well, sex can be fun, I just recommend choosing someone who has a reasonable amount of experience. I’ve kind of gone off one-night stands. It’s not that I have any moral objections, it’s just that is tends to be more fun if you know how to push each other’s buttons. Having repeated one-night stands with the same person seems to work for me.
See that’s the problem, I’ve never done the one-nighter properly. I’ve never done it with a complete and utter stranger – there’s always some link (however tenuous) to my social group. Well, what do you expect in Wellington? And that link always seems to spoil everything. You think you’ve had a no-strings-attached shag, but then the next day your friends say, “You slept with her? No, you can’t have, it must have been someone else. She’s got a boyfriend. She would never do that. She’s just found out he’s got cancer…” Shit, that kind of thing can really make you feel stink.
Yeah, I’m disillusioned and jaded and guilt tripping and then some. See, that’s the thing – I get so upset when guys can be so damn insensitive, and then I go and do it to other people. I can kind of understand why people who have been abused go on to abuse other people. Scary. That’s why I don’t believe that anyone is really evil. Sure, people do awful things, but there are always the reasons why. And often, those reasons have a lot to do with being hurt.
“Since boredom advances and boredom is the root of all evil, no wonder, then, that the world goes backwards, that evil spreads. This can be traced back to the very beginning of the world. The gods were bored; therefore they created human beings.” - Soren Kierkegaard.
In the comments on the last entry, Cathy says “Absolutely. There is no such thing as an evil person. There are, however, people who do evil things.” I remember saying exactly the same thing to someone, a friend of mine who is an incredibly wise and insightful woman. “I used to say exactly the same thing,” she said. “But now… I’ve lived a little longer. I’ve met people who chill the air around them.”
I dunno. Perhaps I’m just young and naive. I’ve never known of a human being who I could confidently call evil. Definitely a few who have done evil things – take George Dubya for a start. Evil? I dunno, he seems to stupid and pitiable to be evil. They say even Hitler was capable of kindness. They say he had the most beautiful eyes.
Just supposing there are people walking around who are actually evil? How did they become evil? Surely they weren’t born that way? I’ve met children who were fierce, angry, bitter, violent… but never a trace of evil. So, what? Something happens to them, a transformation? Why? I imagine they’d have to experience something so awful that they gave up all hope.
Evil seems to imply a loss of what we consider human. An inability to feel emotions; sympathy, benevolence, sorrow and love. This seems to push evil into the realm of psychiatric disorders. Is evil a moral issue, or a clinical matter?
I still can’t believe that there is anyone truly evil walking this earth. We all have the capacity to do evil, and some of us choose to. Surely we must all have the capacity to do good, no matter how deeply we have buried it? Believing that there are evil people seems like taking the easy way out. As Alexander Solzhenitsyn so eloquently puts it, “If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being, and who is willing to destroy his own heart?”
I think perhaps watching Buffy can lead to an unrealistic glamorisation of Evil. I mean, face it, they make it look so damn sexy. In the Buffy world, evil can involve minimal clothing, a wicked sense of humour, and a low hungry growl in the back of the throat. Also possibly chains and knives and lesbian subtexts. And the other kinds of evil, the gross fat slimy guys and grumpy carebears with fangs, have an average life-span of 0.78 episodes. If they’re really evil they’ve got to the end of the season at best, before action packed, skimpily clothed and quick-witted smittage takes place.
Let’s face it, real life evil is not like that. It’s power games that involve blowing up children who happened to be born in the wrong country. It’s breaking people’s spirits, driving them like slaves, and then only worrying when the sweatshop they are trapped in burns down because it might damage the company. It’s medical experiments without consent, it’s abusing people who are already weak. For some people, it’s an every day reality. And it’s ugly.
I want the fantasy. I want to live in a world where evil is Willow in black leather, with whips and chains.
You should have seen the moon tonight – it was amazing. I had my glasses off and I could see this bright spot, about where I imagined the moon should be, but only a little larger than a star. I put my glasses on, and there was the moon, a fingernail crescent, pale orange and partially smudged out by sooty clouds. There was just this one tiny sharp point that was free of the cloud and glowing brightly.
What wasn’t so cool was that I was awake to see it at 4am. Yeah, got that insomnia thing going on again. (Some people have said that I have a gift for writing prose, but I’m not sure that it’s alive at this hour of the morning).
I read something cool about the moon recently. “One hour’s light to be left and there’s the excrescent moon sponging off the last of it.” – Allen Curnow. (I love the way the word “excrescent” has connotations of a moon that has just passed through the crescent phase and is swelling to full. Ex-crescent as well as excrescent.) The title of this blog is an obscure mutilation of the first line of the poem (nobody comes up from the sea as late as this). I had to point that out, otherwise nobody would know how clever I can be at 5am.
My room is heavy with the slightly dusty smell of flax. Perhaps I’ll go and weave some, to pass the last couple of hours until it’s time to officially get up.
Apparently M&M’s are not a balanced meal. Not even the giant packets of M&M’s mix-ups (a Kaleidoscope of all your favourite M&M’s chocolates -milk chocolate, peanut and crispy - in the one convenient pack).
I feel slightly sick. Maybe that’s what happens when you mix your M&M’s.
Did you know that in North America they have about nine different flavours of M&M’s, including peanut butter, and dulce de leche. And they sell 2kg bags in the supermarket. That’s enough to make several people feel slightly sick.
Don’t you hate it when you have a busy day, and lots of things happen, some of them exciting and the kind of things that you feel the urge to tell everyone about, but really, for various reasons you can’t. So you end up blogging about that time when you decided that M&M’s would make a good substitute for dinner. Yeah, I hate those days.
In the US of A you can even choose from 21 colours of M&M’s to match your corporate or team colours. Don’t you wish you lived in America? (I’m sure they’d ship them here, for a fee).
So yeah, several things happened today, but they all involved explicit or implicit confidentiality, or they involved people who might not like events to be blogged about. So I’m floundering around with nothing to say. Sorry. Shit happens.
It’s true what they say – It’s the chocolate that melts in the mouth, not in the hand.
Instead you end up with sticky rainbow coloured hands.
Do you reckon M&M’s would make for a nutritious breakfast?
Ms Gleeson had an oil burner on the windowsill It’s probably supposed to be relaxing, Chloe thought to herself. I bet it’s called “Serenity,” or something corny. It got up her nose. Literally. Her head ached from trying not to sneeze.
Ms Gleeson was leaning back in her chair, hands clasped over her stomach. She was wearing jeans that were slightly too tight for her bulging figure, and a gypsy top. Spare me, thought Chloe. She’s trying to be cool.
Weren’t counsellors supposed to say something? Didn’t they give you help, tell you what to do? Ms Gleeson was staring at her, as though inspecting something fascinating. And here we have exhibit B: The Tortured Adolescent.
“I don’t know what to say.” It was true, but she desperately wanted to say something, anything, to push words into the silence before it swallowed her up. Once the words were out she felt better. She had made the first move. The ball was in Ms Gleeson’s court.
“That’s ok.” Ms Gleeson leaned forward encouragingly. “Why don’t you start by telling me why you think you’re here.”
There was a hole in the arm of the chair, and she picked out tiny pieces of foam and arranged them in a pattern like a flower. Why she was here? Wasn’t that obvious? Because she was nuts, otherwise she wouldn’t be sitting in a counsellor’s office terrified because she seemed to have lost the ability to speak. Her throat felt swollen and her mouth was dry. She forced herself to open it, to squeeze out a sound.
“Because Mrs Gray sent me here.” Ms Glesson was still looking at her, expectantly. It wasn’t enough. “Because…” She fumbled around, looking for the right information. “Because she was worried about me. Because she thinks I’m crazy.”
“And what do you think, Chloe?” Ms Gleeson was still looking at her intently.
Outside Chloe could hear the shouts of one of the classes down on the playing field. PE, or one of Mr Reid’s weird math’s games. She wished she were out there with them.
Her throat was swelling up again. Her leg was going to sleep but she couldn’t move it. She stared at the foam petals, and imagined scattering them with a finger. She started to panic. She was frozen. She couldn’t move, she couldn’t speak. She was going to be stuck here, forever, pinned down by Ms Gleeson’s unwavering gaze.
“I understand that you’ve been hearing things. People that no one else can see or hear.”
Suddenly Chloe was free to move. She flicked the pieces of foam off onto the floor, and glared out the window. If Ms Gleeson already knew all about her, why was she bothering to ask?
“I’m not crazy,” she said quietly, speaking to the sunlight and the voices on the field. “They’re real people, they’re as real as anyone. They’re just… from the past.”
Another exercise from one of my courses - we had to write three "snapshots" of someone we know. I've chosen my great aunt Chris.
Christine Cole Catley – Perpetual Life!
Snapshots at the Party
A photographer himself, he resents the camera
but he’s giving his grudging consent for this occasion.
One chance, one snap, that’s all you’ve got.
He has an echo of her smile.
It’s as though her lips have closed on marvellous secrets
her eyes are brimming over with stories.
Behind her right shoulder
Michael is turned away from the camera.
Her other son, by affection if not biology.
The younger generations crowd around her
vying for her attention.
Hoping to drawer out that vivacious laugh.
It’s possibly the only time she’s been lost for words
– but not for long.
“How did you do this?”
The camera captures her mid exclamation.
In her hands, “Christine Cole Catley, the First Eighty Years.”
All her children gathered around her
Wineglass in hand, head thrown back in laughter
she looks as buoyant as any of her grandchildren.
A fruitful life
We thought of choosing gooseberries,
until we heard they’d been infiltrated
by raspberries in gooseberry jackets.
You can’t tell who to trust these days.
- Fleur Adcock
During a stint in advertising Chris was asked to come up with a new name for “Chinese Gooseberries.” In the climate of suspicion and animosity resulting from the Cold War, “it was quite out of the question for New Zealand to export a communist fruit,” says Chris, shaking her head in disbelief.
Chris came up with a long list of names, including Love Berry and Fuzzy Berry. Right at the end, in desperation, she added Kiwi Berry. Soon after, New Zealand began exporting Kiwi Fruit. Fruit connoisseurs around the world have since developed an unnerving habit of abbreviating the name to “Kiwi.” This can be problematic, as the name Kiwi, originally belonging to an endangered species of flightless bird, is also used to refer to the “straight-laced and straight-faced” inhabitants of New Zealand.
Chris is a 5th generation Kiwi herself, and she knows plenty about the subject. She was the author of “the Xenophobe’s Guide to the Kiwis,” a summary of “the character, values and foibles of the Kiwis,” using sweeping generalisations and sharp observations. With Chris’s keen eye and wicked sense of humour, the nation was in good hands.
Chris’s contributions to the country extend far beyond naming the national fruit and encouraging us to laugh at ourselves. She was a passionate and outspoken leader in the early days of Parents Centre New Zealand. When she learned that she was suffering from ME (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) she became a contact and spokesperson for sufferers, and published a book about the condition.
These days Chris is known and loved for her contribution to the literary community. She set up the renowned Wellington creative writing course, founded the Picton Paper, and established a successful publishing company. She has been mentor and role-model and friend for many of the country’s journalists and writers. She is executor of Frank Sargeson’s estate, and chairs the Frank Sargeson Trust which provides fellowships for promising writers. Chris herself hopes to go on writing and publishing until she’s 92. No doubt she’ll cram as much into the next twelve years as many people manage in a lifetime.
I listened to the first interview in the back of a lecture theatre, with one earphone hidden behind my hand. I wanted to listen to you live, as though I was eavesdropping on your conversation.
You sounded tired, and I worried that age was finally catching up to you; it had been a long Christmas.
I needn’t have worried. A week later I can almost hear your eyes sparkling.
Has Kim Hill ever asked someone back the next week for another interview? It’s a testament to your character. The two of you are like old chums - sometimes it’s hard to discern who the chuckles and exclamations belong to.
I worry that with such a generous circle of family and friends you will not notice me. But once pinned down, you give yourself completely. Your entire attention; the concentration of those eyes, and all that intellect, advice and encouragement, like a gift.
Today you give your attention to Kim and a nation of listeners. You share your anecdotes, your laughter and your firm convictions. But not entirely. I am more interested in the pauses, the stories you choose not to tell. I imagine you are exercising the “compassionate truth.” I wonder if you are showing compassion to yourself, or to others?
You say you are interested in the nature/nurture debate, but all the evidence is with nurture in your presence. Your enthusiasm is infectious; it spreads as rapidly through conversations as it does through bloodlines.
You’re right about funerals. The gratitude should be expressed and the stories told while you are here to enjoy them. So thank you, Chris, for the opportunities you have created. As a writer, as a woman, a grandniece and a friend, I thank you for the contribution you have made to my life.
I don’t know that it’s got much to do with the endocrine system, but you seem to have mastered the “integrity and perpetuity of life”. You have given so much of yourself to your children and your children’s children. Your spirit seems to stride forward for generations.
One can generally tell how much work I have to do by the degree of procrastination employed. Today I did the dishes and washed the bedding. I emptied the fridge, wiped it down and melted the medium sized glacier that had been spreading at the back for months. I rewound all the tapes of Buffy videos I’ve watched so far. I checked the mail. Six times. I checked my email (I’m not even telling you how many times). I read stonesoup. Then I went back and read it all again in case it had been updated. I surfed blogrings, searched the net for cartoons I remembered seeing years ago, and wrote a letter to my neighbour’s great-aunt Josephine. And then, when all other possibilities were exhausted, I blogged about it.
That much work.
Just performed with three other women in the loveliest evening of poetry and music I have ever been a part of. The audience were attentive and supportive, the atmosphere relaxed and friendly and the other performers inspiring... and as if all that wasn’t enough, there was free vegan cake in the interval! (Plus free drinks for the performers, and a book voucher each). Thanks to everyone who came and to the women's week organisers, especially Tanya, for such a beautiful evening.
The psychiatrist tells me I am confused
about my sexuality. I only think
I am a lesbian, because (she tells me)
I am afraid of men.
I tell her she is being ridiculous, and anyway
I loved a girl for thirteen months
before the rape.
The psychiatrist tells me I am lying;
there must have been an earlier rape
And at eleven years old I couldn't possibly have known
I was a lesbian.
It’s obvious really, I’m in denial and all this
lesbian business, it’s just a phase.
I’ll grow out of it.
With the right kind of therapy.
The doctor is confused about my sexuality.
She asks if I am sexually active, and then
she asks me why there’s no mention
in my notes of contraception.
I tell her I’m bisexual and she asks
if I’m promiscuous and have I been tested
One day I go to the doctor for the morning after pill
and she gets angry at me for being careless.
She says What do you mean you didn’t want it?
It takes two you know. She refuses to give me the pill
unless I agree to take a handful of condoms.
I take them without a word
and throw them in the bin on the way out.
The pastor tells me I’m perverted. She wants
to pray over me. I tell her I was a Christian, once
but the church and I decided to go our
She say that’s ridiculous;
if I’d been Christian then, I’d still be Christian now.
I just have to realise that I’m fallen and dirty and if I pray to God
he will drive out this spirit of homosexuality.
I tell her she can damn well give it back.
God gave to me.
I think the pastor is confused
about my spirituality.
It makes perfect sense to me, I am nineteen years old
and I have fallen in love with a boy
in a black skirt that clings
to his slender legs.
I don’t tell anyone about the skirt.
It would only confuse them.
(scraps of journal from a walk around the south east coast)
On a windless day, it is hard to escape civilisation; even in this valley, sheltered from views of the city, the persistent hum of aircraft mars the silence.
Down by the road
the whirr of passing cyclists
voices snatched from the air
half a conversation
a ragged breath.
A boat, run aground
a jumble of rocks and plants.
Flakes of white paint lie
like dandruff on the grass.
A manoeuvring propeller;
on its shoulder
the faint indentation
The surface cracked, rough
with rust. Blunt
edges of the blades
into the dirt.
Up on the hill
the monument to a peaceful dictator
like a huge stick of chalk
scraping the sky.
People have invaded the earth and the air; even the surface of the water is sliced through with boats. But beneath the surface the sea is teaming with life. Tangles of seaweed and flickering shoals of fish, clusters of crustaceans. I sit beside a rockpool, watching the tiny shells of living creatures, hundreds of them, going about their lives.
Hard to believe
this calm pool of water
in the palm of a rock
is part of the sea.
I remember as a child I was afraid of the sea. In summer we would head north to Maunganui, Waihi or Waiheke Island. I would lie awake for hours, stiff with fright. It wasn’t the crash as the water was dumped onto the sand, but the silence as the sea sucked each wave back. Each pause seemed to stretch for an eternity as I imagined the sea rolling back towards the horizon, the purple rim of the ocean lifting and rising against the clouds.
Here the sea seems feral, desperate. The waves fling themselves at my feet, water torn to shreds - white ribbons thrown across the rocks.
When the wind is aroused, civilisation retreats back to the city and the coast is raw and isolated. The only sounds are the rush of the wind and the explosions of spray. The only sensation is the sting of the wind, cold and laced with salt.
Back in the city I cling
to shreds of the sea
reaching towards the sun
the huge bodies of waka
pulled high on the beach
away from the fires.
creeps out of the valley
his green children
rangiora, kawakawa, ti kouka
reclaim the hillsides.
beneath the surface
the sea writhes.
like a koru
woven from flax
the past and the future
nudge against us.
In Harry’s class today we had to tell three stories, two of which were true and one which was a lie. I’m not very good at lying, but I managed to convince most people that Jeanette Fitzsimons is my third cousin once removed. Most people refused to believe that I got hypothermia at a rock concert.
Realised last night that people don’t actually argue with me much these days. Or tell me how wrong I am, or how foolish. The guys I hung out with in high school used to point that out to me quite a lot. We’d often have heated discussions, which I would usually use because they used big words and confused me. And because I wander around with the idea that I am always wrong ingrained upon every particle of my being. I’m not very good at defending myself (you wouldn’t think that I was once captain of an award winning debating team…)
Last night someone had a great time ridiculing me about my subscription to spirituality. The argument was amusing and frustrating and rather silly… but also slightly alarming. I woke up this morning and realised that I wasn’t actually entirely sure why I’ve ended up as involved as I am.
I don’t believe that the bible is a divine document, that it is God’s word, or that it is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. But, as this friend pointed out last night, I’ve never told the Rainbow room kids this. I’ve never said, I think most of this book is a load of crap, but we’re going to pick and choose a few stories from it because… well, I don’t know really. Because that’s the tradition in the community we have chosen to be a part of.
I don’t really know why we (as a fairly radical church) still use the bible so much. Sure, there’s some good stuff in there. Some interesting ethical discussions, some cute metaphors, some beautiful poetry. And a whole lot of awful stuff too – brutality and bigotry and injustice.
Not just in the bible – in the history of the church. There’s centuries of terrorism, corruption, coercion and abuse in the name of God. It’s still going on – and nothing can justify that. It’s bloody awful. But I’m not ashamed to be a part of a church community – because it’s not the same church that committed those crimes. It’s a church that works towards peace and justice, a church that tries to prevent institutionalised brutality, not perpetrate it.
I’m there because I love being part of a community that includes people of all ages and many walks of life, coming together because of common passion, and hope. I like being part of a community where ethical issues are discussed, questions are asked, ideas are explored. I feel healthier when I spend a bit of time each week meditating, or singing, or listening to music. And yeah, I do believe in something that I call God. Using the word God is problematic, but I lack the imagination to dream up a better word. I just believe in this collection of things and ideas, and I call that God.
It’s got something to do with the pattern of self-organisation, the “mind,” that is present in all matter. It’s got something to do with the distance between stars and the dance of electrons. It’s got something to do with wanting to plant trees, and be kind to people, and challenge injustice. It’s got something to do with the laughter of friends, and tears, and how silent Saskia was before she died.
I just don’t have a word for the wonder of life, the universe and everything, and sometimes I use the word God.
Today’s the day… start my workshops, one this morning and one this afternoon. I made muffins but then forgot and they burnt on the bottom.
My mum likes the notes I wrote before writing the piece about Daz, the character sketching bits, more than the actual vignette. Damn. I’m not that happy with any of it, but no time to rewrite now.
And no time to blog, so here’s the piece that isn’t the actual piece.
Put down Daz, for my name. Mum’s the only one who calls me Damien. I’ll be 17 soon. Almost legal, for most things. Physically? Studly. Nah, I wish. Short, but not that short, you wouldn’t really notice or anything. I’m just not very tall. I go to the gym, sometimes. Brown hair - I’m gonna grow it long, so I can fling it around in the mosh pit. I live in Hamilton, in the most boring dimension of the known universe. Do you have to put all the true stuff down? Can’t you say I live on a space station or something?
Family, check. School check. Community, check. Post-apocalyptic? Well, if you count my sister Rach hitting puberty, that was pretty apocalyptic. She spun off into psycho drama queen world and she hasn’t come back. Details? What kind of details do you want to know? We live in a house. On a street. With some trees. And me and Rach made a treehouse, out the back. Sometimes I still go there, when I need to think. Rach is almost two years older than me, but she doesn’t act it. She spends most of her time talking on the phone, or screaming at mum. Mum’s ok. She’s a maths teacher, at the university. She used to play piano too, but she doesn’t have much time these days. Dad buggered off years ago. We used to stay with him on the weekends, but now he lives in Sydney.
Mostly I hang out with Jason and Rawiri. They’re the guys I jam with. Jason plays drums and Rawiri plays bass – he’s really good too. I play guitar. I write songs too, but Jason always wants us to do covers. There’s a few other guys we hang out with at school, and my mate Kristina. She’s pretty cool, for a girl. We’ve known each other since kindy, but she only told me this year that she’s bisexual. That’s pretty cool, we can check out girls together.
Music is definitely my passion. Some days I think it’s the only thing that keeps me alive. Not just playing music, listening to it. Sometimes when I’m listening to something really good, I feel as though the music is seeping under my skin, controlling me. Like it’s changing the speed of my heart, like my skin is just a thin tissue holding me together with all the music inside, rippling and pounding. I want to write music that makes people feel like that.
Everyone has secrets. No, I’m not telling you mine.
Love? Yup, put a big tick beside that. Lola Martinez.
I love saying her name. Lola. Like my tongue is kissing the roof of my mouth.
Actually her real name is Maria de los Dolores Garcia Martinez. Imagine being called “Maria of the pains.” I know that’s what it means because I put it into an online translator. She says most of the girls in South America are called Maria something-or-other. Of course, no one gets called by their full names. So it doesn’t get confusing, with all the Marias, they all have nicknames, like Encarna, for Maria Encarnacion, Marite for Maria Teresa, and Lola for Maria de los Dolores. All the boys are called Jose something. Jose of the refuge, or even Jose Maria. I’m glad I wasn’t born in South America. Imagine being called Joseph Mary. Lola says it doesn’t sound weird in Spanish. She’s an exchange student, in case you were wondering.
I am such a doofus.
I don't want to talk about it.
Went to see the Southern Cross Soloists tonight. I really enjoyed it, though the women who were leaving just ahead of me after the concert were very disparaging. Most of the audience seemed to enjoy it though, the players came back for an encore. They played a new commissioned piece by Gillian Whitehead, which I really enjoyed. It finished with the pianist standing up and strumming the strings like a harp. I enjoyed the ensemble so much that I started wishing that I could play the clarinet – until the Beethoven. The pianist did an amusing introduction, referring to the wind players as "an assortment of plumbing disasters," and noting that the piano was the only instrument that didn't have a puddle under it. Hee!
Added a couple of young adult books to my reading journal, including Alex by Tessa Duder, which was one of my favourites when I was a kid. Discovered after I finished reading it that it’s only on the extensive Book List (the one that’s ten pages long), not the Required Reading list (the one that only has about 50 books). Woops. Oh well. We have to read at least two a week, at least fifteen from the Required Reading List. So far I’ve read two, and the workshop doesn’t start till Thursday, so hopefully I’ll have a wee bit of breathing space. Except for the fact that we also have to have a draft of the first 15,000 words of our novel ready in a few weeks. And then there’s the little matter of the other two workshops I’m taking. PANIC! No, don’t panic, relax. I’m sure it will be fun. Of course it will be fun! It’ll be a blast. Just rather an intense blast involving lots of hard work.
Speaking of which, I should get some sleep so I’ll be able to do some tomorrow. Didn’t get to sleep till 5am last night. Too much coffee? Buffy withdrawal? I can’t believe I watched ten episodes on Sunday...
From an initial shortlist of 48 I have managed to narrow down my Film Festival wish list to 17 movies. I can probably afford to go to five, at best. Feel free to tell me what to go see, cos I have no idea. There's about 150 films in the festival, so I think I'm doing well to cut it back to 17. Why can't they spread them out over the year?
Here's my list (so far)...
All or Nothing
The Crime of Father Amaro
Dreaming in Motion
Is the Crown at War with Us?
Love and Diane
Love is a Treasure
Mercano the Martian
I’ve been reading Jennifer Weiner’s advise for aspiring writers;
“The big joke in the publishing community is that smart editors shouldn't waste their time at lunches or conferences, but should instead proceed directly to the local elementary schools. There, they will carefully note the boys picked last in gym class, the girls sitting alone in the cafeteria - all of the outcasts, misfits, geeks, dweebs and weirdos - and give them some kind of small identifying tag (much like wildlife services will tag animals to follow their progress through the years). Twenty years later, the editors should track down the kids they've tagged, now hopefully grown to more successful adulthood, and say, ‘Okay, where's the book?’”
Right now my writing aspirations revolve around finishing the homework before my workshop on Friday. We have to write a vignette about a teenager who is searching for something, and they come into contact with an adult. We have to use a combination of narrative and dialogue, conveying sense of the teenagers reaction to the adult, etc, thinking about point of view, tense, tone, cadence, language, bah blah, physical surroundings, ambience…
Here’s my first draft, really not sure what to do with it. Any suggestions and comments appreciated.
At night the stained glass windows come alive from inside. In the carpark Daz looked up at the dark skeleton of the church, light bursting from between the ribs, colour spilling over into the darkness where he stood. Daz felt a faint shiver ripple through hid body, though the night was not cold. He shoved his hands into his jacket pockets, and shuffled through the door.
Inside it was warm. Not just the temperature, but the tone, the quality of the light. There were electric lamps around the edges of the room, but in the space at the front of the church there was a huge candelabrum, like a tree bearing fruit of wax and flame. There were about twenty people gathered in a rough circle, and someone was softly strumming a guitar. Daz hesitated in the shadows near the entrance. He wasn’t sure any more, that he belonged, that he wanted to be here. Then he noticed her, she was kneeling with her back to him but her long black curls were unmistakable. Lola.
“Damien.” It was Mr Richardson. “I’m glad you could make it. Come on in, we don’t bite. Much.” Daz grinned back, uncertainly, and followed Mr Richardson down the aisle.
The first hour passed Daz in a blur. He sat between Mr Richardson, and a varsity student who introduced herself as Tracy. Whenever everyone bowed their heads to pray, Daz found himself peeking through his lashes at Lola, dark curls tumbling like a waterfall around her face. Sometimes everyone started speaking at once, in low droning voices, and Daz stared at his feet and moved his lips silently.
The guitarist was joined by a girl playing hand drums, and people started singing. Daz closed his eyes, and felt the light and the music throbbing around him. He felt awkward, but at the same time, on a deeper level he felt peaceful. Voices murmured around him, rising and falling like waves.
Then someone offered him a plate of bread, and he reached out his hand. Suddenly Mr Richardson leaned towards him and whispered, “You should only take communion if you’re a catholic.” Daz snatched back his hand, and felt his cheeks burning. When a cup was passed around he shuffled out of the circle, not wanting to touch it in case he did something wrong. The warm peaceful feeling was gone, and he felt confused and angry.
Mr Richardson apologised to him after the circle began to break apart. “I should have explained to you about communion. I’m so used to being around people who are part of the church, I forget that not everyone has been brought up with these traditions.” Daz shrugged and looked away. Lola had slipped out the door before he’d had a chance to talk to her.
“We’re getting together for a shared supper,” Mr Richardson went on. “We can have a chat if you want, over coffee and biscuits.”
“Sure.” Daz hovered in the corner of the lounge while Mr Richardson went to get some drinks. The varsity student, Tracey, was talking to a couple of guys. No, not talking, arguing. Daz kept his eyes lowered, but listened to what they were saying. They were talking about some guy who had shot an abortion doctor in the States.
“But by killing one doctor, he prevented the killing of hundreds of innocent lives,” one of the guys was saying.
“Are you saying that he was justified in murdering the doctor?” Tracey cut in.
“I’m saying that what he did was no worse than what the doctor was doing every day. Maybe he was braver than most of us. He took action based on his Christian beliefs.”
“But he murdered someone! Nothing can justify that.” Everyone turned and stared at Daz. He felt himself blushing again, he hadn’t meant to speak so loud.
“Damien is right.” Mr Richardson was back with two mugs of coffee. “The doctor was murdered, and the church condemns that act.” Daz looked up in surprise, just in time to catch Tracey smiling at him.
Daz followed Mr Richardson to a seat, and sat with his fingers wrapped around the hot mug. For a few minutes he stared into the hot steam.
brings you "Women's Words," an evening of poetry and music, starring yours truly and three other beautiful and talented women. 7:30pm, Tuesday July 22, meeting room 3 in the student union building. Entry by koha.
I finished season three!
My eyes hurt. And my head feels funny. And every time I close my eyes I see demons.
Does every season end with a near apocalypse? It’s kinda exhausting.
Oooooooh I just watched the best Buffy episode ever. It had Willow twice. Both Willows. At the same time. Wow... I don't know if I need any more, I could just watch this one episode over and over again...
I feel guilty an awful lot. I’m not really sure where this came from – it wasn’t a feature of my upbringing, that’s for sure. But I definitively picked it up, somewhere along the way. I feel guilty about all sorts of things – succeeding, failing, not saving the world… and you know what? There’s no point. It doesn’t achieve anything. So, I’m making a conscious effort to not feel guilty unnecessarily. So far I’ve got to the point of noticing when I’m feeling guilty, which is a start. You’ve got to notice what you’re doing before you can train yourself not to.
Take tonight, as a case in point. I had a lovely evening – unplanned and unexpected which made it all the more delicious. Nothing like going for an invigorating walk around the coast, and then throwing pieces of concrete around a beach to make a body feel alive. Followed by warmth, cups of tea, gingernuts, good wine, damn fine food and splendid company. Yet, if I counted all the twinges of guilt I felt during the evening, I would run out of fingers and toes. I felt guilty about not helping with the cooking and cleaning up (even though I was specifically instructed not to). And then I thought, this is silly, I should just enjoy myself. For the past few years I’ve been the responsible one who does most of the cleaning etc, and it’s damn nice to go to someone else’s house and not do any of it. But then I feel guilty about feeling good about not having to do the work. And then I feel guilty about even being there, as though I don’t deserve to have lovely friends who are kind to me.
It’s silly. And I should stop. And I’m trying to! But I just don’t get where it comes from?
Also feel guilty about doing three writing workshops (because lots of people applied and missed out) but I’m planning to enjoy them anyway. Although right now I’m freaking out. We just got our first exercise for Kate’s course, writing for young adults. I think it’s going to be quite challenging. On top of the writing, we have to read a minimum of two novels a week, and write a commentary of them. And that’s just one course. I’ve got three of them. Cripes! Also yay! Becoming more and more convinced that writing is what I want to do.
I’m reading The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier at the moment. “The exhilaration of the moment vanished and he sought it in vain, like seeking ecstasy’s memory an instant after jacking off and encountering only shame and guilt.” That’s one thing I don’t seem to have an inherent sense of guilt about. Pre-abuse I felt totally comfortable with sexual pleasure. These days guilt creeps in, but only occasionally.
Speaking about wanton pleasures, I’ve been dipping into The Adulterer’s Bible by Cliff Fell, which was launched last night. Also Good Luck by Anna Livesey. Both are delicious, and reviews will appear on the Reading Journal page when I get around to it.
At book launches I always feel a mixture of exhilaration and despair. The despair part is something to do with thinking “I’ll never be that good.” Until now I have been able to take comfort in the fact that my favourite poets didn’t start publishing until their late 20’s or older. But now there’s Anna, who is only a couple of years older than me. She’s had poems published in numerous journals, won various awards, and now she has published a superb first collection which will probably go on to win further awards.
I can’t decided whether to feel bitter and twisted, or inspired.
I think, instead, I’ll curl up in bed and read.
Really, I have nothing to say. My life currently consists of watching Buffy and drinking Soy Chai Lattes (drinking chocolate? that’s so last month!) I may have to invest in a small coffee plunger, so I can froth my own milk. Oh, and maybe a DVD player. I don’t like being so dependent on other people.
I tried to do some writing this evening (because my flatmate is in his room, on the phone, so I can’t watch Buffy videos, or log on). I’m still having plot issues. Lack of plot issues, to be precise. I started writing a story about a cat that was scared of ants, but nothing happened. The cat and the ants just stayed on opposite sides of the cat flap, disliking each other. There’s only so much prose you can write about a nervous cat before it starts to get really boring.
Oh, by the way, I’ve added my reading journal to the menu over there on the right. At the moment it consists of my course reading journal, plus a couple of things from the last few days. I’ll add to it every time a movie or book grabs me, shakes me, and says “write about me.”
Meantime, cos I have no life and therefore nothing to blog about, I’m just going to post one of the stories from my folio. Apologies to those of you who have already read this one.
I know it’s very careless, losing an uncle, but ours was particularly hard to keep track of. He used to disappear for weeks at a time, but he’d always turn up again. Trouble was, we never knew when that was going to be.
I used to like it when Uncle Gus turned up on our doorstep. Sometimes it wasn’t much fun being the only boy in the family. We never had a dad. Well, biologically everyone’s got to have a dad, but we never knew ours.
Once Uncle Gus told me he never really knew his dad either. Uncle Gus and Liz were really young when their father died. Once he told me that he always wanted a brother, so he could play boy’s games, like cricket and go-carting. I knew exactly how he must have felt.
Uncle Gus was always turning up at the most inconvenient moments. That’s what Liz said, anyway. The last time we saw him was when Miriam went into labour with Lu. The car wouldn’t start, and everyone was running around panicking. Suddenly, Uncle Gus turned up on the doorstep with a big box under his arm. He plonked it down in the middle of all the chaos, and sat on it.
“Now is really not a good time,” snapped Liz as she rushed inside to phone an ambulance. Uncle Gus just stuck his hands in his pockets, crossed one ankle over the other, and started whistling.
“What’s that?” I asked him, looking at the box.
He just winked at me, and kept whistling.
“If you’re going to hang around, at least keep an eye on the kids till we get back from the hospital,” Liz yelled as she rushed past, half pushing, half carrying Miriam.
Uncle Gus waited until they’d gone, then he disappeared into the shed. I looked at the box. I wondered if he was working on one of his inventions.
Uncle Gus was always working on some kind of invention. Like a toaster that spread the butter on before the toast popped up, or an iron that made the clothes smell nice. Miram wasn’t very happy about the iron, it left smeary marks all over her favourite blouse.
Uncle Gus was good at fixing things too. When the washing machine broke he fixed it so well it washed the clothes twice as fast, and picked up National Radio.
On the day Lucille was born, he got the big ladder and propped it against the house. Then he tied a rope around the big box, and climbed onto the roof.
“What are you doing, Uncle Gus,” I yelled.
“I just need to borrow your aerial,” he yelled back. Then he started to pull on the rope, so the big box rose above the ground, then swayed backwards and forwards up towards the roof. When he’d hauled the box to safety, I followed up the ladder. Uncle Gus pulled a hammer and some barbecue tongs out of his trousers pocket, and started tinkering.
“What’s it going to do?”
Uncle Gus looked at me as though he was trying to work something out. Then he gestured for me to come over.
“Can you keep a secret?” he asked me.
“Sure I can.”
“A really big secret. You can’t tell anyone, or they’ll all want to do it, and that would be chaos!”
I nodded, in what I hoped was a grownup, trustworthy sort of way.
“I’ve discovered the secret of living forever!” He had such a big grin on his face, he looked as though he might split in half. “I’ve got it all worked out. All I have to do is travel into the future.”
I scratched my head. “But won’t you still die in the future?”
“No, that’s the trick! See, if I travel into the future, I’ll still be old, but I’ll be old in the future. You know what that means? I’ll be young now! Get it?”
I didn’t really get it at all, but I nodded anyway.
“If I’m old in the future, that means that I have to be young now, to grow up and be old then. So I get to live twice! And if I do it again once I catch up to myself, I’ll go on living and living!”
He was getting really excited, hopping around on the roof and waving the hammer. Then suddenly, he looked serious again.
“Promise you won’t tell anyone?”
He went back to rattling the hammer around inside the box.
“But Uncle Gus? I’ll miss you.”
He looked up at me with a surprised expression on his face. “But I’ll still be here, son. Don’t you see? I’ll just be younger. But you’ll recognise me, I know you will.”
When Liz and Miriam got back from the hospital, the house erupted in chaos again. Baby Lu kept screaming, Jackie through a massive tantrum, Tiger kept trying to jump into the bassinet… ok, so it was pretty much normal family life, just with one extra kid in nappies.
It wasn’t until the toaster broke that anyone noticed Uncle Gus was missing. “Where’s that Uncle when we need him,” cried Liz. She looked at Miriam. “Hey, where is Uncle Gus?” Miriam shook her head, and then they both turned to me. I just shrugged.
“He’ll turn up, some day. He always does.”
But he didn’t. He had disappeared. At least, that’s what everyone thought. Liz worried for a while, but then she got so busy looking after Lu that she didn’t have much time to wonder where he’d disappeared to. “He’s pretty good at looking after himself,” she said to me. And life settled down into what passes for normal in our family.
Except… there was this new kid, Gavin.
Gavin just turned up on the doorstep one day, not long after Uncle Gus disappeared. Liz just about fell over when she saw him, she said the family resemblance was extraordinary.
No one could work out where Gavin appeared from, and he wouldn’t say anything about his mum or dad, or where he’d lived before. Liz decided that maybe Gavin was a kid that Uncle Gus never told us about. Maybe his mum decided it was time for Uncle Gus to take some responsibility, and so she sent Gavin to look for him. “Men!” said Liz, and shook her head, but she was laughing. Gavin looked at me, and smiled, but I think he was laughing at a different joke.
It’s pretty cool having another boy in the family. Gavin is a great kid. He’s a bit younger than I am, but he’s really clever. He makes the best go-carts you’ve ever seen. The one he made for me has a built in radio. And a toaster.
Yes. I have been watching too much Buffy. Well, Iona had some tapes she wanted to get rid of, and I’ve got a lot of catching up to do, and I had to make sure Spike came back, and find out why everyone keeps talking about Faith, and… and…
This evening I couldn’t watch any more Buffy because a) the video is in my flatmate’s room and he came home and turned out to be less of a Buffy fan… and b) there was something wrong with the tapes Iona gave me. They ran out.
So I found other ways to amuse myself. Like trying to find out the answer to a riddle I heard on the radio about six years ago. There’s this dead cow, lying in the middle of a field. None of the grass in the field has been disturbed, and the cow is perfectly intact. How did it die? If you know this riddle, please enlighten me, it’s been bugging me for ages.
I didn’t find the dead cow riddle on the net, but I found lots of others. I also found out that I suck at riddles. Here’s a few of the ones I got wrong… to help you out, I’ll give you a clue. None of the answers have anything to do with vampires. With or without souls.
(First person to get them all might just find a chocolate fish swimming their way).
With pointed fangs, I sit in wait
With piercing force, I dole out fate
Over bloodless victims proclaiming might
Eternally joining with a single bite.
I am a man, but will never have a wife.
I was given a body, but never life.
I was given a mouth, but never breath.
Water brings me life and the sun brings me death.
As I went over London Bridge
I met my sister Jenny
I broke her neck and drank her blood
And left her standing empty.
I am always hungry,
I must always be fed,
The finger I lick
Will soon turn red.
All day I will follow
No matter how fast you run,
Yet I nearly perish
In the midday sun.
That downward thrust,
That never rust.
Ripped from my mother's womb,
Beaten and burned,
I become a blood-thirsty slayer.
What am I?
With the vilest, I consort,
I'm quite at ease in depravity;
Yet all divines use me,
And savants can't lose me.
A woman shoots her husband.
Then she holds him under water for over 5 minutes.
Finally, she hangs him.
But 5 minutes later they both go out together and enjoy a wonderful dinner together.
This is one of the shots from the opening of Confabulation. The books people are holding are poems that relate to the artworks.
If you’re in Wellington and you didn’t make it to the opening, the exhibition is on until July 16.
Oh… and did I mention that I sold three paintings?!! Wow.
I just wanted to say a huge thank you to everyone who came to my exhibition opening. I had a beautiful night, it was amazing to be surrounded by so many wonderful friends. I wandered around in a daze, feeling as though life was complete. Not that I wanted to die or anything, just that my life was overflowing with incredible friends and fulfilling passions, and I didn’t want for anything.
Nga mihi aroha ki a koutou.
For weeks I looked forward to reading Daylight by Elizabeth Knox. It sat beside my desk, 356 pages to reward me when I survived all the end of term deadlines. And it started off well. There seemed to be a few interesting characters wandering around in beautiful places, and I’d been assured by Bill Manhire that the vampires in Daylight were as believable as the angel in The Vintner’s Luck.
In the first chapter there were even a few passages that made me smile. When Bad’s girlfriend gave him a motivational book, he “gave the book a decisive little shake. ‘Right,’ he said. ‘This can be my – what do they call it? – my vade mecum.’ (They had visited a library of illuminated manuscripts in Florence and had admired the incunabula.) ‘This can go with me,’ Bad said. Then, ‘But perhaps you shouldn’t.’”
Unfortunately, a few pages later the book started to go downhill and never fully recovered.
It wasn’t that there was anything terribly wrong with it. I mean, Elizabeth Knox is a fine writer, and she hasn’t done anything inexcusable. It’s just… there were so many little things that grated that by the time I reached the last chapter I was sick of the book. I kept reading because there was one particular piece of information I wanted to find out, but unfortunately it was never revolved.
The vampires in Daylight aren’t quite like those in Buffy (from which I have acquired most of my vampire related knowledge). For a start they don’t seem to be evil, at least not all the time. Also they don’t have fangs, as such. They have spines on the roofs of their mouths, and a nasty habit of biting people’s tongues.
Now if I were a kiwi bloke travelling through France and I suddenly came across these pale skinned characters with glowing white hair lurking around in cave systems biting people’s tongues, I’d freak, to put it mildly. My mind would be racing with questions. Aren’t vampires a myth? What’s with the hair? Aren’t they supposed to go for necks, not tongues? Where the hell is the nearest escape route?!” But none of the humans in Daylight go through this sort of dilemma. They wander around oblivious for several chapters, and then one day they calmly think to themselves “these guys are vampires,” and then rush to join the tongue-biting action.
Oh well, I didn’t really care about any of the characters to start with. It was too much of a struggle keeping up with their stories and I felt too distant from them. There was a lot of indirect speech, and long passages of dense prose. The same narrative style that seemed refined and elegant in The Vintner’s Luck became splattered with gory blood sucking details in Daylight. After a while it got kind of relentless. I’m inclined to agree with Charlotte Grimshaw from the Listener when she says “the problem here, more than anything, is one of empathy. How are we to feel as this threesome gnaws away? Is it sex, or dinner, or a nature scene from National Geographic?”
Other minor details annoyed me throughout the book. At one point a vampire is worried about running out of oxygen, which didn’t sit well with earlier accounts of vampires being shot or falling from great heights then patching themselves together and going on being un-dead. And near the end of the story it is suddenly revealed that one of the central characters is Indian, but this doesn’t seem to make any difference to the story, so I kept wondering why it was suddenly brought up a few pages from the end.
The story touches on some interesting philosophical issues, but none of them are explored in any depth. Unsurprisingly one of the central questions raised is, are vampires evil? Any more so than humans? Occasionally the vampires in Daylight are overcome by violent and bloodthirsty lusts, but we never really find out how they feel, why they kill some people and yet become emotionally attached to others, or why some of the vampires seem to be all evil and others seem to be mostly human. And their lovemaking is thick with cliches and empty abstractions - more tedious than erotic.
One of the highlights of the novel was when one of the vampires realised that the vampire cells were like a virus, gradually replacing the human cells and taking control of her body. She wonders "whether it was possible that a soul could go to God piecemeal... she hoped her own soul was going to God like a slow vapor, like the mist lifting as daylight comes." However nothing interesting comes from the theory, or the vampire.
The most interesting character in the book is Daniel’s mother, and she only appears for a few pages. At an event last year Elizabeth Knox read the passage about Daniel’s childhood home, filled with deliciously disgusting details. “The rats were supposed to run outside and die, driven by their thirst. But the house was sodden and there was always laundry left soaking for days in a soup of fermented soap, so the rats stayed indoors. They plunged in agony through the walls. One managed to run into the circuit behind an outlet, and died there, died and cooked. Daniel and his mother went about for weeks with powdered herbs pressed to their noses. The lights went out, one by one, their Bakelite collars cracked and unable to hold the bulbs anymore. Daniel made his way about in the dark, his hand running across the fibrous, fraying walls of piled newspaper.”
I actually started to care about Daniel’s mother – she came alive for a few pages… unlike the other characters who spent most of the book bleeding, sucking, fucking, or all of the above simultaneously. In retrospect, I should have just appreciated the passage Elizabeth read as a wonderful short story, and not bothered with the novel.
But that’s just my opinion - don’t let me stop you from reading the book. Emma Donoghue says it is “quietly enthralling, unnerving, erotic… a dazzler.” You may well be dazzled. I wasn’t.
The last three days I have looked out my window to see snow on the mountains across the harbour. Just a light dusting, like someone sprinkled icing sugar over the hills. Nothing worth getting excited about if you’re from Canada or Sweden… but here, we’re not used to it being quite so cold. This weekend Aotearoa was hit by the worst snowstorms we’ve seen in 40 years. Hundreds of people spent the night in a military camp after getting stranded on the icy roads, and 10,000 homes were without power on Saturday night.
That was our car, parked in J’ville on Saturday night.
And these are my handpainted personalised clogs – they even have my name on them. Made in Sweden and sent to me for my birthday by my Svensk bro, Tomas.
The Ex Libris Papers Continue to Grow…
Trying to write a novel? Having problems with the first line?
Reading a book? Don’t like the way it begins?
Our team of talented writers are here to help you!
Here’s a tantalising selection of our mindboggling one-liners.
You’ll laugh. You’ll cry.
You’ll wonder what the f$#k was in the guacamole…
“Cherry wandered aimlessly towards the stables sighing softly as she remembered the splendid way that Nancy had filled out her jodhpurs as she mounted Bessie earlier that morning.” KR
“The sun rose slowly through the putrid yellowed haze…” AE
“Tania had started walking home from the bus already wet and tired and by the time she made it home her bra was the only thing holding out against the water.” CM
“Be vigilant, be vigilant, or God will turn away from you, leaving you wandering in the desert like a tumbleweed on crack until the next morning when your eyeballs are bloodshot and red when he will show you once more the light.” IW
“I stumbled backwards as the dreadful realisation hit me like a punch in the guts I began to comprehend the ghastly fate rushing towards me.” FM
“The Herzwesten bubbled and roiled in the huge oak barrel, much like the thoughts of Brunehilda that percolated through Brian’s muddled brain.” KR
“Jeanette dashed into the cafe, escaping the teeming rain that was waterblasting the Wellington streets and causing the sewers to overflow making Lampton Quay smell like a dead Venetian’s armpit.” CR
“In a hole in the ground there lived an orc…” AC
“The sound of orc marching songs echoed through the hills; “Where there’s a whip *k’pish!* there’s a way…” FM
“The smoke from Beowolf’s funeral pyre curled towards the night sky, while the poor dragon mouldered and was eaten by maggots.” CR
“Ashnak didn’t like wizards.” LP
“Now that we have categorically proven that J. K. Rowling is the Devil and Harry Potter to be one of his chief imps we implore you to consign your child’s copies of those dreadful books to the fires of hell where they belong.” KR
“Gosh, you’ll be able to get so much shopping into that new hatchback of yours Nancy.” LP
“The column of soldiers pushed through the long summer grass, glints of sunlight sparkling off breastplates, helmets and the tips of a forest of pikes.” AC
“So that must mean that when dad wrote ‘evil dark and threatening squid overlord’ on the family tree, he wasn’t referring to Auntie Jemima after all… Oh my god!” IW
“As I gazed at the glistening scales that had started to cover my forearms a scream bubbled in my burgeoning gills and I cried out to the luminous moon… “Mother – you Halibut!” KR
“Brian Duffy awoke with his face in the dirt of a dusty alley and the strange convection that he owned more clothes than the ones he appeared to have on.” CM
“In that place a mighty oak tree grew, and all those who picnicked beneath it were prone to bouts of rampant naughtiness.” IW
Kei te heke tonu nga roimata moou.
I know that senseless violence occurs. I know that injustice still pervades the world we live in. But it’s still a shock to be confronted with it, to find out how it has impacted on those around me. It still feels as though all the air has been sucked out of me, like the earth is less steady under my feet. It still brings the slow, quiet fall of tears. The malfeasance is a shock, the horror of the cold-hearted cruelty… but also the weaknesses it pushes up from inside me. The apathy, the feelings of helplessness that are so easy to relent to.
I hope that during my life time I will be able to make a difference. I hope I will experience a tangible change for the better.
The artworks and poems in my exhibition deal with themes of injustice, pain, hope and survival. Sometimes I believe that turning the pain into something beautiful, a poem or a painting, makes the world a little bit kinda. Sometimes I fear that is nowhere near enough.
I’m sorry you couldn’t make it on my birthday, e hoa. This is the painting that was inspired by your photograph. This is the glimmer of hope that is always there, even during the darkest night, the deepest despair. You just have to look in the right direction, turn your eyes, turn your ears, hear the korimako welcoming the dawn, see the first flames spreading over the horizon. Tihei mauri ora – always there is life, and where there is life there is hope.
Maranga ki runga!
Kia kaha kia manawanui.
Well, actually some of you got frighteningly high answers on my friendship quiz!
Wendy just got me thinking about one-sided relationships. Something I specialise in, it would seem, but most of mine occur off rather than online.
Not all one-sided relationships are unhealthy. Where would we be if counsellors told us as much as we tell them? Oh no, wait, isn’t that called co-counselling. Hmmm… The whole counselling situation is kinda weird. There’s such incredible trust involved, and sometimes it isn’t justified. And it’s so bizarre the way when the counselling ends, that’s it. The relationship is over. You’ve told this person your deepest darkest secrets, you’ve had an incredibly intense (one-way) relationship with them, and then bang! That’s it. From now on if you pass them in the street, they may or may not acknowledge you exist.
I don’t find blogging so one-sided. But that’s because a lot of the people who read (or at least comment on) my blog are people I know, or I read their blogs. I feel like I know some of the people I’ve met through blogging better than friends I’ve known for years – but they tend to be the people who write really personal and thoughtful blogs, not the ones who write really boring, weird, or superficial blogs.
I guess people often reveal only their better sides online. Or at least, they are choosing what they want the world to see. Perhaps that partly explains why it seems to be quite easy to develop a crush on someone’s online personality. It’s not really that different from having a crush on a celebrity. It’s one sided and you’re only seeing part of the picture. But online you actually have a way of communicating with the object of your adulation.
But why does it seem almost easier for people to develop virtual crushes than to fall into lust with acquaintances from unplugged life? Is it just because some days the Internet seems like a giant dating machine, where everyone you bump into is only interested in finding out how old you are and whether you’re within fucking distance, and life is all about finding a relationship and/or sex.
Well, frankly, it’s starting to bore me. I like having friendships with interesting people online, exchanging ideas and opinions. But online relationships seem to be bright flames that burn briefly. They start off with 10,000 word emails exchanged several times a day, but gradually fade into chatroom conversations that involve one person giving a commentary of what their flatmate is doing in the background. The emails slow to a trickle, then stop completely.
None of my exclusively online relationships have lasted… and I reckon it’s because there is something missing. Something that is vague and hard to pin down. Something to do with laughing together. Sharing chocolate cake in a late night cafe. Crying against the firm curve of a shoulder. Dancing around a campfire, trying to avoid the smoke. Sharing the cramped shelter of a messy tent. Sitting in silence, watching the sun set over the ocean. Just being. Together.
One new addition to the links, and one reappearance. The Listener (one of my favourite magazines for many years) now has a website. And there has been a faint glimmer of Life on Earth, so I’ve put it back on the blogroll.
And in the mail today, a letter telling me I have enough airpoints to go to Australia, or various Pacific Islands. Wheeeeeeee!
I could blog without feeling guilty!
I could curl up in bed on a rainy day with Daylight by Elizabeth Knox.
I could actually find the time to go to the gym, or aikido, or yoga, or all of them.
I could write all that cross-genre fanfic I’ve been plotting for ages.
I could waste hours doing pointless online quizzes.
So *this* is what a holiday feels like?
It’s all rather confusing actually. I have no idea what to do with myself. I feel restless and bewildered. I feel as though there is something I should be stressing about, but I just can’t remember what.
Maybe I could just fill in the time by developing new obsessions.
Notes on my latest addiction
What I don’t get is…
Why are peasants totally immune to being sworded or arrowed?
And yet the teensiest bit of stomping and they go all splat?
Yet they can emerge unscathed from burninated villages?
“His first thought, when something went wrong, was to immediately hit the escape key—even when he was nowhere near a computer.”