Let’s celebrate by reading Janet Frame’s ‘Gorse is Not People‘.
Or by watching this:
Or by wearing something glamorous.
Or by drinking this (I wish):
Thanks, as always, for reading x
Let’s celebrate by reading Janet Frame’s ‘Gorse is Not People‘.
Or by watching this:
Or by wearing something glamorous.
Or by drinking this (I wish):
Thanks, as always, for reading x
Terri-ann White asks: ‘How often does a new writer blow your mind? Can this still happen when you are doing it as a full-on venture?’
Often it’s not a new writer but someone who is new to me. For example, I was just blown away by The Forrests by Emily Perkins, and now I want to read all of her books. I read a lot of very, very good books, but I’m only ‘blown away’ by the odd one. But yes, though I read and write all day long, I’m not cynical about it yet! I think it helps that I have other cultural interests, ie. film. And I get out to the gym every other day to help clear the cobwebs.
Lia C asks: ‘what is your LEAST favourite (I won’t say worst, though that was my first inclination) book you’ve read in this five years, and why?’
Well, there are many I just didn’t bother finishing. Of the ones I finished I think Brendan Cowell’s How it Feels annoyed me the most. I also disliked The Meowmorphosis—a book that had so much potential as an absurd parody.
Lia C also asks: ‘Let’s talk about the sky. At what time of day is the sky the most beautiful to you?’
Dusk. Definitely. At dawn I’m too busy having nightmares. At dusk, the sky turns peach and apricot, the temperature dips, you pour a glass of wine… The other day, actually, my tram broke down and I had a 20 minute walk into the Melbourne CBD during sunset. Being autumn, too, the leaves were falling. It was spectacular.
Dallas Angguish asks: ‘In ten years time, where do you see yourself? Describe, using as many adjectives as possible (minimum 20).’
I’m in an ancient, mossy stone hut in the Scottish Highlands, sipping golden drams of single malt, tapping out a colourful novel. My fubsy Jack Russell terrier excitedly awaits his dinner. My flushed children and sweet partner are snoozing by the fire, weary from their adventures. Soon we’ll gather for a colossal feast of jolly, stinky cheeses and glossy fruits. Tomorrow we’ll visit cavernous and quiet castles.
(I don’t know if I reached 20 but in a rush now!)
Lily Mae Martin asks: ‘What’s in store for LiteraryMinded?’
More of the same but as I mentioned in the last post (I think?) more videos, and hopefully a change of pace with a move overseas or more publications!
Clementine Ford asks: ‘What’s the most wonderful trivia nugget you know about an author, living or dead?’ and ‘What is one literary quote you love to share with people?’
I like that TS Eliot went around as ‘the Captain’ and would tint his face green ‘to look cadaverous’ (see more here). I also think it’s hilarious that James Joyce was obsessed with farts.
Literary quotes… Everything Oscar Wilde ever wrote. And this one from Albert Camus: ‘Nobody realises that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal – Albert Camus’. There are some gems in Kafka’s diaries, too.
And from Virginia Woolf’s ‘Portraits’:
‘But then I’m one of those people who wants beauty, if it’s only a stone, or a pot – I can’t explain.’
toothsoup asks: During all those years, what was/were your:
1. Favourite event(s)?
Getting a fellowship to stay at Varuna for a week in 2008 would definitely be up there. Seeing Michael Cunningham (who I adore) in Sydney, Melbourne and London is also up there. And one of the best panels I ever chaired was this one on magic at the Byron Bay Writers’ Festival with Kim Falconer and Maria Van Daalen. It was so lovely.
2. Most awesome material possession accumulated?
I don’t buy much outside cultural items (books, DVDs). You should see the state of our couch, pillows, etc. Would rather save money for travel than replace those things! But I do have this blue dress from Frocks and Slacks in St Kilda, a 1970s version of a 1940s dress. Polyester. It’s pretty and comfortable and I always get complimented on it. I love it:
There’s also the silver necklace G bought me in New York, moulded from snake vertebrae, and the art deco (well, ’80s revival deco) ring I bought myself in an antique shop in Windsor, near the Queen’s house.
3. Most lol-worthy interview?
Probably the one filmed on the weekend. You’ll see why, soon…
4. Books that you just couldn’t put down?
The Harry Potter series! Started reading it when I was 16. Lately: A Tiger in Eden by Chris Flynn, A Common Loss by Kirsten Tranter and Sweet Old World by Deborah Robertson were all very hard to put down.
5. Books that you just couldn’t finish?
I tried Crime and Punishment when I was about 18 and didn’t finish it. I’d like to try again. I still haven’t finished Ulysses, though I was loving it!
Laurie Steed asks: ‘You meet you from five years ago near where those Peruvian dudes busk on Bourke Street, but it’s you from five years ago. You can’t hear a thing, what with all that pan pipe action, so in the end you invite your younger self to a nondescript dumplings house in Chinatown. What advice do you pass on?’
I’d tell my younger self to keep writing, allow yourself to wallow in the hurt for a while (I was about to go through a break-up) but keep your heart open.
Jennifer Mills asks: ‘Any regrets?’
I always wanted to be one of those people who doesn’t believe in regret. I’ll keep trying at that. I do sort of regret not having the ability to see that some of my writing was bad before I sent it out. And I regret a few blog posts because they weren’t thought through, but then again, that is the nature of a blog. The problem is that people can recall them and quote you out of context! Otherwise, no regrets. So glad I moved to Melbourne.
Genevieve Tucker asks: ‘Bill Murray. Tell us what he will do next, please!’
I’m a fan of the Wes Anderson aesthetic. The Royal Tenenbaums is one of my favourite films. So much heart. Here’s what’s next for both Wes and Bill!
Bird With the Golden Seed asks: ‘Classic novel you’ve never read but have been known to nod knowingly about when it’s discussed.’
I would never!
Bird With the Golden Seed also asks: ‘Favourite line from a Bill Murray film?’
‘Back off man, I’m a scientist.’
Here’s some more.
Paige Turner asks: ‘Ultimate procrastination tool?’
Pictures of cute dogs.
Damon Young asks: ‘What’s your favourite carnal moment in a novel?’
I think that’s actually a really personal thing. I blush to think of what it is. But there’s one moment I love in Alex Miller’s Conditions of Faith where the charge of desire passes between two people (a forbidden desire) and then all you know of the ‘act’ is when her husband picks a piece of straw off her clothing afterwards. That would be one of my favourites.
Sorry if I’ve missed anyone’s qs! Thanks all so much for playing. I’ll get to your comments and replies soon. Lit-love x
Amy Espeseth asks: ‘Has/how has your fiction writing changed since you started LiteraryMinded?’ and John (Musings of a Literary Dilettante) asks: ‘how has reviewing books helped your own creative writing?’
Five years of regular writing—fiction and nonfiction—has made me a better writer. I hope I keep getting better. Five years of reading, close reading and reviewing, has definitely helped. All the books I read make me want to do better. Some books also help me realise my limitations, ie. I’m really no good at simile, unlike Deborah Forster or Ryan O’Neill. I also can’t write something uproariously funny, but I can write something a little absurd. Many authors have helped me pay attention to detail, to fill out characters and their worlds, to make them real. I’ve learnt that there really are no rules, either! And I’ve learnt this not just from reviewing, but from attending festivals. Every writer has a different method. There is no one way you should write a story or a book. I’m still learning about plot, drive and pace. I do think I learn something new with every book I review.
I’m near the end of the third draft of a novel manuscript and I know it’s ten times better than the last one. But will it be ‘the one’? Who knows. Short stories are much harder than they used to be. But I think that’s because I’ve been putting so much energy into the longer work. Or maybe it’s because they really are so damn hard to get right!
Amra Pajalic asks: ‘What was your most controversial post and why?
How has having a blog helped you establish yourself professionally, especially as a reviewer?’
I don’t even want to revisit controversial posts. It may be a giant flaw but I really find it difficult to deal with conflict. I’m diplomatic about it when it happens, but I’d rather avoid it altogether. What a wuss! Most of the controversial stuff happened when I was on Crikey. Some of the commenters could be nasty, but I think they often came via the website expecting something specific (and receiving something else—a personalised blog post). A post about the launch of a certain anthology of Australian literature and another around a certain literary prize were the most controversial.
The blog, combined with my work at Bookseller+Publisher, are the reason I am now reviewing for a wide range of media. The blog is also the reason I get invited to literary events, so yes, it has definitely helped me to establish myself professionally.
Alexandra Neill asks: ‘During the zombie apocalypse you are only allowed to bring one book (you need to carry a lot of canned goods). What book would you take with you to the end of the world?’
(Because dogs make me smile, no matter what.)
Bethanie Blanchard asks: ’Who has been the most surprising person you’ve interviewed (differing perhaps from your expectations)? What is the best piece of advice about literary blogging and / or reviewing you’ve received?’
I don’t think anyone I’ve interviewed has really surprised me, but there have been a few times when I’ve met someone and realised I’d had expectations about them that were based on nothing at all. For example, when I met critic Geordie Williamson (and I hope he giggles if he sees this) I thought he was going to be an old man. I don’t even know why, his reviews aren’t particularly ‘old’, I think I had a kind of ‘book critic’ stereotype in my head. I first met him at PWF and found that his skin was wrinkle-free, his cheeks rosy and his demeanour affable.
As for advice on reviewing, let’s turn to that young man Geordie Williamson and his excellent Pascall Prize acceptance speech on ‘open-handed criticism’.
Michelle (BooktotheFuture) asks: ‘In honour of your fifth bloggiversary—do you have a memory from when you were five years old (or around that age) that you can share with us?’
Little Robbie. A very small boy with black hair and freckles. He had more Ninja Turtles toys than me and I was jealous. He could do the moonwalk and in class he would whisper: ‘hey Angela, hey Angela’ and I’d look over and he’d have his doodle out.
Susan Wyndham asks: ‘What do you know now that you didn’t know when you started the blog?’
That the Australian literary community is so generous and welcoming. That writing is even harder than I thought. That scholarships and grants exist. That whisky has many different flavours.
Brian Purcell asks: ‘What was the second-best writers festival you’ve appeared at? (The Bellingen Readers and Writers Festival naturally being the best).’
The Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, which I’ve been to twice. Besides the stimulating panels and gorgeous setting, you get to mix with writers from all around the world at some incredible parties. The locals are lovely, the food is delicious and the booze is cheap, too. And Perth Writers Festival is one of my favourite festivals to go to in Australia. The UWA Campus is a great setting and they treat their guests very well.
mareelouise asks: ‘In all this time, is there one book that you could call your favourite?’
Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii-iiiiiiit that’s hard. It depends on my mood! Right now I’m going to say Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita.
Luke Stickels asks: ‘As a hard-eyed veteran, are there any qualities to your blogging that have dropped off from when you were starting out, but that you kind of miss?’
Well, I was a lot less guarded. I was living in Coffs Harbour and didn’t really know anyone personally who read my blog. Sometimes I wish I could write some of those posts about being lonely or feeling afraid or thinking everything is f**ked-up… BUT I think I realised it’s more fruitful (for me) to channel those thoughts into fiction (and even reviews). I also realised that other people were writing about those kinds of things more articulately than I. So I guess I don’t miss it too much. But I think some readers dropped off when I became more ‘serious’ (though still, I hope at times, absurd) but others were gained. The core remains the same, the expression has changed.
Oslo Davis asks (and illustrates): ‘Where do you stand on ebooks? (Literary):
Love your work, Oslo. You know, I’ve read quite a lot of short stories as ebooks (and published some) but not novels. I think that’s mainly because, as a reader, I like to dog-ear and notate. I also read several things at once and sometimes only remember to pick them up because the books are sitting there staring at me. You don’t get that with an ereader. So I don’t mind ebooks, but I seem to still predominantly be a dead-tree media reader.
Mark Welker asks: ‘Single biggest change in your life derived from starting your blog?’
Becoming a professional book reviewer! And I love it.
Mel Campbell asks: ‘Well—ARE you the Keymaster?’
No, I am Zuul, the minion of Gozer. I am the Gatekeeper!
Still enough qs for a part five! See you again soon…
Katy McDevitt asks: ‘I’d love to know what your “big-picture” plans are for the blog—will you be blogging a book, for example?’
I don’t think I’ll ever blog a book, that only really works for established authors like Max Barry (as with his novel Machine Man.) Video content is something I’ve been wanting to do for ages and am happy to finally be doing it. The only other ‘big picture’ plan is that hopefully towards the end of next year I’ll be blogging from abroad, from another city of literature… I have no doubt the perspective will change, and the blog might become a little more personal again as I blog about the journey. Cross fingers that at some stage I’ll also be blogging about the publication process of my debut novel.
Philip Thiel asks: ‘I’d love to hear about the space/s from which you blog. Do you move around, or settle?’
At the moment I’m blogging from a cafe but that’s because our internet is down (great timing!). I mostly blog from home, though recently I’ve moved from the dining room table back to the desk in my room. You can see that desk (or at least what it looked like a while ago) in this post on Tara Moss’ blog.
shambolicliving asks: ‘What’s the biggest factor in growing your readership? Also, what has sustained your enthusiasm for blogging over the five years?’
Joining Twitter and engaging with like-minded people on there really helped my readership to grow. Social media in general keeps traffic flowing to the blog. My enthusiasm for blogging has remained pretty strong. Probably because the main theme of the blog is a subject I’m truly passionate about. When I have felt my enthusiasm for blogging waning in the past I would change something about what I was doing, eg. read something outside my comfort zone or take a few weeks off from literary events. Sometimes it has been hard to keep up when I have so much else going on, but blogging has become habitual. I just naturally work it in around my other work.
Christopher Currie asks: ‘What’s the biggest way your reading habits have changed over the five years?’
I now find it difficult to read a book without taking notes, even if I don’t plan to review it. I read a lot more Australian literature than I did at the start or just before I started. I don’t feel obliged to finish books any more, I used to read them all through to the end. There are just too many!
Paul Anderson asks: ‘Top ten emerging authors? (I know, contentious)’
I find this so hard to answer because I can only judge by authors I’ve read, and of course, there are so many emerging authors I haven’t read. Here’s ten authors that people really need to check out, though (and I’m taking ‘emerging’ as ‘having published [in the mainstream] three books or under’). I’ll also limit this to Aus/NZ authors:
That leaves out so, so many. But you can’t go wrong if you check out the work of these authors! See this page on the ANZLitLovers blog (click through to reviews of debut novels) for more ideas. Or read the Review of Australian Fiction, which publishes an emerging writer in each issue.
Kirsten Krauth asks: ‘Why are you so passionate about Australian literature? And what set you off on that passion?’
There are so many great voices in Aus lit, writing in a wide variety of genres. There’s so much I haven’t gotten to yet. You should see the pile of books by women I’ve accumulated for the Australian Women Writers Reading and Reviewing Challenge! Alex Miller, Gail Jones, Charlotte Wood, Paddy O’Reilly and Robert Drewe were among the first authors who got me interested in Aus lit. And I started to read literary magazines when I was about 20 as well. One of the main reasons I got so ‘into’ Aus lit, too, is that I write fiction, and I was interested in what was being published. But I’m actually interested in literature from all around the world, I just end up reading more Aus lit because of the events and reviews that I do. I actually think there’s some phenomenal stuff coming out of New Zealand (and always has been).
Soph Langley asks: ‘How do you see the character of yourself over the course of the blog? What parts of her have changed? What has stayed the same? If she were a character in a novel, what novel would it be (one that already exists, or perhaps a type of novel)?’
I’m a bit embarrassed by the earnest, over-excitable (and oversharing) early ‘character’ of this blog. I think I am less hasty now, I give more time and consideration to my opinions and my writing (though I am still often embarrassed by it). I’ve become more patient, and I hope I’ve become more humble (besides this self-indulgent extravaganza!). A lot of people showed faith in my early writing, including an earlier manuscript, but then I had to be beaten down for a while (lots of rejection) in order to learn how to write better. I think it’s a good thing that I now expect much more rejection and time to hone my skills (albeit partly in the public eye!). Something that has stayed the same, from that early character, is the enthusiasm for literature! But I think I’m more analytical now, and less vague and touchy-feely (though there’s definitely still an element of what I ‘feel’ in the blog pieces—it’s a blog after all).
I used to think I was Joseph K., and I still understand the Kafkaesque feeling of something bearing down, of effort, but now that I’m surrounded by so many people who’ve felt something similar in their lives, I’m not that character any more. But who am I? A bit of an obsessive like Miss Havisham (and can easily get too comfortable), a bit of Jane Austen’s Emma, making plans (and mistakes), a bit cruel like Humbert Humbert, a bit of the literary rat Firmin, overambitious like Dr Frankenstein, existential like Hamlet, a nostalgic dreamer like Gil Pender. Would like to be a bit more adventurous like Dirk Pitt and clever like Sherlock Holmes.
Phew. I’m fading… The next post may be enhanced by alcohol. x
See part one and what this is all about here!
Glen Hunting asks:
1) How did you become a Bowie fan, and what is your favourite Bowie song?
How I came to love Bowie is explained in detail in this post but in short, I was in year 12 when I connected with his music, his chameleonism, his mix of darkness, strangeness and humour, his art and style and truly unique (always shifting) outlook. I could go on… He’s not only my favourite musician, he’s my favourite writer. My favourite song changes but at the moment it’s probably ‘We Are the Dead‘ from Diamond Dogs.
2) What was the most heartrending book/story/poem/film you’ve ever read or watched?
I can’t name just one. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell when I was a kid. The Land Before Time, Bambi, E.T. When I was 14, the film American Beauty. The Misfits with Monroe, Gable and Clift. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath and Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen (and the film, in my teens). Hamlet. Everything by Kafka. Albert Camus’ The Myth of Sisyphus. In recent years: Synecdoche New York, the collected stories of Richard Yates, Wings of Desire. I’ll stop there.
3) What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do? (Well, perhaps not hardest, but pretty damn hard within reasonable limits.)
I’ve lived a privileged life, some things have taken a lot of effort but I really haven’t had to do anything extremely difficult. There has been serious illness in my family but we all got through that together. The biggest challenges for me, I guess, were moving to a city where I knew nobody, travelling by myself overseas in my early twenties, and speaking in front of a crowd (which still makes me nervous). One thing that has been worse in the past but that I continue to deal with (as many people do) are some very negative and dark corners within my own self.
Lee Zachariah asks: ‘Do you find it difficult to keep up to date with literature given the amount of time it takes to read a book (taking into account varying lengths)? I’m asking from the perspective of a film critic. When I watch a film, I know I only need devote 90-120 minutes to it, and can schedule accordingly. It’s easy to keep up to date with nearly everything on release. Keeping up to date with literature must surely be a whole different prospect: do you pick and choose more carefully, or maybe focus on specific trends/styles?’
It’s impossible to keep up! Reading for festivals and (commissioned) reviews helps me stay relatively up to date with Australian literature, as well as reading other blogs, reviews, and Bookseller+Publisher mag (which has pre-release reviews). But I’m interested in literature (fiction, poetry, nonfiction) from all around the world, not to mention the classics. Sometimes I wish I were more picky! Ahhhhhhhhhhhh well.
A blogger named Angela Meyer
To the heights of her art did aspire.
Through her vids, posts and prose,
To great lengths she does go
To make us all Literary Minded!
So sweet, Robyne. I really do hope I inspire lit-love in others.
Alexandra Neill asks: ‘You are asked to describe your blog to someone who has never read it. Using mime. You’re allowed to use three props. What would they be and why?’
They would be:
Gerard Elson says:
My response: Addictive TV is addictive, shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii-iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit.
Gerard Elson also says: http://kingofromania.com/2010/04/22/expression-of-the-day-drum-bun/
May our drum be bun indeed, my love.
Kent MacCarter asks: ‘What are the top ten (High Fidelity style) most random promo copy titles you’ve received to review? eg, Lawnmower Repair Made Easy.‘
Too hard, Kent, these publicists do actually seem to know what they’re doing most of the time! Also, I have a terrible memory. Here’s some I wish I’d received:
Part three to follow…
Well, LiteraryMinded is five years old today, with an average of 2.2 posts per week since she began. That’s a lot of words. I’ve asked y’all to provide questions and prompts in order to spend the day writing a series of self-indulgent celebratory blog posts! Thanks so much for all the love. Here we go…
My response to that is: what happens in Prahran, stays in Prahran.
Paige Turner asks: ‘Where was your favourite place to blog from? And why?’
That would have to be in my darling partner’s aunt and uncle’s 18th century cottage in a tiny village called Huntley in Gloucestershire, England. The internet was slow as hell but I could look out at the birds and squirrels in the garden, and the deer in the field across the road. There were two Border Terriers at my feet, and my belly was full of cider and Red Leicester cheese.
I’ve always liked my name, though people mispronounce and misspell my surname all the time (it’s spelt Meyer and pronounced like Myer). I actually sign my first name with a star instead of an A and have done since I was about 15.
Kirsten Tranter asks: ‘What’s the most interesting experience you’ve had interviewing an author? What’s the secret to conducting a good interview?’
I think my favourite one-on-one interview on stage with an author was with Tom Cho at the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival in 2009. Unfortunately it was early in the morning and the audience was small. We read one of his stories out loud together, as a performance, and all Tom’s answers were so genuine and considered. I’m a big fan. I loved interviewing Alex Miller at Perth Writers Festival in 2010, too, as he’s one of my all-time favourite authors (you can listen to it here). He leaned over to me afterwards and thanked me for my knowledge and insight into his work. That was a moment to treasure.
I don’t think I’m an expert at interviewing at all, but some advice I could give would be to prepare well (read as much as you can of their work), be open-minded and show interest in their answers, and don’t talk about yourself too much. If it’s a famous author, read some other interviews so you’re not boring them (or their fans) with the same questions they always get asked.
Kirsten Tranter (from here):
This reminds me of how I feel in the early morning. Especially when I’m anxious or have something coming up, I have terrible nightmares.The other night G woke me up because I was whimpering and moaning in my sleep. I was having a nightmare where I was looking out at what I think was the supermoon (but it was daytime)—it was extremely bright—and then I fell into a lake. The lake was full of barrels that would just roll and roll if I tried to get on top of them.
Derek Motion asks: ‘who would you say are the other bloggers—say other emerging writers who were around blogging when you started—who have inspired you the MOST?’
You know your blog was one of the first I read, Derek! It’s hard to remember all the blogs I read at the beginning and I know I’ll leave someone out, but those who spring to mind (who did inspire me very much) are Genevieve Tucker, Kerryn Goldsworthy, Kim Forrester, Rachael King, Damon Young, Mark Sarvas, James Bradley, Mark Mordue and definitely Chris Currie and Krissy Kneen.
Graham Nunn asks: ‘Dylan wrote, ‘a poem is a naked person.’ What does that make a blog post?’
A blog post is a shaved cat with a piece of bread on its head.
I’m going to load up on carbs and start on part two…
This here blog turns three today. With an average of two to three posts a week since its inception, I feel like celebrating!
I was going to do a retrospective, but I usually do those at year’s end, so I won’t, but please wander back though the archives and see how she has grown. Tonight I’m going to attempt to bake a cake, and try not to burn the computer when we sit around it to sing Happy Blogiversary.
Thank you for all the comments and messages via Twitter and Facebook already. If you feel like it, let me know what your favourite post is. I’m rather curious. And thank you so much to the readers who have been with me this whole time; and to the readers who interact, comment, and also buy my print work when I mention it – short stories, articles etc. You are so appreciated. It’s been great getting to know you and I hope you stick around.
So now, to celebrate in typical LiteraryMinded style:
+ John Turturro on Beckett (there’s a lot of good Beckett-related stuff on YouTube, if you’re interested):
And this post wouldn’t be complete without a ‘partying’ Bill Murray:
Coming soon: Elif Batuman ‘responsive’ interview; review of Joel Magarey’s Exposure; and a link to a guest post I’m doing for The Gum Wall on Kafka’s ‘In the Penal Colony’.
If you catch this today and want to follow the cake-making, I’ll tweet the results, as I’ve only ever, um, made about two disastrous cakes in my life.