Higher Arc #4 selling like hotcakes!

It’s packed with extraordinary stuff:

  • A fascinating interview with Evelyn Juers — says interviewer Mieke Chew of House of Exile, ‘It’s as if Juers has an extension to Heinrich Mann’s telephone and she lets you pick up the handset in the spare room, if you promise not to breathe too loud.’ This is the interview that made me (finally) get hold of Juers’s work.
  • Scott McCulloch’s  profile of prolific Melbourne-based rapper R.A.E.D., whose ‘unhinged raps, beats and clips have caused a slew of sensations online’ and whose music McCulloch deems a ‘perpetually shape-shifting and hallucinatory act of self-portraiture': this is one of only two interviews ever given despite many requests.
  • Haunting art by Louise Hearman
  • Translated works from the likes of Yuri Herrera, Yannick Haenel, Antonio Tabucchi, and fiction from Bram Presser

Special thanks to Margaux Williamson and Wayne Macauley for their killer pieces — if their generosity is anything to go by, I can’t wait to get my commissioning on in future! In her piece about Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, Margaux makes hallucinatory art of the film review genre, and in his ‘Six Anecdotes’, Wayne, with echoes of Gerald Murnane, gives us wry, fabulist profiles of a beauty therapist, cleaner, ex-footballer, soldier and tram driver.

Head here if you want to snatch up a copy x


On writing what you don’t know

In the beginning there’s that feeling of knowing nothing, of utter stupidity. And the wading through material, the strain and tediousness, the getting nowhere and falling short when you’re learning something new. It can be tempting, I think, to delve ever further into a field or fields of knowledge we’re relatively comfortable in, but reminding ourselves of how ignorant we are in other fields is so refreshing. And it’s a revelation, too, when you tell yourself, Why the hell not? There’s no reason I shouldn’t be able to understand any of this — I just need to try harder, read more, think harder, go over it again, keep at it.

A branch of physics is what I’m working at understanding at the moment. How to paint parallels with this concept through words focused on depicting images and recounting moments? Because there are parallels, I’m sure, I just have to find them. Not actively search for them, but open myself up to seeing the connections, and then finding a means of conveying those connections. Parallels isn’t the word, really; it’s too linear. Overlap, maybe, or reflections. Opening myself up to seeing the reflections.

It’s so joyous today because I’m at the point where my reading and note-taking of the past few weeks means I now can see the shape of the section and so have been able to sit down and start writing it. This is this part I love. All the rest is necessary, a means of getting to this moment, but this is when the frustrations and restlessness of before coalesce in a flowing now. Since I had the idea to start this project on 17 August, I’ve researched and written just one other section, a grand total of 1,010 words. The section I’m working on now will probably be a similar length. It’s not much, but the compression will be key, I think, part of the piece’s identity the fact that each section could comfortably constitute a whole book.

This looker took up my time last section:







And now it’s this:

Wish me luck.

Ahoy, yes, time

1. Ahoy, matey

On Thursday, on using one of the City Library’s self-check-out machines I discovered that its instructions were conveyed in pirate. None of the others were like this. I didn’t think to take a photo and the next day, it no longer being Talk like a Pirate Day, all was back to normal.

2. Yes

I’m in the thick of beginning (and wanting to dedicate all my waking hours to) a new project and maybe that’s why Eleanor Catton’s recent move has resonated. If you haven’t heard, she has established a prize for NZ writers to read, nothing more. It’s such a superb statement, putting paid to the idea, as it does, that to write is an act of production, not consumption. As a friend said to me recently, it’s unfortunate that ‘to write’ is verb.

So much of what I’m doing right now, in this incubation period, is reading. When I’m not reading, it must look like I’m not doing anything — I’m staring out the window at the nectarine blossom, taking in the rattle of the train, the dove calls, the play of light and shadow, and all of it is helping, is moving my thoughts somewhere. It’s via a nebulous route that isn’t clear until, from out of the emptying that happens when you are alone and doing nothing else, the clues emerge.

Now that I really would benefit from more time to dedicate to this project — am practically itching for it — I’ve started looking at grant application processes. How the heart drops. It’s hard to decide whether the time away from your project to articulate it to a grant committee is worth the tiny chance at convincing them. Which is why Catton’s words on other grants seem so unfortunately right:

[they] require the writer to have a good idea about what they want to write, and how, before they apply. I think that this often doesn’t understand or serve the creative process, which is organic and dialectic; I also think it tends to reward people who are good at writing applications rather than, necessarily, people who are curious about and ambitious for the form in which they are writing.

I’m also uncomfortable with the focus that it places on writing as production, with publication as the end goal, rather than on writing as enlightenment, with the reading as the first step.

3. A film about time

I saw Richard Linklater’s Boyhood last night. Wow. If you get a chance, spare the three hours to catch it at cinemas before it’s gone.

Translation in the news

Interesting report here in the Guardian on the booming sales of translated literature in Britain.

It speaks to the Anglocentrism of some publishers in the English-speaking world — or at least to their expectation of  Anglocentrism in their audience — that many are reported as having been ‘taken aback by astonishing sales in the UK of overseas authors they had never heard of, despite their blockbuster sales elsewhere’.

Of course, their never having heard of the blockbuster authors points unflatteringly towards the former.

Speaking of translations, Giramondo has one coming out soon — it looks intriguing. I assume the author has translated it, though. (Or might Giramondo be another publisher contributing to the invisibility of translators? Hope not.)


I’m really thrilled and humbled to see this post, a response to ‘Light Dance’, over at the A WineDark Sea blog: a heartfelt thank you, Sarah! I ‘met’ Sarah after stumbling across her blog a few years ago. A wide continent separates us, but I hope to meet her one day IRL.

One of my first ever posts was about how having work published can sometimes feel like writing into the void, given the distance in space and time between writer and reader (incidentally, I don’t feel this distance so much as a reader). I posted about how maybe the best aspect of blogging is that it puts writer and reader in the same virtual space, allowing for interaction, feedback, further conversation.

This is one of those moments when that speculation is proven and I go: Yep, blogging, love it.

Nan Shepherd’s The Living Mountain,

index… which was written during the closing years of WWII but wasn’t published until 1977, is making me restless to go hiking again.

This, for example:

The inaccessibility of this loch is part of its power. Silence belongs to it. If jeeps find it out, or a funicular railway disfigures it, part of its meaning will be gone. The good of the greatest number is not here relevant. It is necessary to be sometimes exclusive, not on behalf of rank or wealth, but of those human qualities that can apprehend loneliness. (14)

Or this:

The more one learns of this intricate interplay of soil, altitude, weather, and the living tissues of plant and insects (an intricacy that has its astonishing moments, as when sundew and butterwort eat the insects), the more the mystery deepens. Knowledge does not dispel mystery. Scientists tell me that the alpine flora of the Scottish mountains is Arctic in origin — that these small scattered plants have outlived the Glacial period and are the only vegetable life in our country that is older than the Ice Age. But that doesn’t explain them. It only adds time to the equation and gives it a new dimension. I find I have a naïve faith in my scientist friends — they are such jolly people, they wouldn’t fib to me unnecessarily, and their stories make the world so interesting. But my imagination boggles at this. I can imagine the antiquity of rock, but the antiquity of a living flower — that is harder. It means that these toughs of the mountain top, with their angelic inflorescence and the devil in their roots, have had the cunning and the effrontery to cheat, not only a winter, but an Ice Age. The scientists have the humility to acknowledge that they don’t know how it has been done. (59)

‘Knowledge does not dispel mystery’ — that’s what I keep coming back to. It doesn’t, but there is a way of writing about facts that does dispel mystery, that turns the unknown into the known and, in doing so, makes it mundane. Such writing, of course, has its place. But if I think of what happens when I read my favourite essayists, the process goes something like this: the more I learn from them about the topics they explore, the more I am filled with a sense of awe and mystery. This, I think, is something to aim for in writing. How to explore a topic so that, as its layers and intricacies open ever up, it becomes more mysterious?

I have also been reading about, in art, objects of recognition (these serve as vehicles for the already known) versus objects of fundamental encounter (these force us to think; they produce something new in themselves). The latter enact some kind of disruption of the given. It’s a good way of thinking about the kind of writing that interrupts convention, that offers up something brave and new and startling. It’s not about discarding what has come before, but knowing it enough to see a way through and beyond it.

And it’s such a different thought process as a reader, isn’t it, the encounter with an object of recognition (the following the  clues, the ticking off the boxes, the relating this thing before you with the meanings it gestures towards) when compared with the confusion, the sometimes indignant feelings when confronted with a fundamental encounter: how to understand this? It’s harder work, and it’s confronting, and frustrating (why am I not equipped with the tools to unlock this meaning?) but, in the end, it’s much more rewarding because it involves, eventually, some kind of shift.


My piece at Seizure


Image by David Henley

I have a piece up today at Seizure, and you can read it even if you don’t have a subscription (though I highly recommend you nab one; at only $30 a year, it’s a bargain!).

It’s called ‘Light Dance’ and is a riff on W. G. Sebald’s ‘On every new thing lies the shadow of annihilation’.

I wanted to write a memoir piece with, instead of scenes linked through the ‘I’ of the narrator, the personal and the historical linked through images and thematic echoes. Some of the things that are touched on are dancing plagues, white dwarfs and death by butterflies.

You might remember I mentioned in August last year that I was off to Alice Springs for Australia’s No. 1 Truckie’s ReUnion. Well, an essay didn’t exactly come out of it, but that trip does make an appearance here.

If you get a chance to read it, many thanks x