Flash on/flash off

Originally posted on Elizabeth Bryer:

Atwork by Yiscah Symonds for Seizure Atwork by Yiscah Symonds for Seizure

I have a very short piece of fiction over at Seizure this week called ‘So here we,’:

she said, and the words stopped. And sometimes, he said, and you were; I know, she nodded, there’s no doubt I was. He sighed, she looked the other way.

You can read the rest over at Seizure Online. Big thanks to Lily Mei for the edit and Yiscah Symonds for the gorgeous artwork x

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Book-nerd fantasty come true!

At a wedding on a lake near Nakenstorf in north-east Germany, I was talking with a guest from Berlin. I had to see B-movie, about Berlin in the 1980s, he said. I enthused about his compatriot, author Jenny Erpenbeck; he typed her name into his phone. We talked politics, economics – it was one of those conversations that are a joy wherever they venture.

Later, he found me and handed over a pen and paper: what were the five novels I thought everyone should read? Swoon! I hadn’t realised that request right there was a secret fantasy until I was living it.

We ended up narrowing it down not to what I thought others should read (blergh) but to my five favourite Australian works of fiction. Of course, even wording it this way, I had to balance which works might be representative for an international audience with availability of work outside Australia and what constitutes ‘fiction’ (for one of the titles, in particular). This is what I came up with, presented here in alphabetical order:

  • Benang, Kim Scott
  • Dog Boy, Eva Hornug
  • House of Exile, Evelyn Juers
  • Look Who’s Morphing, Tom Cho
  • The Plains, Gerald Murnane

Looking over the list now, I’m not sure that I’d change it, though I’m still wrestling with a few close contenders. It’s idiosyncratic, and by living authors only, but I like it this way.

See what you come up with when limiting the list to five for a hypothetical international reader – not so easy, is it?

On another note in case you’re interested, I’ve put some pics from a recent writing residency in Saint Petersburg up on my new site x

The first thing I did when…

Signs-Preceding-the-End-of-the-World_CMYK-SMALL-300x460I finished Lisa Dillman’s translation of Yuri Herrera’s Signs Preceding the End of the World was flip right back to read it again. It’s the best work of fiction I’ve read this year.

A taste:

She looked out at the country mushrooming on the other side of the glass. She knew what it contained, its colors, the penury and the opulence, hazy memories of a less cynical time, villages emptied of men. But on contemplating the tense stillness of the night, the darkness dotted here and there with sparks, on sensing that insidious silence, she wondered, vaguely, what the hell might be festering out there: what grows and what rots when you’re looking the other way. p. 33

There is one short passage on same-sex marriage that seemed out of place but, other than that, this is a perfect book; it says so much in such a short space and in such a feisty, immediate way. I’m in love with the gutsy protagonist, whose journey across the border to rescue her brother is so now and so mythic at once.

You can get a copy (and support an amazing small publisher) here.

‘Rewilding our language of landscape’

You might remember I wrote a blog post on Robert McFarlane’s The Old Ways where I got ridiculously excited about that book’s glossary. Well, now McFarlane has written an article for The Guardian about exactly what in that glossary thrilled me: a lexicon of landscape. Highly recommended for word/nature nerds. It begins like so:

Eight years ago, in the coastal township of Shawbost on the Outer Hebridean island of Lewis, I was given an extraordinary document. It was entitled “Some Lewis Moorland Terms: A Peat Glossary”, and it listed Gaelic words and phrases for aspects of the tawny moorland that fills Lewis’s interior. Reading the glossary, I was amazed by the compressive elegance of its lexis, and its capacity for fine discrimination: a caochan, for instance, is “a slender moor-stream obscured by vegetation such that it is virtually hidden from sight”, while a feadan is “a small stream running from a moorland loch”, and a fèith is “a fine vein-like watercourse running through peat, often dry in the summer”. Other terms were striking for their visual poetry: rionnach maoim means “the shadows cast on the moorland by clouds moving across the sky on a bright and windy day”; èit refers to “the practice of placing quartz stones in streams so that they sparkle in moonlight and thereby attract salmon to them in the late summer and autumn”, and teine biorach is “the flame or will-o’-the-wisp that runs on top of heather when the moor burns during the summer”.

Read the rest.

One note: meuse is an English dialect noun for “the gap in the base of a hedge made by the regular passage of a small animal”. Something like this is what I needed last week, hiking in Tasmania’s The Walls of Jerusalem with J, when we found, time and again, we were at a loss to describe phenomena in the landscape. (There, the word I needed was for the gaps through low-lying prickle bushes forged by Bennett’s wallabies, a sub-species of the red-necked wallaby.) Here is the one photo I could take with my about-to-die phone:

Walls of Jerusalem