Loneliness and the family wrench in just_a_girl by Kirsten Krauth

 just-a-girl

Kirsten Krauth’s debut novel, just_a_girl, brings about complex discussions grown out of the many themes embedded in the book. From loneliness in a world where we connect more than ever, to conducting relationships and sexual identity within this environment. From the format of the book, that includes diary type chapters, to the chopping up of sentences within the diary entries.

Kirsten and I will be chatting about some of these themes in an interview that I’ll put up here soon, but I want to drop a couple of paragraphs here that are not so related to those themes, but are moments that many of us experience. Moments that go toward feeding our insecurities and making us who we are, that made me stop and think for a moment.

This is from fourteen year old Layla, thinking about trips to visit with her father:

I wish the oxygen masks would fall down from the ceiling so I could strangle the stewards…Latchkey kids. Granny said that’s what they used to call kids who came home from school to an empty house. But what do you call the school hols brigade. Flying once a year to see their dads. Getting to board first and being offered magic pens. Colouring in books to distract from the family-wrench. Trying not to cry as you look out the window. Because you’ve got to return to the woman. Who’ll be waiting anxiously in Sydney in her airport outfit. She’s probably there already. The long drive home to the mountains. The questions she doesn’t ask and I don’t answer.

Maybe one day I won’t get on the plane. I’ll disappear, duck out of sight of dad. Or I’ll rewind the plane down the tarmac. Reverse through the punters. Clutching their last-minute-texts-on-mobiles. I’ll stand and revel in the limpness of that concertinaed shute. Looking shrivelled, sad and used as the jet sucks itself away. Mum will spend her years wondering how I managed to go missing. From a plane in the air between Coolangatta and Sydney.

Loc 1844

And from Layla’s mother Margot, on the same topic:

But even though I now have the Church in my life sometimes I lie here afraid that the black hole is sneaking up again and it’s worse when Layla is away, this year she wanted to spend Christmas Day with Geoff, the first time we have been apart, and I don’t want to be all alone during the festive season but what could I say?’ …and Geoff’s always spoiling her with outings, so when she comes back home I look like the boring old mum, I mean, he seems to get all the good bits and he’s split up with the latest, they’ve been so many over the years, so God knows what space his head’s in and I get a bit worried about Layla when she’s not home, we’re on such different wavelengths, so I wish she’d answer her phone up there but she sees my name flash up and hits the reject button.

Loc 1469

 

Read my interview with Kirsten  here.

Just_a_girl is published by UWA Publishing, 2013. I read the E-book.

Whatever I got up to yesterday has given me a boil on my ass- MONEY, Martin Amis

This is another one of the quick-reads-to-get-in-the-right-frame-of-mind-before-I-start-writing quotes. The manuscript I’m working on is more upbeat than my last book so a bit of MONEY by Martin Amis is just the thing to get my mind ticking. I opened the book and this is what I read. It’s a great read, and so funny, but if you can ignore the words (almost impossible) and look at the rhythm, the sing-song within the sentences, the short and long sentences, the stopping and starting, the rhyming (read it out loud there are plenty of rhymes) the repeating of phrases – it’s pretty poetic. To put it all together – the rollicking story, the humour,  and the poetic sounds,  is wonderful. You have to love it.

Whatever I got up to yesterday has given me a boil on my ass – and a big ‘un, too. I’ve had some boils on my ass before, but this mother has to be the daddy of them all. Boy, is this a big boil. I thought that these characters had gone out of my life along with circle-jerks and slipped octaves. Apparently not, apparently not. It must be the booze, it must be the junk, it must be all the pornography… I feel as though I’m sitting on a molten walnut or a goofball of critical plutonium. Amazing, even flattering, to think that the body still harbours this stinging volatility, these spiteful surface poisons. It fucking hurts too. If I turn my back on the uncensored mirror, touch my shins, and peer through my parted legs, like a scowling pornographic come-uppance, then I get a pretty good view, thanks, of this purple lulu scoring it’s bullseye on my left buttock. It really means business. It isn’t messing about…Lying down is okay. Walking hurts,standing hurts, sitting hurts. Abiding hurts. It must be the booze, it must be the junk, it must be all the pornography.

MONEY by Martin Amis (1984) This ed. Vintage 2005 pg 210

Passages Of Writing: The Spare Room by Helen Garner

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Book: The Spare Room, Helen Garner. First Pub 2008 – The Text Publishing Company.

Why: It’s so real, visceral. I felt like I was actually Helen caring for, getting angry at, and cleaning up after Nicola. Helen is brave, goes right to the truth of it and so crisply and clearly.

I’ve been thinking about the difference between fiction and non-fiction, not the actual difference, I mean in terms of writing style, and it’s occurred to me there does not have to be any difference. I’ve often had more success with my non-fiction than my fiction and after reading this I realise why: I’ve been wafting around the details in fiction. I need to get to the nit and grit of my characters and feel them, really see how the character sees and believe it, and throw some emotion at it.

I’m doing a final edit of my current book, and today went back to the start to make a real attempt to implement this, the crisp realness that comes with non-fiction, seeing, feeling and knowing, not pretending to know.

Peggy glanced at me. Horrified sympathy passed along her eye-beams. It weakened me. A huge wave of fatigue rinsed me from head to foot. I was afraid I would slide off the bench and measure my length among the cut roses. At the same time a chain of metallic thoughts went clanking through my mind, like the first dropping of an anchor. Death will not be denied. To try is grandiose. It drives madness into the soul. It leaches out virtue. It injects poison into friendship, and makes a mockery of love.

P88

What about the importance of the right adjective? Cut them out is often the advice, but when you do need them, should you go to the thesaurus for something unique, or should you wrangle common words into a lovely and intriguing formation? I don’t know.

She was an elegant, stick-thin woman pushing forty, in a narrow jacket and skirt that skimmed her wiry frame; her ankles and arches were so bony that she had to scuff her feet to keep her high-heeled sling-backs on. Her hair was springy as a pot scrubber, and her face was a darkly lit by a half-smile of ferocious irony.

P70

Passages of Writing: Point Omega by Don DeLillo


Book: Point Omega, Don DeLillo. Picador 2010.

Why: It’s intimate, kind, sad and quiet. The set up of this little piece is that these two men, who don’t really know each other that well, are waiting for something. Can’t say what in case you’d like to read it yourself. Suffice to say there is tension around them and this intimate moment is shrouded in sadness and kindness.

I stood behind him with a pair of scissors and a comb and told him it was time for a haircut.

He turned his head slightly, in inquiry, but I repositioned it and began to trim his sideburns. I talked as I worked. I talked in a kind of audiostream, combing and cutting through the tangled strands on one side of his head. I told him this was different from shaving. The day would come when he’d want to shave and he’d have to do it himself but the hair on his head was a question of morale, his and mine. I said many empty things that morning, matter-of-factly, half believing. I removed the wormy rubberband from the weave of braided hair at the back of his neck and tried to comb and trim. I kept skipping to other parts of the head. He spoke about Jessie’s mother, her face and her eyes, his admiration, voice trailing off, low and hoarse. I felt compelled to trim the hair in his ears, long white fibers curling out of the dark. I tried to unsnarl every inch of matted vegetation before I cut. He spoke about his sons. You don’t know this, he said. I have two sons from the first marriage. Their mother was a paleontologist. Then he said it again. Their mother was a paleontologist. He was remembering her, seeing her in the word. She loved this place and so did the boys. I did not, he said. But this changed over the years. He began to look forward to his time here, he said, and then the marriage broke up and the boys were young men and that was all he was able to say.

p 90.

Passages of Writing: The Journal of Joyce Carol Oates 1973-1982

 

 

 

Book: The Journal of Joyce Carol Oates 1973-1982 Harper Collins 2007

 

Why: It’s just a little reminder in a world of texting, Twitter, Facebook and all the rest to stop and breathe. Keeping busy does block out the ills of the world but you can feel it – when you forget to just be still, running with the pack day after day – the loss of self.

Creative impulse doesn’t only apply to Artists and Writers, it apples to living your life in the moment with family friends and your self.

 

January 19, 1973. Days of teaching; meeting with students; talking with colleagues. The irresistible pull of the external world. One could very easily lose oneself within it…”keeping busy” is the remedy for all ills in America. It’s also the means by which the creative impulse is destroyed.

p7

Passages of Writing: Imperial Bedrooms by Bret Easton Ellis

 

 

Book: Imperial Bedrooms, Bret Easton Ellis. 2010 Alfred A. Knoph.

 

Why: The many ‘ands’ create a desperately increasing anxiousness that builds up to a crescendo of awfullness. The increasing number of ‘ands’ gives you a sense of hurried breathless anxiety. Speeds the pace up as well as initiating expectation and stress.

 

Driving along sunset I keep checking the rearview mirror and Julian sits in the passenger seat texting someone, probably Rain, and I keep turning on the radio and then turning it off but he doesn’t notice, and then we’re crossing Highland and the Eurythmics song fades into a voice from the radio talking about the aftershocks from an earthquake earlier, something that I slept through, and I have to roll down all the windows and pull the car over three times in order to steady myself because I keep hearing sirens all around us and my eyes are fixed on the rearview mirror because two black Escalades are following us and the last time I pull over, in front of the Cinerama Dome, Julian finally asks, “what’s wrong? Why do you keep stopping?” and where Sunset Boulevard and Hollywood intersect I smile at him coolly as if this is all going to be okay, because in the condo I felt like I was sinking into a rage but now, turning onto Hillhurst, I’m feeling better.

Outside a building past Franklin that’s surrounded by eucalyptus trees Julian gets out of the BMW, and starts walking toward the entrance just as I receive a text that says don’t get out of the car

p160

 

The ranch house was in the movie colony and had walls that were cream-colored and mirrored and pillars that lined the pool shaped like a baby-grand and raked gravel blanketed the yard and small planes flew above it in the dry air before landing at the airport nearby. At night the moon would hang over the silver-rimmed desert and the streets were empty and the girl and the boy would get stoned by the fire pit and sometimes dogs could be heard barking over the wind thrashing the palm trees as I pounded into the girl and the house was infested with crickets and the boy’s mouth was warm but I didn’t feel anything until I hit him, always panting, my eyes gazing at the steam rising from the pool at dawn.

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