Passages of Writing: Point Counter Point by Aldous Huxley


I turned to stone waiting for you

Book:  Point Counter Point by Aldous Huxley. First pub: Penguin 1928. This edition: Penguin 1974.


Why: Oh the suspense of waiting and the agony of disappointment. All those short sentences and heart beats. I wanted to cut it down more than I did but I couldn’t without messing with the pacing. Also had trouble stopping. Haven’t we all been there? Hope it’s not just me. So stressful to be there with poor Marjorie. Believed every word of it.



A taxi turned into the street, suddenly and startlingly breaking the silence. Marjorie sat up in bed, listening. The hum of the engine grew louder and louder. It was Walter’s taxi; this time she felt sure of it, she knew. Nearer it came and nearer. At the bottom of the little hill on the right of the house, the driver changed down to a lower gear; the engine hummed more shrilly, like an angry wasp. Nearer and nearer. She was possessed by an anxiety that was of the body as well as of the mind. She felt breathless, her heart beat strongly and irregularly – beat, beat, beat and then it seemed to fail; the expected beat did not make itself felt; it was as though a trap-door had been opened beneath her into the void; she knew the terror of emptiness, of falling, falling – and the next retarded beat was the impact of her body against solid earth. Nearer, nearer. She almost dreaded, though she had so unhappily longed for, his return. She dreaded the emotions she would feel at the sight of him; the tears she would shed, the reproaches she would find herself uttering, in spite of herself. And what would he say and do, what would be in his thoughts? She was afraid of imagining. Nearer; the sound was just below her windows; it retreated, it diminished. And she had been so certain that it was Walter’s taxi. She lay down again. If only she could have slept. But the physical anxiety of her body would not allow her. The blood thumped in her ears. Her skin was hot and dry. Her eyes ached. She lay quite still, on her back, her arms crossed on her breast, like a dead woman laid out for burial. Sleep, sleep, she whispered to herself;…suddenly, a malicious hand seemed to pluck at her taut nerves. A violent tic contracted the muscles of her limbs; she started as though with terror. And the physical reaction of fear evoked an emotion in her mind, quickening and intensifying the anxiety of unhappiness which, all the time, had underlain her conscious efforts to achieve tranquility…she allowed her misery to come to the surface of her mind. ‘Why should he want to make me so unhappy?’…



Passages of Writing: Animal people, Charlotte Wood.


Book: Animal People by Charlotte Wood.  Allen & Unwin 2011. This edition: e-book, Allen & Unwin, 2011.

Why: Charlotte Wood’s writing is always grounded and insightful but never pretentious. The characters are so real I want to cringe as a human to be seeing how we know people speak right there on the page:

‘So who organised the lesbian? ‘…Belinda snickered into her mineral water… (p233)


‘It’s sort of boho, ‘Fiona said…’ which doesn’t really suit her.’ When he asked why not, Cathy said drily, ‘because she’s more ho than bo,’and Fiona snorted into her glass. (P202)

Writers are always taking the time to slow the reader down to think about things in a way that is normally missed. It’s one of the things I love about writing. And it’s a little bit disarming to think that someone may be listening to the way you eat an apple from another room.

He heard her set a knife down in the chopping board before going to answer the door.

He had never before known the cadences of a person’s movements like this, except in his own family, as a child. It was not just her tread; footsteps were easy, especially here in Fiona’s house when there were just the two of them and the girls, whose hard little heels struck the floorboards like mallets. But even elsewhere, in other houses, in shops, he could tell Fiona’s presence by the sound and rhythm of her movements: keys in a handbag, the taking of a breath. Surely humans could only breathe in so many ways – inhalation, exhalation could not possibly be so individual – but still, he always knew her. He knew the sounds of her swallow, her bite of an apple from another room.

p.190 Animal people by Charlotte Wood

Passages of Writing: Slaughterhouse 5, Kurt Vonnegut

Book:  Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut. First pub 1970. This edition: Vintage 1991,

Why: Insightful, thoughtful, sad and funny all at once, how clever is that?

…Another time Billy heard Rosewater say to a psychiatrist, ‘I think you guys are going to have to come up with a lot of wonderful new lies or people just aren’t going to want to go on living…

p. 73 Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut.

Passages of Writing: The Watch Tower, Elizabeth Harrower.



Book: The Watch Tower by Elizabeth Harrower. First Published 1966 Macmillan. This edition: The Text Publishing Company – e-book.


Why: The book starts off with, “Now that your father’s gone-…’Dead,’ she corrected herself firmly…” and this is the impetus for change in the two little girls’ lives. (It’s the hook, I guess – someone has died.)


But there is a differing in responses to the news and in a few short concise paragraphs we quickly understand  that the mother, the headmistress and the children all feel differently and this is emphasized by the paragraph starting with ‘A Magpie..’  with everyone going quiet for a moment as if stunned, or speechless. It’s a great lesson on how to do that.

I love that moment because the author is bestowing on the reader the intelligence to get it without explaining it and we all sit quietly for a moment understanding. (And who doesn’t like being told their intelligent.)

As a reader you are taken out of the little meeting in the head mistress’s office and zoom right out to view it from a distance and forced to slow your pace to realise the magnitude of what is being said to the children. And at the same time given more of a sense of what sort of person the mother is: ‘…or some other bush bird she hoped never to hear in town…’

( Also love that she mentions currowongs, who writes about currowongs in their writing? We used to have a currawong – his name was Colin)




‘When I’ve sold the house and found a flat in the city, ‘the girls’ mother continued, taking in the exchange of the looks dryly, ‘I’ll let Miss Lambert know.’

A magpie or a currawong, or some other bush bird she hoped never to hear in town, gave it’s careless, beautifully deliberate call from a giant blue gum in the distance outside the school grounds. (Someone sighed) Closer at hand there were energetic sounds from the tennis courts, and laughter.

p.1. The Watch Tower by Elizabeth Harrower.

Passages of Writing: Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre.

Book: Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre. First Pub: 2003, Faber and Faber. This Edition: 2004 Faber and Faber.

Why: Often a few words, on their own unrelated to the image they create, together create a precise picture.

‘She’s slow, she’s sweaty, her features huddle in the middle of her face…’

p. 4 Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre

Passages of Writing: The Children, Charlotte Wood.

Book: The Children by Charlotte Wood. Allen & Unwin, 2007. This edition: 2008, E-book, Allen & Unwin.

Why: These few words take me whooshing back to my childhood summers. I can see my own mother waving like this, with her whole arm, I can smell the geraniums, the hot concrete and the rubber of bike tyres on quiet roads. Were every child’s summers like this? I really don’t know but Charlotte Wood has mined pinned. It’s the magic of great writing that can do this.

Mandy looks up at the kitchen window, sees her mother waving with her whole arm, and then disappearing from view. Mandy stands on the driveway in the still, hot air, a confusion of childhood smells and sensations swelling up at her — the green acidity of broken geranium stalks, the metallic taste of concrete. The silty red dirt, the quiet of the streets, the rubber of bicycle tyres. All the long hours  of all the flat, empty afternoons.

P. 45 The Children by Charlotte Wood.

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