The bloodrush of a dozen strides brings him into eloquence-writing longstroke

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I’ve taken a long book off the shelf to read so I can get the feel of what it’s like to write a long book. It’s a long stretch I know – but it’s an excuse to dwell in a story rather than race to the end line. I’m hoping the long-book-gene will rub off on me. I’m reading Don DeLillo’s Underworld. It’s been on my shelf for years, I think I purchased it as one of the meta-fiction books I’d like to read. It’s got 827 pages and very small writing. I’m hoping to write something a lot smaller, but longer than a novella and bigger than a breadbox.

He is just a running boy, a half-seen figure from the streets, but the way running reveals some clue to being, the way a runner bares himself to consciousness, this is how the dark-skinned kid seems to open to the world, how the bloodrush of a dozen strides brings him into eloquence.

p13

A Note On Novellas

 nov

 I recently had my novella published, and,  I’ll tell you who has noticed, novella writers. I’ve had a lot of writers come up to me and say, since your novella came out I’ve thought about 1) starting a novella 2) cutting my novel down to a novella 3) submitting my already written novella. I’ve lost count how many people have said this. It’s in the tens, and I don’t talk to a lot of people (read: strange introverted writer). I’m not surprised, are you? Have you heard people baulk at the size of The Luminaries? Readers want to read it, but they just don’t have the time. What they do have time for, and devour, are novellas and flashers. What’s the difference between reading one or two novellas and The Luminaries I hear you ask? The ending. Readers want to get to the end and feel the whole story. I will say that all of the readers who have said this to me are writers, and writers love to read (they’re possibly propping up the industry-happy to be wrong about that) but they have no time to do so. They’re all busy promoting their work, aren’t they. It’s hard work to find a home for your book, especially when everyone is doing it; writers spew forth from the underground network of new subdivisions like ninjas, and we’re all figuring out how we got there by writing it down, and then we want to get it published. That’s what we’re up against writers. (Here’s a tip to gain the advantage: edit, or have someone do so for you.) Can I waste your time and get excited for a second? How cool is the e-book industry? How accessible and immediate and engaging with the current world of readers looking for short works (read novellas) to devour. I hear people bagging the e-book industry like weevils in my ear, but it’s super astronomical: want it? Download it. Got it. And that’s how long it takes to get it. How much? Not much: four or five dollars, usually. What the? I want me some of that industry. Perhaps it’s evolved out of the rise of complexity in this publishing industry that squeezes till it pops, and out squirts new options from new doors. Who knows? But options have opened up all over the place. There really is an abundance of small publishers asking for smaller work, and they’re catering to the needs of readers and writers. Can I list some for you? Seizure; HologramSpineless Wonders; HarperTeen ImpulseNovellaT. Oh look, I haven’t got time to create links for you, there’s a whole list here have a looky yourself. I’m off now to read The Luminaries, and The Sea The Sea, and Infinite Jest and Underworld. Stop laughing; I am: click here  Novella spots.  Go to it Novella writers. Get your novella on.

Crossing ethical lines: Midnight Blue and Endlessly Tall by Jane Jervis-Read

9781922057433

Midnight Blue and Endlessly Tall by Jane Jervis-Read

Xoum Publishing 2013

121 pages.

 

Jessica is a divorced and single health worker whose children have moved on with their lives, leaving her to negotiate her relationships from a distance and to grapple with a ‘hollow and sore heart’. When she becomes increasingly entangled in the life of her client her own needs allow her to go where logic might tell her she shouldn’t.

From the beginning we know we are in the hands of an author who cares about words and what lies between them. Jane Jervis-Read creates a haunting and wanting aura with her sensitive writing:

But she will already be walking out the back, screen door sighing closed behind her, slippers scuffing the concrete, spanning the distance between the kitchen and the shed. The corrugated roof casts a shadow over the entrance… But inside the shed a world awaits. From the window I watch the shadow drink her in. p2

When Jessica takes on the job as carer to Eloise we follow her tender path along a road that both she and we know she shouldn’t go down. It echoes the decisions we fail or neglect to make, or choose to ignore, that allow us to follow the heart in search of something we need. It puts the question to us that we may not like to explore, should we go to places we know we shouldn’t for the sake of cotton-balling the heart?

It meant something when Eloise pulled me in. It meant I am sad and the world is falling like leaves around me. It meant you are a warm heart next to me and your heart loves and listens where mine is hollow and sore and calling out like a wild, hungry mouth. It meant I need you…Something is starting and something is ending. I need relief from my sorrow and you are it, your hand is it, your warm heart beating beside me is it. p66

As we would in reality, Jessica questions her actions and explains them away with care:

She was crying with growing intensity. You don’t leave someone alone in that state. You don’t say, Sorry but my shift is over.’ You can’t clock off. This may be that sort of job to some people but not to me. p53

And Jervis-Read does not shy from bringing truth to the story by allowing Jessica go into this blindly. Jessica knows she goes where she should not; she knows she has blurred ethical lines:

Her thigh slid between mine. I waited. What was I thinking in this moment? I can’t remember. Only the feeling of heat, from her bath-thickened flesh…Maybe I told myself, ‘You have come this far without knowing why – what reason is there to step out now?’…How wild and misguided a life can become, but the body maintains this simple truth: the elegant curve from the waist to the hip. p 83

And nor are the characters allowed to waft away in romantic views; the story is not without the tendrils of uncertainty you might find in a relationship wrought with baggage, illness and dependency:

Eloise smirked. She leant towards me and her robe fell open at the top. ‘I’ll follow you,’ she said. ‘If you go.’  p 63

The characters are beautifully painted on the page. We feel for Jessica as she navigates the emotions left in the wake of her divorce from her husband, and the feelings of estrangement from her children that seem to open her up as they go on with their lives:

Was I a good mother to my children? I think I was. Why then did they move away? p67

And out of this we accept and forgive Jessica. Had we only had access to the facts of the story – lonely carer takes advantage of a patient overcome with sadness for the loss of her life due to mental illness, and engages in physical intimacy – we might judge and condemn Jessica. Enormous credit goes to Jane Jervis-Read for enveloping the facts in a beautiful story that leads us to understand and forgive the characters.

When Eloise sobbed that guttural sob I recognised my own voice in her throat. I recognised the sobs of my children, of my mother too. I remembered my mother weeping when my father died and how I had held her. Eloise clutched at me and pulled me in through the blankets. She cried in my arm. p53

Midnight Blue and Endlessly Tall is a beautifully written, honest and elegant tale of longing and loneliness; it turns the light on what a person will allow themselves to do to abate and caress those feelings and it tackles the questions around crossing ethical lines. Set in the university area around Carlton, Melbourne. I highly recommend you take on this novella and see how you fare.

Jane Jervis-Read and Alice Grundy from Seizure talk about her novel and novellas in general in a great audio interview here

You can purchase Jane’s book here.

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