My 2017 in review

January 1, 2018

2017 was a pretty shit year for me, personally.  Bad things happened, not to me directly, but to people close to me.  Actually, so many bad things happened that it made me think that the planets must be in some kind of portentous alignment, despite the fact that I think astrology is complete bullshit.

The upside of this is that is has made me open to new perspectives that are proving to be more durable.  When I’ve expressed some of these ideas to friends, there have been vague looks of concern, but I’m convinced I’m on the right track.  At the very least, these perspectives are working very well for now, and I’m grateful for them.  Vague enough?

I have a lot other things to be grateful for, too.  My kids are happy and healthy.  I have my health, a lovely wife, a job that pays the bills and a very fortunate living situation.  I live in fantastic city in a democratic, stable, affluent country.

In terms of writing, despite submitting my novel and short stories to a number of publishers and competitions, I haven’t had any success.  This is disappointing but, from what I understand, part and parcel of being a writer.  I accept that I’ll probably have to redouble my efforts, if I’m going to make any headway.  I need to write more and be more strategic.  This knowledge is strangely exciting, which probably makes me a masochist.

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Ecosystem

December 19, 2017

They crawl around you in the darkness,
whispering, making animal noises,
the fear, the fight or flight, wracks your whole
body. They seem of the darkness,
which is immense.
Enough to swallow you
Or tear you to pieces
Surely, it is the crunch of bones at your feet

You turn and face them
Shine a light on them, bright, unwavering,
They freeze, show themselves for what they are.
Is that it?
They are contained, small, ridiculous even
Ambush predators, only dangerous en masse
Part of the ecosystem
You couldn’t eliminate them
Without disrupting the food chain
Cowardly, they slink away
To circle
Leaving you to the watchful night


Undisputed Truth – Mike Tyson with Larry Sloman

October 9, 2017

If you’re not into boxing, you might dismiss Mike Tyson as a thug, convicted rapist and washed-up sell-out.  There’s truth in all these labels, but his autobiography, The Undisputed Truth, is a portrait of an infinitely more complex and confronting character, one who is completely outside the box.  His voice, too, is entirely unique, the product of a rough upbringing, years of therapy and rehabilitation and a more-than-passing interest in history and philosophy.

Tyson’s uniqueness comes from having lived life at the extremes.  He grew up in unimaginable poverty in Brownsville, Brooklyn, a brutalising environment which he would become his element and he would return to throughout his life.  His father was absent, his mother was a madam who filled their house with domestic violence, all night parties and strings of men.  For young Mike, there is a straight line from neglect to leaving school at seven to finding a sense of belonging with local petty criminals. His lisp and poor hygiene made him the subject of bullying, and when he lashes out violently, his community gives him accolades.  At the age of eleven, he has taken revenge on all those who persecuted him, and has become so infamous that grown men come to fight him.  In a dark reflection of the American dream, mugging, robberies and burglaries bring him material success in the form of clothes and pigeons, the latter a local passion that will stay with him into adulthood.  By the time he’s thirteen, he’s in juvenile detention. Read the rest of this entry »


Fingers crossed

January 3, 2017

Sent my novel manuscript to a publisher for the first time.  Feelings would best be described as excitement and abject terror.

1st-submission


Talking To My Country – Stan Grant

October 12, 2016

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‘The great Australian silence’. It’s a phrase I’ve heard, referring to our country’s whitewashing of its history with its Indigenous people, but one I’ve never really understood.  Having read Stan Grant’s Talking to My Country, I feel like I’ve begun to amend my ignorance.

Grant is a Wiradjuri man and journalist who has worked for numerous Australian news networks, as well as internationally for CNN.  He has long been an advocate for Aboriginal issues, but has risen in prominence this year on the back of a powerful speech at the Ethics Centre IQ2 Debate in January 2016.

Talking To My Country is a brave, honest and raw book that communicates how it feels to be Aboriginal.  It covers, briefly, the history of European and Aboriginal contact: the occupation of land, the genocidal government policies, the theft of children, the sundering of culture, the racism, both official and societal, that plagues Australia to this day.  It talks, too, of how the dominant narrative ignores the many atrocities committed by the British during the frontier wars. Read the rest of this entry »


Eyrie – Tim Winton

September 7, 2016

Image result for eyrie tim winton

I like Tim Winston’s writing.  I like his highly readable prose and earthy, often funny, similes.  His characters are well defined and his descriptions of landscape evocative without being overwrought.  I even like the Australianess of his voice.  Sometimes it feels forced, but maybe that’s due to a bias born of the pervasiveness of American and English fiction. It’s partially for these reasons that Cloudstreet is one of my favourite novels.

All Winton’s strengths are present in his latest novel, Eyrie.   Despite this, it (pun intended) fails to soar, largely because it commits the cardinal sin of taking the reader for granted.

Eyrie centres on Tom Keely, a former environmental spokesperson who has shut himself away from the world in his apartment, high atop a notorious high rise for Freemantle’s down-and-out.  An undefined public scandal and divorce have left him a wreck of a man, broke, jobless, plagued by mysterious migraines and pain, only able to get through the day with booze and fistfuls of pills. Read the rest of this entry »


The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay – Michael Chabon

June 3, 2016

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Escapism. It’s a term used for stories that are entertaining, light, and inconsequential. Nothing more than an escape from reality. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay doesn’t just revel in escapism; it makes a two-fisted defence of it.

The novel tells the story of Joseph Kavalier and Sam Clay, two Jewish cousins growing up in the era when Nazism began to cast its shadow across the world. Joe is a talented artist with a passion for escape artists and stage magic. Aided by his family’s life savings, his magic teacher and an inanimate golem, he escapes Europe just as the fascists are closing the trap. Sam lives in New York with his stereotypical Jewish mother (who doesn’t love a stereotypical Jewish mother?) and grandmother, having been abandoned by his circus strongman (really) father.  Despite coming from such burly stock, Sam is short of stature and spindly of leg due to a bout of polio at a young age.  He has a big mouth, he is able to conveniently translate into a knack for bombastic writing. Read the rest of this entry »