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James Phelan

Invisible Yet Enduring Lilacs by Gerald Murnane & Literati by James Phelan

October 2005, no. 275

I could always rely on Gerald Murnane for a beautiful quote. Nine years ago, when I was researching a piece on writers and technology, he told me he wrote all his books on a manual typewriter with the index finger of his right hand: ‘My favourite word to type, as a one-finger typist, is “afterwards”,’ Murnane told me over the phone. ‘It’s a beautiful whirly movement with one finger.’ Afterwards, as I transcribed his perfectly weighted sentences, it was clear that Murnane had probably already written the words he spoke to me. ‘I tend to think of words as written things rather than spoken things,’ Murnane writes in ‘The Breathing Author’, one of the more recent pieces in Invisible Yet Enduring Lilacs, his first book in a decade. ‘While I speak, I often visualise my words as being written somewhere at the same time.’

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