Diary

These writer’s scribblings, handsomely reproduced, cover two distinct periods in Murray Bail’s life: London from 1970 to 1974; and Sydney from 1988 to 2003. The notebooks from the London period, which represent roughly two-thirds of this book, were previously published as Longhand: A Writer’s Notebook (1989). While readers may find some interest in comparing the formative and the mature writer, the older Bail’s reflections on ageing and death represent the most consistently penetrating writing in Notebooks.

... (read more)

It’s the silence. Even by the river, my ears are straining. It’s the silence. At this moment it’s a warmish humid silence with the grass outside lushly mesmerising the eye.

... (read more)

Attending a poetry festival is not normally considered a life-threatening event (not even if you are prone to deep vein thrombosis from constant sitting) but when I told my family I was going to Struga, I was greeted by worried looks and expressions of deep concern. Struga is in the Republic of Macedonia. Just days before, Macedonian hotheads had set fire to a mosque in Prilip (not that far from Struga) in revenge for the death of a Prilip policeman in a road-mine explosion planted by Albanian terrorists. The hair-trigger tensions in that country were clearly dangerous, and possibly escalating.

... (read more)

Sunday morning at Balgo in the Kimberley, the wind ripping past in a cold gale of dust and smoke. Wirrimanu, the name of this place, means ‘dirty wind’. White plastic shopping bags pulse and inflate, struggling against the twigs and wire that restrain them. My view down the magnificent plunge of the pound is intercepted by the gridded weld-mesh cage enclosing the verandah, and again by the three-metre-high cyclone mesh fence surrounding the compound. An insufficient barrier, as it turns out, to the entry of determined petrol sniffers. They have been in during the night and have opened all the jerry cans in the back of my car. Slippers, the dog who sleeps in the tray, has clearly made them welcome. I am carrying only diesel and water, and the sniffers have taken nothing, leaving a small stone on the lid of the toolbox as a gesture of – what? – irony, defiance, humour?

... (read more)

You tend to notice things when away from home. For instance, I have always been struck by how many people on trains and buses in Paris have their noses buries in books. So when I spent a couple of weeks there in March, I tried as often as decently possible to sneak a look at what Parisians were reading.

... (read more)

It’s funny about Australia and me. For the first thirty years of my life, I longed to get out of it, and now I can never wait to come back! I have lived in England for forty-two years. I have a marvellous marriage, an English son, three English stepsons, fourteen English grandchildren, and a host of devoted English friends. I love England, the countryside and the changing seasons, from the film of green announcing spring to the glory of autumn and the magic of seeing the bones of the landscape through bare trees in winter. The sound of English birds thrills me. Were I banished, the recollection of the ‘chukka-chukka’ of pheasants (all right, I know they were originally Chinese!) going up to roost would reduce me to tears.

... (read more)

A white-haired, white-bearded Captain George Bayly peers benignly out at us from the 1885 photograph frontispiece of A Life on the Ocean Wave. With epaulettes to his black uniform jacket, braided sleeves, a sword at his side and a ceremonial captain’s head-piece on the table beside him, Bayly looks the quintessential retired man of the sea. He looks like a man Charles Dickens should have been describing. We should be meeting him in some sea-side parlour, in some sailortown tea-palace. He looks as if he has a story to tell.

... (read more)

‘There was nothing in particular to write about either yesterday or the day before, as, indeed, there is not today.’ Fifteen-year-old Arthur Clarke speaks, in 1868, for many of us whose diaries didn’t live up to our hopes of them. Why do we write them?

... (read more)

Bertolt Brecht: Journals 1934–1955 edited by John Willett, translated by Hugh Rorrison

by
July 1994, no. 162

Bertolt Brecht’s poem, ‘To those born later’, contains the following line: ‘For we went, changing countries oftener than our shoes.’ The publication of this translation of Brecht’s Journals 1934-1955 (written in an e.e. cummings-style lower case throughout) provides an abundant fleshing out of that line, giving a detailed sense of what it meant to Brecht to be an artist in exile, denied the comforts of his culture and language, denied the possibility of seeing the plays he was writing rehearsed or run-through, a process he always regarded as the final stage of writing: ‘all the plays that have not been produced have something or other missing. no play can have the finishing touches put to it without being tried out in production.’

... (read more)

I first came across the name of Eric Michaels through a review article he published in the journal Art & Text titled ‘Para-Ethnography’. The article rigorously critiqued Chatwin’s The Songlines and Sally Morgan’s My Place, situating them as ‘para-ethnographic’ texts. It was very impressive. The note at the end remarked that ‘Eric died on 24 August 1988 after a long period of illness’. I heard later on that he had died of AIDS.

... (read more)
Page 2 of 3