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SUNDAY / 47

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I had plans for my New Years day, this particular Sunday, but it was rainy and grey and I had just a third of A Little Life left to read. So I cancelled it all and stayed in bed reading, napping and crying, getting up only to make a cup of tea or some toast. I finished it just before dinner, an emotional wreck; so sad to leave the world of the book, so wrought and undone by it.

It is, without hesitation, the saddest and hardest thing I've read. Parts of it made me ill and had me sobbing outwardly. And yet, and yet. I found so much beauty in the relationships of the characters, of the men. Compassion and loyalty and deep, deep abiding love that I was also amazed and inspired by it. Full with the heart of it.

There was something so wonderful about starting my year in bed, lost in another world. It's a story to immerse yourself in, to give over to. 

YEAR THREE.

YEAR TWO.

YEAR ONE.  

THE NAMES FOR THINGS

IMG_4682.JPGIn The Narrow Road to the Deep North, Flanagan names the flora of Tasmania in a way that makes you feel like you're there, under 'the boughs of the wildly snaking peppermint gums that fingered and flew through the great blue sky overhead'. Walking to the beach yesterday, Daisy noticed some overgrown hebes in the front yard of the house a few doors down. She tried to pick one for me. She's four and hundreds of kilometres from home and she knew at a glance that they were hebes.

I wondered for the next few blocks if it the saltbush and rough ground cover that stretches back from the sandy beaches and cliffs of Innes was native, or if the wildflowers, yellow and white and tiny specs of purple grew anywhere else.

I'm resolved to learn the names for things.

READING MY LITTLE HEART OUT

20140725-185248-67968030.jpgThe best thing about getting away - aside from the crisp white sheets and the being under a different sky - has to be the reading. I've been reading my little heart out of late. It's wonderful and long-missed - I had a dry spell for a while after Christmas, couldn't be bothered with it all. But since I've been getting out of town a bit this winter, I've found my way back to books. After last week at the lighthouse and now a few days in Melbourne with my big sister, I'm turning some serious pages. It feels SO GOOD. Selecting just the right book at the right time is important to me. I desperately want to read The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton, after it's Man Booker win, but having just finished The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (brilliant, amazing, special), I felt like something I could more easily throw in my bag and read on the bus or plane. Something with substantially less pages.

I've had my eye on Eimear McBride's A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing for some time, but it felt too heavy for my mood. As did Nathan Englander's What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank - though I'll be getting to both soon. With all this cold I just wanted something lighter, something more traditional and romp-like.

And, as it happens, The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides is just that. It is, so far, perfection. It is everything I felt like reading on the plane, in the cafe and at the bar as I've wandered about Melbourne today. It's one big literary reference in and of itself, at the same time as being a terrific page-turner and glimpse at being young and trying to understand love (I'm only about a third of the way in). The writing is so sharp and funny and Eugenides has a way with descriptions that cut right to the heart of things - brief and yet so telling.

My sister lands later tonight but I've had a ball wandering laneways and hopping trams, buying Isabel Marant shirts on sale and in between it all, lattes and wine in the afternoon while reading.

*Picture from my lunch at Manchester Press.

THE QUESTIONS

QUESTIONSI'm a HUGE fan of the Q&A section of The Guardian. I love what you can glean about a person from just a few sharp questions. And, being the Guardian, they get to Q&A their way all around town, chatting to the most interesting and intelligent people. Five of my favourite women below - favourites for their life and work and humour and heart and, now, some of their answers. Since I can't sit down to a cup of tea with them directly, I get to defer to the Guardian. And as if I didn't already love Caitlin Moran, she just went ahead and took the words right out of my mouth when she said: 'I owe everything I am to Jo March in Little Women and Anne Shirley in Anne Of Green Gables'. Amen.

So, here are some of the more inspiring dames you could hope to know a bit about:

  • Donna Tartt Because if ever a woman could write, Donna can write - I am in awe of her prose and the strength in the stories she tells.
  • Bjork Because what a true artist - she continues to grow and inspire and still be amazing and relevant.
  • Allison Janney Because if I could be anyone in the world I'd probably be CJ Cregg from the West Wing and I believe that is entirely bcuase Allison Janney is so damn cool. Also, she kills me as the step-mother in Juno.
  • Julie Delpy Because her performance and writing and directing in works like Two Days in Paris and the Before series (oh, the Before series) is probably the most raw, honest, outstanding, humorous, perceptive and beautiful thing a woman in her twenties and thirties can experience.
  • Caitlin Moran Because Caitlin Moran's very existence makes me happy and calm and feel like things in the world might just be OK. Her How To Be A Woman made me laugh out loud more than is appropriate on the train, and gave me some of the better and most grounded descriptions of and arguments for feminism I've read (not that I've ever needed convincing). Her voice is pertinent and warm and amazingly on the money.

* Image of tea and Jennie Kwon jewels by Honestly WTF.

TO THE LIGHTHOUSE

LIGHTHOUSEYesterday was a pretty normal Thursday, rolling along well enough till somewhere during a quiet afternoon of edits I got an email from my friend James suggesting, seemingly out of nowhere, that we all book a weekend at a lighthouse up the coast this mid-winter. Things went from nice to amazing. This guy knows how to work a room - within minutes there were some very excited, entirely uppercase reply-all emails to the effect of 'HELL YEAH', 'OMG YES', and of course, 'YOU'RE A GENIUS'. So if anyone needs me this July, I'll be heading to Seal Rocks to watch the whales on their migration north, take long and windy walks, play Scrabble, read books, make slow roast dinners and drink quite a bit of red.

I am thinking I might have to re-read two of my favourites while I’m at it: Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse ('She felt... how life, from being made up of little separate incidents which one lived one by one, became curled and whole like a wave which bore one up with it and threw one down with it, there, with a dash on the beach') and Jeanette Winterson’s Lighthousekeeping (‘My mother called me Silver. I was born part precious metal, part pirate’).

* Image from Studioeighty

 

FLIGHT TIME

ICELAND 1A quick one as I’m about to head home to Adelaide for the weekend. It will be lovely, but right now I’m just excited about the prospect of the two hour flight and a chance to read my book. No washing to be done or dinner to be cooked, no myriad of emails or sleep to catch up on. Just two quiet hours and the last few chapters of Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. I started this a while ago and have loved it, but life got in the way and I haven’t had the chance to pick it up this last two weeks. It isn’t the sort of book you want to read a few pages of before bed or on the bus. It is a book you want to spend proper time with. The writing is so beautiful and engulfing I honestly feel like I’m in another world. I read it and feel like I’m in Iceland, with the biting cold and the grey light. I can’t wait to immerse myself in this time and place. Hannah Kent is an Adelaide author, a local Hills girl like me, as it happens. We went to the same primary and high school (I’m told she played in the school band with my brother), and I think even the same university. She’s one of those young and amazing people who is not only talented but passionate and hard-working, in her work as publisher and founder of Kill Your Darlings not to mention this best seller. It's amazing to me that she dreamed up these words and this world around an old Icelandic folktale...

*Image of Iceland by the lovely Olivia Rae James.