Monday, July 25, 2011

Five weeks on Facebook

We'd all heard his joke: that out of his eleven weeks spent overseas, travelling from one city to another in Europe and the States -- reading in town halls, clubs, bars, festival tents -- and a month in a writer's residence with a Matterhorn view -- he wasted, as he put it, five weeks on Facebook, which was good for the rest of us at least, one of us said.

Monday, July 18, 2011

To be different to everyone else

She told me that all through the first part of the concert at the studio she was distracted by a photograph on a cabinet: a wedding photograph that seemed to have a thick grey smear across the mouths of the young happy couple.

As the rest of us listened to Sondheim, Mozart, Cole Porter and Poulenc, she was so bothered that this photograph had a smear across the mouths as if deliberately placed there, as a sign of disapproval or even mourning, and therefore could pay attention to none of the songs. Had something happened to the photograph (such as mould) or was it a trick of what might have been a strong Sydney afternoon light in the park on the day that they had married -- a light that had also, she then noticed, cast a shadow across the bodies of the couple (perhaps a topiary, she was thinking, or thick cropped conifer on a rise on a hill)? It was just a wonder that someone had thought to place the couple in such a shadow for their photograph but, as she knew from bitter experience, so many weddings are photographed by well-meaning but incompetent (and unpaid) enthusiastic relatives or friends.

When the room lights came on for the break, and just as she was about to point out the grey on the photograph to me, she realised that the grey had in fact been a shadow that had been cast not by trees or mould but by the improvised stage lights that had silhouetted a narrow necked vase on the dresser and that the couple were actually a very ordinary looking couple and that the setting of the photograph no more remarkable or distinctive or strange than any normal looking photograph of a young couple in a park, and that this had disappointed her, strangely (as she said) because she had expected this singer with her Balinese puppets and cardboard Louis XVI mirror surrounds and Chinese vases to be different, she said, to everyone else.

Friday, July 8, 2011

On a winter's evening in Newtown

I explained how at five thirty on a winter's evening in Newtown a magpie might carol in the brownish orange light of a streetlight and that the beggars near the station usually call you darling -- except the one on the upturned milk crate I gave two dollars to in an attempt to salve my irritated mind.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The one extra detail

From his seventh floor student room, she heard, he could see the Eiffel Tower. He could also climb out onto the roof, although he had to be careful as he could slip and fall and die for sure -- whereupon she ruined the nearly Moulin Rouge image by a too detailed description of an eighth storey suicide over twenty years before: going into the context and the reactions of middle class Istanbul, as well as the thin red line from the mouth that the journalists had drawn onto the dead woman's photograph on page three of the paper -- this last the one extra detail that ruined the effect.

A functioning vegetable

At lunch, after my colleagues explained to me how a young woman they had recently seen on television spent one lucid hour a day with her otherwise comatose boyfriend thanks to the administering of a sleeping drug which, among the non-comatose, has been known to prompt the users to assault and battery -- or even driving -- while asleep, Eliza who was eating a mandarin on a length of kitchen paper told us about her time on a neurological ward, where a young man who had suffered brain damage after a honeymoon ballooning accident spent his entire day wanking. There were endless meetings about what to do with him. She didn't remember what transpired. He was a vegetable, she said: but a functioning vegetable.