My Year in Six Hundred and Thirteen Words

In January nothing happened. Had my birthday at Hannibals. We ate and drank and smoked hookahs. Writing the Lycett book. A long strange dream I was going to have to wake from sooner or later.

In February, resumed casual tutoring: Writing Ecologies, at Penrith and Parramatta. There was a ghost job for a few weeks at Bankstown, with half a dozen delinquents who spoke mostly Arabic. Finished the Lycett book. It’s unsatisfactory.

In March, offered a Post-Doctoral fellowship for nine months. Maggie and I went to Auckland for the launch of Alan Brunton’s Beyond the Ohlala Mountains. The last Red Mole show. We stayed at Pete’s out at Favona. Pete wasn’t there for most of it. Weird scenes among the volcanoes.

In April my Post-Doc began. There didn’t seem to be anything for me to do. I still had to tutor and to mark for Writing Ecologies, I just wasn’t paid for it. Easter we went to Byron. Suffolk Park. An idyll with snakes in the garden. I remember Aaron Neville. And the baby dying.

In May, started learning how the Sydney Review of Books operates. Decided to write the rest of what is now called Wednesday’s Child. Found I was happier writing at home but did some alright work at work as well. Memory is a kind of accomplishment.

In June, wrote and worked. Wednesday’s Child and assembling text and photographs for Histories of the Future. Ralph, the alleged publisher, went away for the rest of the year. In the holidays, fishing at Jervis Bay with Liamh. The World Cup was on.

In July, the Cormac McCarthy conference – Fugue States – and Pearson’s Lawson at ASAL. Went to Napier to give a talk on Philip Clairmont’s Erotic Couch. Douglas and Peter were my hosts, I stayed at the Masonic. David and Leah came over from Taupo. In the aftermath, wrote the fourth part of The Isinglass Redaction; but still have to go to Tanimbar or similar to write the fifth.

In August, began teaching an MA class one day a week. With Melinda. It wasn’t onerous. They brought in their writing and we discussed it. I supervised a reclusive Expressionist – a good writer – and a young woman interested in historical and fictional writing about the same events, mostly wars.

In September, went to Tnorala. Maggie took lots of photographs and did some filming from a helicopter. I dinged the rental car, an expensive mistake. Ate mushrooms. The desert rose was blooming, a heron stalking the reeds down by the river at Glen Helen. Lots of swims. One terrible night in Alice.

In October Battarbee and Namatjira published. Launch at Better Read Than Dead on Guy Fawkes Night. To NZ to promote Barefoot Years. I was appearing in tandem with Kirsty Gunn, who was talking about Katherine Mansfield; failed to conceal my lack of enthusiasm for KM. Stayed with Michele and Mark in Auckland, Katherine in Wellington. Heard Ingrid give a talk about my work, that was weird. Like I’d run through my bag of tricks.

In November, to NZ again, to attend consecutive conferences in Wellington. Maggie came too. We stayed in the old People’s Palace on Cuba Street. Jack and Ian were there. Dinner with Ross. Bought a copy of Richmond Lattimore’s translation of The Odyssey and a scholarly work on Homer. Had the crazy idea of writing his biography.

In December my job finished. Maggie’s end of year show. Ella graduated. Jesse passed his HSC. A possible deal on the Lycett book but it’s murky. Arrangements for The Expatriates firmer but still indefinite. The Trans-Tasman saga entering the bureaucracy. Histories of the Future in limbo. Isinglass – who knows? Looking for work again.


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