Sunday, March 23, 2014

Quick Book Verdicts

I thought I'd about finished packing my books away (this time I haven't been counting, because I really don't want to know), and just found a swathe I'd put aside because, having read them, I intended to post my impressions of them. Oh, intentions. You mean so little. Most of these books I read last year. I won't be able to do any of them justice now. Nevertheless.

Crandolin - Anna Tambour

buy :: author

Tambour is an exceptionally luscious, rich, textured, decadent, and enchanting writer, and this book is no exception. It is the story of a monster, which takes the form of a stain found on a page in an ancient cook book, and for which time is not linear, or acknowledged. It spans ages, this story, myriad lives in myriad cultures and walks of life. It is a thick, sumptuous affair that I found incredibly hard to withdraw from, much like treacle. Beyond this, I honestly don't know how to explain this book to you. Like a spell, it affects without letting you understand how. So very incredibly recommended.

Under the Glacier - Halldór Laxness

buy :: author

Purchased in Reykjavík after experiencing how very exalted he is in this City of Literature. He's a Nobel Prize winner, and widely translated with English copies of his works available in nearly all bookshops there. This I selected as it is blurbed by Susan Sontag as being "one of the funniest books ever written." And it is, although a very precise sort of funny which comes from being an outsider of a culture's geographical and religious history, and having only a passing understanding of how this history shapes a nation and such a people. It is one surreal and absurd event after another, with structured religion befuddled by the organic beliefs of those who live under the Glacier. Curious characters, a landscape that didn't require my own memories to be evocative, a bemusing tale. Worth reading.

A Wrinkle in the Skin - John Christopher

buy :: author

I've already established a gobsmacked love of Christopher, and this book met those expectations. Brutally. Here, a massive shift in the continental plates changes the world, the shapes of the land, moving the seas and so completely destroying all infrastructure and civilisation. Following Cotter, who lived on in of the Channel Islands at the time, this book explores the various ways in we (well, the English) adapt to or fall apart when presented with the end of civilisation. It's harrowing, brutally honest and never looks away. Refreshingly minimal in sexism as well. Left it wide-eyed with horror and so excited at having read something so incredibly perfectly well crafted. Worth reading for the sake of it, also as an example of sparse and effective story telling for writers.

The Kraken Wakes - John Wyndham

buy :: author

Okay, my advice to you is don't read these two books back to back. In fact, don't read apocalypse books by older English writers back to back. Ever. At all. Your world view will cop a beating and you'll be left wandering around asking what the point is, we're all going to die horribly anyway, humanity is doomed, etc, etc, etc. In this one, something seems to take up residence at the bottom of the oceans, and from there, shit goes from bad to incredibly fucked up to someone is going to be extinct by the end of this. Just like Christopher, is powerful, sparse, and doesn't ever avert its eyes. I loved it, and I won't be reading anything by either Christopher or Wyndham for a long while yet. That's quite enough.

Rant - Chuck Palahnuik

buy :: author

I've always loved Palahniuk's work, so didn't fight too hard when J insisted insisted insisted I read this. As much as I feel that Palahniuk is something of a one-trick pony in that I know exactly what I'm getting in any story of his, he's an incredibly talented pony, and that trick is fucking amazing, and even so, even so, this, this, is WOW. HOLY FUCKING SHIT DID YOU SEE THAT. It is a masterpiece in which he subverts the narrative and the reader over, and over. I just. You know, with all the reading, writing, and editing I've done I think I have some qualifications backing me up when I say this is a work of genius. The ways it can be read, interpreted, are manifold. It left me open-mouthed with astonishment and J going "You see!? You see?!" I just. Wow. WOW. No, I can't actually tell you anything else about the book. Much like Crandolin above, it defies easy summation. Read it. READ IT.

The Honey Month - Amal El-Mohtar

buy :: author (Ebooks, ey?)

Full disclosure, I am friends with and love this woman to bits. The concept behind this book is simple; she sampled a different honey every day for a month, and wrote a piece based on that. That she managed to sustain production every day for a month is amazing. That all her pieces remain fresh, individual and plump is incredible. There are fables, poems, vignettes, heart-break, joy, sadness, homes found and lost. She walks through these narratives. Her prose is wonderful and breath-taking, which is what happens when poets write stories. A rich, wonderful and warm collection. Just like honey.

Decay Inevitable - Conrad Williams

buy :: author

Full disclosure: I am friends with and love this man to bits, and have a long history of babbling delighted about his writing. This book is sneaky, in that it begins quietly, ordinarily, to the point that I forgot I was reading horror and expected crime, but the horror creeps in softly, and then, not so fucking softly. Amid all the "Oh shit oh shit oh shit-" is a truly warm and loving relationship, which I've rarely encountered in horror. The apocalypse plays second fiddle to the personal.

I really hope I don't find any more books just lying around. Oh, what do you mean I can't have that many tags? GRRRRR.

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Text is Saturated

The original plan was to wait until I had work before joining J up in Sydney, but, well. I really like him. And it's been three months. And fuck that noise.

This whole expedition has not been as organised as anyone would have liked. Winging it. It has been completely wung. To the point where I didn't know how much notice I had to give work, checked the HR policy and discovered that if I wanted to be in Sydney by the end of the month I'd have to give my notice that very day. Big step like that, I like to be psychologically prepared. I wasn't. It was a rather wide-eyed day.

Post like this should be about beginnings. About everything I'm looking forward to, and anticipating, and the new shape my future seems to be taking on. But, there's that word. "Should."

I've worked for the Victoria Police for over eight years. Although I've changed roles and positions, I have always worked with the crime reports themselves. I read the narratives of what happened, I read the dossiers of people in regular contact with police, I read detailed statements, I read charge summaries, I listen to 000 calls, I watch interviews, I look at photos of crime scenes and photos of injuries.

Every day.

I remember, all the way back in 2005, when I first started, how incredibly confronting this was. A deluge of trauma, fear, hurt and pain. All of it laid out in objective, unbiased terms. Date, time and location. Realising how easy it is to enter a home. Processing my first rape report. My first child incest report.

This was, is, paper. It's just information. No contact with the persons involved, not even the police members.

That wasn't distance enough. I'm a reader and a writer. A life time of training has my mind honed to extrapolate the lasting impact of every crime, and I couldn't stop it getting under my skin. You can't, I couldn't, pretend it was fiction. Empathy can be a right arsehole at times.

But a job is a job. I got used to it. There were always reports that would sink into me, sit in my gut like churlish poison, but when years go by it all becomes familiar furniture. I learned how to turn the volume down.

Last night, talking with mum about I don't remember what and I don't remember how it came around, but she said she'd never understood how I could tolerate the work I did. Sometimes I can't, I said. Sometimes the anger that is simmering rises up and I'm furious, unable to speak from the fury.

Maybe it's a good thing you're resigning, she said.

And that sunk into me to sit with the anger.

This morning I read an interview transcript that made me sick. Then I read a collection of statements that forced to get up, walk away, lock myself in a toilet cubicle and do nothing for a while. The subconscious knows it doesn't have to be resilient to this siege of trauma anymore, and the walls have come down.

Sitting here in my last week working for VicPol, my growing impatience and refusal to compromise on social justice issues, on issues of sexism, gender discrimination, homophobia, racism, misogyny, ableism, classism, all the fucking know I've never been quite sure where that comes from. A lot comes from my own experience, being as I tick various oppression boxes, but I've never...I'm not...these personal things don't feel as though they're equal in balance to the anger.

When I think about all that I've read over the course of 8 years I understand where the anger comes from.

And it's time to leave.

Maybe, after this, I'll have the space in my heart to

I don't even know how to finish that sentence.