‘turn and face the strange’ … Changes

I spent last week at my favourite desk in Sydney University’s Fisher Library, on the only floor of the old library still in its original state, unaffected by the so-called Renewal sweeping the building. But here’s what I found stuck to the back of my desk on Wednesday:


The days of my favourite work space are numbered. It’s where I go to avoid all distraction, mostly electronic, so I can read, think, write. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have written my three books without it. When I’m seriously working on something big I work obsessively to the exclusion of almost everything else (yeah I still eat, sleep, drink water, tea, sometimes talk to people, sometimes drink coffee).

I’m about to go into extreme writing mode for the next 18 months, working on new projects, voyaging into the unknown, my old monastic workplace is being ‘disposed of’, I’ll have to find a new place to work – so I’m thinking of Bowie’s Changes … ‘turn and face the strange’.


And there are more changes. I’ve made a new home page janegleesonwhite.com which I’ll keep updated with my events, the next of which is at the Powerhouse Museum on Wednesday 7 August at 6pm, when I’ll be talking about ‘How numbers came to rule the world: Luca Pacioli, Leonardo da Vinci and the Merchants of Venice on Wall Street’ for the Royal Society of New South Wales.

I’ve added some new categories to bookish girl – including ‘Maths and science’ and ‘Can accountants save the planet?’, the subjects which seized my imagination while I wrote Double Entry. And I’ve deleted the category I planned to focus on in 2012 – Lost or Overlooked Women’s classics, LOOK – which sadly never got a look in. It was completely derailed by Double Entry and the strange new world of accounting conversations, conferences, debates, possible revolutions it opened up to me.

With my mind elsewhere I’ll be writing here less frequently. When I do it will be mostly on the classics, with War and Peace up next week.

Once my desk at Fisher Library is destroyed I’ll miss my daily walk through Victoria Park past the duck ponds. I love the ducks. One morning last week they were assembled a la Chaucer’s Parlement of Foules, making what was surely the most orderly and distinguished parliament in the land, in a week when Australian federal politics sank to GOBSMACKING all time lows.


So till next we meet, I’m turning to face the strange, with Flaubert in mind: ‘Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.’


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10 Responses to ‘turn and face the strange’ … Changes

  1. Jane! I’m so happy to hear that you will be delving back (I suppose you never left) into the world of the merchants of Venice. Your book certainly captured my imgination. I am going to give my talk in Albuquerque, NM on June 27 (I wrote you about three months ago) and I have almost completely preprared the powerpoint presentation. I will send it to you in a minute, if you wish….You are featured in the introduction. I just need an email address….Would you please take a look? I would be very grateful.

    I have also begun the baby steps of launching a new endeavor — something, somewhere in the world of inner meets outer wealth, to be further defined…..and I know you will continue to be a tremendous souce of inspiration for me. http://www.ericacharlesworth.com

    With appreciation,

    Erica Charlesworth (ericacharlesworth@hotmail.com)

    • What a lovely message, thank you Erica. And good to hear from you too. So exciting to hear your talk is almost done – would LOVE to see it, thank you so much. You can email it to me on janegleesonwhite@gmail.com. (If I don’t reply until the end of the week/early next, see the above blog for reason why … heh. 🙂 ) all best to you and here’s to our continuing conversation and mutual inspiration, Jane

  2. All the best for your new project, Jane! (And good luck finding your new writing home.) John

  3. Thanks John. Always good to hear from you. And yes, suspect luck will be needed (although did hear today about writing space at an actual monastery … in Sydney). all the best to you, Jane

  4. I have tried to work in the library over the years. Nice libraries. Even the National Library. I can’t. I go. I sit. I write nothing. It is so distracting. The other people. The smell of the books I don’t own. It is impossible to concentrate. So uncomfortable. I really wanted to learn how. To train myself. I thought it was a worthwhile skill. Last time I tried I just carved graffiti into the desk.

  5. Interesting, Stella. How I know THAT feeling. Which is why this particular section of Fisher is SO important to me, only library I can work in. So, you’re responsible for graffiti which I find endlessly distracting … in nicest possible way. 🙂
    Wonder where you can work?

  6. That quotation from Flaubert is wonderful! thank you, Jane, and good luck with your writing space.

  7. Thanks Genevieve, lovely to hear from you. Flaubert comment has been sitting over my desk since 2005, helps to contain my urge to over-party.

  8. So, that’s what’s wrong with me: ‘Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.’ I think I do it vice versa! Well the management of my house that is. My life, I guess I have to admit, is pretty orderly albeit busy and social. Anyhow, love the quote — good luck with your new project.

  9. Pingback: Writing the Australian Landscape, Alexis Wright’s The Swan Book, Naomi Klein’s counter-narrative to neoliberalism – and The Disappearing | bookish girl

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