Finished writing new book! Now back to reading and being bookish

At long last I’ve finished writing, editing, copyediting and proofreading my new book. Now I can read freely and blog again.

Last week a friend mentioned Les Murray’s extraordinary poem ‘Burning Want‘ which reminded me that I’ve been wanting to blog about Les Murray here for ages. And poetry is what I’ve been LONGING for while being down among the numbers for the last 12 months and more while working on my new book. Here are the first three stanzas of Murray’s devastating poem:

From just on puberty, I lived in funeral:
mother dead of miscarriage, father trying to be dead,
we’d boil sweat-brown cloth; cows repossessed the garden.
Lovemaking brought death, was the unuttered principle.

I met a tall adopted girl some kids thought aloof,
but she was intelligent. Her poise of white-blonde hair
proved her no kin to the squat tanned couple who loved her.
Only now do I realise she was my first love.

But all my names were fat-names, at my new town school.
Between classes, kids did erocide: destruction of sexual morale.
Mass refusal of unasked love; that works. Boys cheered as seventeen-
year-old girls came on to me, then ran back whinnying ridicule.

I’ve also started reading, along with the rest of the world, Thomas Piketty’s  Capital in the Twenty-First Century. So far so excellent, and I can see why it’s knocked economists’ socks off everywhere. Apart from being exceptionally well researched and thought, it’s beautifully written, lucid, rollicking even. I’m also reading Clive James’s translation of Dante’s The Divine Comedy. So far I’m only up to James’s Introduction, which is mesmerising. What a brain, what an ear, what a writer. More about both these books when I’ve read them.

I also received a copy of my publisher Allen & Unwin‘s centenary history this week, which I’ve been reading over breakfast and thoroughly enjoying: A Hundred Years of Allen & Unwin, 1914-2014 by A&U founders Patrick Gallagher and Paul Donovan. Such fascinating history which I had no idea about before now. Here’s how it opens:

‘On 4 August 1914, England declared war on Germany and a new book publisher by the name of George Allen & Unwin Ltd opened for business in London with one Stanley Unwin at its head.’

According to the book, Stanley Unwin bought the floundering publishing house George Allen & Company to set himself up in business. This company has a wonderful history: it was founded by George Allen, a pupil and friend of John Ruskin, in a field in Kent in 1871 to hand print and publish Ruskin’s books, which kept it in business until Ruskin’s death in 1900.

My next blog will be about Les Murray, followed by, at long last, Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.


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7 Responses to Finished writing new book! Now back to reading and being bookish

  1. Eileen Naseby says:

    Hi Jane – I can’t wait to read your Les Murray blog. I have met him a few times and he’s as complex a person as you could meet. I heard Les read “Burning Want” on the ABC many years ago. I was driving the car and had to pull over I was crying so much. It came close as anyone could to demonstrating what it is like to be on the outside looking in, which I had done for most of my life. My husband who painted the portrait of Les which hangs in the National Portrait Gallery, loves “The Last Hellos” the poem about Les’s father whom we met. When’s the new book scheduled to be published?

    • Oh WOW! What a fantastic story – or stories. So lovely to hear from you Eileen. Wonderful Murray stories. I find his poetry devastating, brilliant, and this one just cuts me to the quick every time. I’m not surprised to hear you had to pull over. And thank you I had no idea your husband painted the portrait of Les in Canberra, I will look it up (haven’t seen it). THANK YOU! I met Les once to interview him, during the Sydney Writers’ Festival. We sat on the wharf by the harbour and shot the breeze as the sun set. Was amazing. He is extraordinary. (New book due out in November, I will write more about it here some time.)

  2. Eileen Naseby says:

    I had a bit of a run in with John Tranter about an inference he made about Les on FB a few weeks ago. I get angry when I hear this stuff. Kate Jennings wrote in her “Evolution of Selected Writings”,
    ‘Les Murray is a world class writer and the slime slathered on him is shande to the nation.” She also recalls having dinner with him in New York before be had an onstage conversation with Susan Sontag. She asked him if he was nervous and he replied, “No they don’t hate me here like they hate me in Australia.’

  3. I’m no longer on fb so I didn’t see that inference, wonder what it related to. I know Murray is divisive and some of his political views are complicated, to say the least, unable to be neatly categorised. But his poetry is mostly extraordinary, as is he. I agree with Kate Jennings. (I remember people being surprised when I wanted to interview and write about Murray, in 2005, as if it wasn’t done to be seen to admire his poetry.)
    Australia is very good at hating/ignoring its own, especially its great creative geniuses. Patrick White and Christina Stead come immediately to mind as writers more celebrated and understood overseas than in Australia.

  4. eeloh says:

    Erocide – that is just a wonderful term; I think that happened to me on my last date.
    You’ve now set me on a trail of reading Murray’s oeuvre on Australian Poetry Library- thanks. For that alone, this is my new fave blog.
    I stumbled on your site because I’m studying accounting for the first time ever (as part of an MBA). I’ve been hitting he books this weekend and going a bit crazy with it, and vaguely remembered your book and decided to look it up thinking, god, I need to read something about this discipline that is not dry, like my textbook.

  5. What a wonderful comment, thank you eeloh. Yes, sadly erocide is an essential term and the phenomenon too common. Heartbreaking. Hope you’ve recovered from yours. Sure I’ve suffered it myself.
    I’m loving the idea that you’re studying accounting and plan to read Murray, now I’m more inspired to write about him here than ever. I hope today.

  6. Eileen Naseby says:

    eeloh I feel the same way about erocide. Les told me once that many many years after he left school he was giving a talk in a town near where he lives and afterward a woman came up to to thank him and introduced herself. It turned out she was the main perpetrator in these original acts of erocide, and totally oblivious to the damage she had wrought. One the way home he collapsed and ended up in hospital with a suspected heart attack. In fact his symptoms were actually part of a dreadful nervous breakdown.

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