Fishermen – and the Adelaide Writers’ Week 2015

carpentariaI’m slowly making my way back into the daylight world after some travels through the underworld. As it happens, I’ve been reading Alexis Wright’s astonishing novel Carpentaria for about the fourth time, which is exactly the book to be reading at such a time. And by chance I was up to the part where the fisherman Norm Phantom rows his dead friend Elias out into the ocean, to take him home:

‘”So it’s time old mate,” Norm said, as he balanced himself in front of Elias to untie the ropes holding him in place. During his journey, Norm had become quite nimble as he moved around the small vessel, as though he had always possessed a corklike buoyancy with the movement of water. “It’s time for you to go home.” He remembered the coral trout and undid the lid of one of several plastic containers kept behind the ends of their seats for storage. The fish in their bags were emptied from the container and Norm placed them in Elias’s folded arms. Then he lifted his friend, knowing he had to let him go, but not wanting to either, because once he did, he knew he would be alone. Betrayed by feelings of loneliness, and a sadness which was only half reserved for Elias, he sat holding the body. He could feel Elias’s spirit resisting his hold. Very carefully and reluctantly, Norm lifted Elias over the side of the boat and placed him into the strangely calm emerald green waters. Elias sank deeper and deeper, gently through the giant arms of water waiting at every depth to receive him, until finally, Norm could see him no more. Then he knelt down in the water on the floor of his little boat, and prayed for Elias, and was thankful he had brought his spirit safely to his final resting place.

‘In time, when he looked up again, he found himself alone. All the gropers had departed and the day was almost gone.’

As with the best novels, each time I read Carpentaria I see it anew. This time it seems to me to be Wright’s Odyssey, her Ulysses.

In other news, I’m very excited to be heading to my first ever Adelaide Writers’ Week, which starts this Saturday 28 February. It will also be my first ever trip to Adelaide.

I’ll be speaking to Julian Meyrick about my new book Six Capitals at 3.45 pm on Thursday 5 March on the West Stage. Julian is Strategic Professor of Creative Arts at Flinders University and one of his current projects concerns accounting for cultural value. I am very much looking forward to some pithy discussion. Hope to see you there.

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