happy new year

It’s 2011. We’re in the future. But it feels just like yesterday did.

If the date is 1/1/11, does that mean we go back to the beginning?

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it wasn’t raining in new york ten years ago. i wonder if it is now.

Dropping butterscotch schnapps on the doorstep. Is this the last of my ten-year memories? We didn’t want ten years to go by so fast. They’ve gone by faster than we wanted them to.

It seems that soon it will be time to start counting in lots of twenty years. But my memory won’t be so good. Everything will become abstract. It’s already starting. My impressionist memories. Flickering modernism as I tell myself back my own stories.

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In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower

I just finished In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower today. Just wanted to say. It’s taken me three months and one day to read it, so it seems as though my reading of Proust is getting faster. A bit faster.

This book swung between the two poles of Gilberte and Albertine but it was the three trees, a bit more than half-way though, that made the biggest impact on me. The narrator could not recognise where those trees had come from. As he drove toward and then past them he considered variously that they were from memory, a dream, a long-ago-read novel or perhaps even a reflection from inside his own creativity and intellect: a living, solid representation of the mental effort that Swann avoided, but that the narrator knows he must embrace if he wants to write.

I read those pages on a south-bound train on the North Shore line and I had one of those experiences where the world faded out and nothing existed except the blue expanse of the words crashing into the lines crashing into the pages of the book and the different coloured sands I could see under my feet and the three solid trees in the distance, making a pattern that I knew I should recognise.

I read and reread those pages, but wanted to remember my first time, so I wrote the date into the book: July 9, 2010. All of five weeks ago.

I’ve travelled far since then.

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i’m all grown up now

Last weekend I saw my best friend from high school for the first time in something close to 15 years. We had lunch and hot chocolate and talked for hours, but hardly began the process of first remembering our teenage selves and then substantiating those girls we no longer are with all the experience from the years that have followed.

Afterwards I was thinking about the easy familiarity I had with this person who was my best friend as I did my teenage growing up but who wasn’t there for anything that came afterwards and is now a stranger courtesy of all these subsequent years. But how many years does it take to make a stranger? If you’ve properly known someone, will you always know them, even if you don’t anymore and even if you’ve forgotten that you do?

She remembers some of the details of my high school life that I’ve forgotten. Small stuff like that I used to tease my Dad about his grey hair. Big stuff like one particular teacher’s care for and encouragement of me. I think back on that particular teacher with such fondness, but had no idea that the feeling was mutual. I didn’t keep in touch with her and she has since died. Now that we’re grown ups, the rules are that we can’t go back. It really is too late to change the past.

But then my friend asks me about my dogs, not remembering that it was only one dog. One dog who was a major presence in my life, not least because for the first half of his life he wouldn’t make friends with any of my friends. The ground beneath me starts to tilt as I suddenly get a glimpse of the land between forgetting and remembering. It’s where I live, though I’ve never seen it before.

We can rebuild 1980s Brisbane with our memories and maybe we’d recognise it and maybe we’d call it home.

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another rainy day in sydney

Now that I’m sitting by big glass windows, looking out from the 19th floor over northern and western Sydney, I’ve come to like rain. It darkens and lightens the air and the sky as it comes and it goes. The trees and the horizon appear and disappear and in our empty office the whole show is just for me.

The rain dances around me and I have space on a grand scale in which to think and feel.

Today, I remembered Small World Experience. I went looking for their music on the internet and I found a video. I didn’t know they had a video.

My Brisbane of the 1990s flickers out at me through the gaps in the frames of this super 8 film.

The moments between then and now don’t feel continuous for me. I went away in time and place.

Glorious shades of grey everywhere I look.

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The Way By Swann’s

I finished The Way By Swann’s today.

It’s taken me longer to read than any book ever before – four and a half months – and I am quite embarrassed by how long that is. But maybe the explanation is in the fact that I more absorbed it than read it: paying attention to every single word and using the words to fashion pathways and torches and everything else that I needed in order to go where they went. The book is a landscape that I climbed into and I worried only once about whether or not we were going the right way.

The worry was around Swann. I was impatient with him, and his love. But time will lead us through all of its consecutive moments (so we think) and we have no way of knowing what awaits. So much is explained in the second part of the book and those details melt from the light into the shadows to suddenly loom over all the things we realise we don’t know when we get to the end. Everything we do know reflects off everything we don’t. And the book has become a darkening forest, as is the Bois de Boulogne, the Parisian park that Proust’s narrator stands in as it ends. And the past and the present dance around us just as they do him. And I am brought almost to tears on the Eastern Suburbs train platform. Not because what I’m reading is sad. Not because it’s beautiful. But because it’s true. And important. And though I’ve longed to, I’ve never managed to say it myself, or at least, not so well.

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midnight in paris

As I left the house for work this morning it had just turned midnight in Paris. This time last year and the year before and the year before and the years before, I was in Paris. I saw this midnight in Paris. Day changed to day with a night in between. My night. My midnight in Paris.

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Portrait of the artist about 15 years ago

At the end of last week I found a time capsule. It was filled with books:
Everything by Scott Fitzgerald. A couple of the volumes of Simone de Beauvoir’s autobiography. Literary Theory by Terry Eagleton. Books on roller skating, break dancing, being a disc jockey. Nattering on the Net: Women, Power and Cyberspace by Dale Spender. Harold Pinter, Joan Littlewood, Caryl Churchill, Bertolt Brecht. Autobiographies by Dorothy Hewitt and Boy George. Cyberpunk. The James Herriot novels. Backlash by Susan Faludi and The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf. Radclyffe Hall, Anita Loos and Anaïs Nin. Lots of books on Marilyn Monroe. Mikhail Sholokhov, William Faulkner and Ernest Hemmingway. Everything (up to the mid 90s) by Jeanette Winterson and Greg Egan. Almost the entire Sesame Street Library Volumes 1–15 (just missing Volume 13).  Biographies of Nico and Malcolm McLaren. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers. George Orwell. Truman Capote. Gertrude Stein. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf was read during the space of one afternoon while I reclined on a 1930s daybed on our front porch (or at least in my memory it is a 1930s daybed). That afternoon happened about 15 years ago.

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last words come up all you’ve got to waste

Ok, I’ll admit something now that I didn’t when I wrote about Pavement last weekend. I cried through a lot of the middle part of their reunion gig. It’s not that unusual for me, my favourite songs often make me cry. At the time I thought it was the time travel aspect of the show, the sense they gave me of getting the last 10 years back. Ten years that were so full but that passed in a blink. Ten years that did a slow dance with my youth and then disappeared and left me standing, confused.

But it wasn’t until I was cooking last night and listening to Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain that I understood the implications of the time travel. During that show Pavement captured and made tangible moments from my past that I thought were gone forever. And I didn’t think that was possible. During various attempts at various diaries throughout my life I’ve tried to capture moments too, but it’s never worked. The experience was so unexpected and I was so happy. But I was also aware that they were giving me something I’m afraid I’ll never have again. Not just the 10 years, though god knows they’re important, but the sense of being able to hold moments that I thought were lost forever

even though they slipped through my fingers again as the songs ended.

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the white colour circle

I went to the Olafur Eliason exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art a few weeks ago. There was a lot there to wonder at, but the piece that fascinated me most of all was The white colour circle. I spent a long time looking at it, went away and then came back again to sit down in front of it and look some more. So many shades of white like so many shades of nothing. Or, so many shades of everything.

If time does not flow like a river, if the moments we live can be not consecutive, if they can be like the pigeon holes with the light shining on them in random order in Fred Hoyle’s October the First is Too Late, then I see all the shades of white and almost-white as another representation of this idea.

But it also made me think about living moments concurrently. Scientifically, I’m sure this doesn’t work because our consciousness can only be in one place at one time, but what if? What if all those different shades of white were all the moments we could live at the same time? Like all the radio stations playing on the dial at once in Jeanette Winterson’s Tanglewreck.

In each patch of white lives a moment. But is it predetermined or is it ours to do as we please with?

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