Tuesday, 22 September 2015

The Novel - a reading from

Brunswick River - winter
Have not written here since my return from Italy but it doesn't mean I haven't been busy - including a couple of georgeous weekends at the beach.

Here's an update.

  • Wrote a review of Italian books I have read in the past while for the Avid Reader Bookshop website.https://avidreaderbookshop.wordpress.com/2015/09/09/italian-literature-a-taste/
  • Did a reading from my work in progress at Avid Reader as (part of) the support act to Gail Jones talking about her new book "A Guide to Berlin." Exerpt of my reading below.
  • Interviewed Shirley Barrett at Avid Reader about her new (first) novel, "Whale OH!", about whaling and killer whales and the Davidson whaling family set in Eden (NSW) in 1903. Very funny, touching, illuminating. Shirly has been writing and directing film and TV for the past twenty years (South Solitary, Love Serenade). This book began life as a script but she couldn't get the finance to make it so she has become a novelist. She was great to interview.
  • Have almost finished the second draft of "Paradiso". Its been a hard slog at times but I'm confident this draft is a big improvement on the first. Next draft will be even better.

Here's the piece I read at Avid. I chose a fairly quiet piece. I wanted to feel comfortable standing and reading in front of fifty people. I must say reading exerpts aloud is a great way to hear the writing clearly. I discovered that some of them were clumsy and uneven in places; in others the rhythm just didn't feel right; others were good but not stand alone pieces. It was an interesting and challenging exercise.


Papa looks at me and smiles and then looks at the bonfire which is now a raging volcano cracking and snapping as it accelerates towards its climax. I take his hand.

 ‘Look Domenico. Which way are the sparks flying?’ I look to the peak of the fiery mountain and see a spray of sparks explode from the top.

‘Which way is that?’ I ask pointing to the far side of the square. They are blowing away from us, neither towards where I know the mountains begin nor towards the sea, which I know lies to the south. ‘Is it Milano and the River Po in that direction?’ I ask.

I have learnt the geography of my country from maps on walls and views out my classroom window. Maestro Carros takes us out into the school grounds and has us face the mountains. ‘This is north,’ he tells us. He has us imagine we can see Venezia to the south. He teaches us north and south and then tells us that even further south lies Roma and the ancient civilizations. And further south still is the Kingdom of two Sicilies where Italians speak another language, eat different food and have black hair and dark skin.

To the north lies Austria and beyond the mountains, countries with many cultures and many languages until there is nowhere left to go. Only ice and frozen waste. Maestro Carros does not tell us much about the east except to say that if you go far enough you reach the lands of China and of silk and spices. And even further lie the islands of the Pacifique, undiscovered islands of mystery and magic.

He has never been east of Udine but of the west he has many stories.  He tells of getting lost in the richest streets of Milano, of travelling on steam driven trains between cities, of lakes as large as seas and of his own home, once part of Italy, now France.

‘Milano is west?’

‘Yes’ confirms my father.

‘So the sparks must be flying…’ and here I stop and face the invisible mountains and repeat my compass points mantra. If I raise my right arm it points in the direction of the disappearing sparks.

‘It’s east papa. They are travelling east.’

My father hesitates.

‘Another unproductive year with another poor harvest,’ my father observes. ‘The signs are clear. We will not be here to see another summer Domenico.’ He says this calmly. We both look towards Mamma and Marietta whose aprons swirl as they move between tureen and table, ladling out portions of hot soup. I wait, but there is no more information forthcoming. He pats me on the shoulder and pushes me towards the food.
Vecia has disappeared in the smoke and glare of the inferno. Someone calls out and we turn to see a flare of light as she is engulfed in flames and, for a moment, is lifted above the fire and she is gone.