A catch up

Wow. It’s been nearly three months since my last post. Time flies when you’re not blogging. So, how’s things? Nothing much has happened lately. I have a failmate instead of a housemate who won’t pay rent/bills on time, throttles the bandwidth, and pees on the floor. I’ve reviewed Genesis and written a reflective piece on Poh Ling Yeo. My father discovered that I know how to swear and is now disappointed in me…

Anyway, I’ll be doing a ‘Footscray Whitewash’ reading for the Peril launch this Friday. We should catch up. Say 7.30pm at Hares & Hyenas? Maybe wander down to The Lifted Brow launch at The Workers Club afterwards? Don’t worry, it won’t be just the two of us. Christine Priestly who sometimes posts for me will also be there. Her article on microbiologists is in the latest Brow and she’s pretty excited.

So, um, yeah. See you there then?

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‘Never date a writer – we are total drama queens.’ – Bret Easton Ellis

Christine Priestly heads to the Athenaeum Theatre to catch a glimpse of the ‘person whom everyone expects to be… well, Patrick Bateman.’ (‘Shrink rapping with Gen-X’ , The Age, August 14, 2010)

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I’m not sure what I was expecting from an interview with the author of American Psycho, Less Than Zero, and The Rules of Attraction. It certainly wasn’t a forty-six-year-old confessing to tweeting about Delta Goodrem and chatting to strangers on GRINDR out of sheer hotel-room boredom.

‘Me admitting to liking Delta Goodrem reveals more about me as a writer than anything I say about my writing process,’ Ellis told the audience.

And that was about par for the interview course. For the better part of an hour, Ellis shared with a theatre full of hardcore fans (the Melbourne show sold out in 7 minutes) his thoughts, insights, and generally wrong-town attitudes to life, the universe, Australia’s ‘complicated relationship with Delta Goodrem,’ and why you should never date a writer.

Perhaps not the gruelling self-analysis the audience hoped for, but gripping none-the-less. To be honest the theatre had something of a circus-side-show feel to it as we sat wondering where the interview was headed next. ‘If it comes to mind,’ Ellis said, ‘I will go there.’

Clearly Ellis’s latest book, Imperial Bedrooms, did not come to mind.

‘Latest? I wrote it like nine months ago.’ And I guess that’s what writers and celebrities don’t tell you – about ‘the huge disconnect between writing the book and doing the tour’. But unlike most celebs who dredge up the necessary persona to play the promotional game for their bread-and-butter fans, Ellis makes no secret of his dislike of tours and the intense boredom he experiences doing the PR circuit. Ellis told the audience that if he writes a book and someone happens to read it, that’s great, but he claims to live in relative anonymity and be perfectly okay with that. (Easier said when your craft just happens to pay your bills and then some.)

Ellis’s reluctance to talk about Imperial Bedrooms was a little disappointing, given the event was hosted by the Wheeler Centre in partnership with the Melbourne Writers Festival and Readings, and was essentially intended to promote his new work. But I had to ask myself, were the audience really there to hear about Imperial Bedrooms, or were they (like me), there to meet the ‘character’ of Bret Easton Ellis?

I also found myself wondering what sort of individuals would pay to hear Ellis speak? Would the crowd resemble that of a late-night screening of ‘A Clockwork Orange’ at the Astor? Maybe a tad younger and with fewer trench-coats (I’d also say with fewer single-seaters, but the fully-booked theatre may have given a false impression there), and certainly with more female fans than I had anticipated.

Ellis says himself he is always surprised that at every book signing there is one ‘pretty twenty-five-year-old holding a copy of American Psycho whispering that it taught her to masturbate at age fourteen.’

That the interview was conducted by Alan Brough was another plus. After Ellis’s appearance at the Byron Bay Writers Festival, I was expecting a lot of prickle, which can be quite uncomfortable to watch. ‘I froze in front of the audience at the Byron Bay Writers Festival,’ Ellis said, and then proceeded to blame the interviewer for asking such ‘boring’ questions. I hoped for (and received) a more comfortable ride with Brough as host.

Brough also had to navigate the show-pony crowd and Ellis’s biting retorts. When one audience member asked Ellis a question about how he handled his relative anonymity among post gen-X-ers, Ellis asked how many drinks she’d had. ‘Four, five?’ Like any hard-core Ellis fan, she wasn’t about to put up with that, and promptly informed the writer he was being offensive. The audience shifted in their seats. And there was Brough, stuck in the middle.

When asked where Ellis sees himself in his work, where fact meets fiction, he replied that his writing is ‘emotionally autobiographical’, and added, ‘the best question I was ever asked was, “Why are you so fucked up?”’

I’m not about to delve into what Brough terms ‘the conflation of the character and the writer’ (apart from anything, Ellis would be bored), but the nakedness with which Ellis depicts his lifestyle (not his life), his penchant for making disturbing and outlandish statements, and his general disdain for anything conventional, begs the question: how much is put on, and how much does he really believe?

-CP

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Note from TL: there’s a video of BEE @ the Wheeler Centre for everyone who couldn’t make it (including me).

Guest Review: Christine Priestly on Etchings Dust Till Dawn

Usually I approach journals by letting the pages fall open, meandering to whatever tugs and pulls. After devouring Ilura Press’s Etchings 7: Chameleons this way, I set out to experience Etchings 8: Dusk Till Dawn in its entirety and in order, like listening to new LP. No skipping to the singles, but absorbing the shape, the flavour, letting the theme emerge—even if I had the urge to skip a track or two.

First I took in the equivalent of the album artwork: the journal’s overall look and feel. I was drawn to its size and shape, the appropriately varied type face, which accentuates without jarring. I was left thinking, I’d like my work to appear in something this sexy.

Next, the small print: who featured, and where are they from, are there any hidden tracks, emergers, nobodies like me, alongside seasoned writers, offering something edgy, raw even, a thing I savoured in Etchings 7? Dusk Till Dawn offered a surprising number of international contributors and a notable scarcity of unknowns.

Then the composition—was there a good balance of fiction, poetry, artwork and essays? Predominantly traditional fiction and poetry, interspersed with artwork and essays. Only a few experimental pieces made the cut, including Christopher Linforth’s essay (really a list): ‘Stalking Woody Allen: Your Guide in 54 Parts’ and Warwick Sprawson’s satirical and bitter insight into the rivalry between emerging writers, ‘_iH_ttocS_’ a piece layered with kooky formatting and typeface (check out p.133 – I nearly missed the bold letters A – R – S – E – H – O – L – E embedded across the page).

As to the theme, there was a refreshing scarcity of vampires and creatures of the night, but the selected pieces didn’t seem altogether cohesive—more like a best-of compilation than an album.

The tracks I would come back to:

  • Ben Goldsworthy’s peculiar narrative confession of unreliability and dishonesty, ‘Movements and Calculations’;
  • A.S. Patric’s ‘The Wife’ whose narrator has no identity and possibly no reality: ‘Was he mad before, or is he mad now? The thing is to go along with whatever the reality is. He has to work out what that is, and then stick to it.’ (p. 154);
  • William McCormick’s darkly haunting artwork, ‘Masks’;
  • Kate Murfett’s tantalising poem, ‘The Red Queen’;
  • Poet Benjamin Dodd’s slightly paranoid, ‘Remnant;’
  • Maria Pavlova’s sensual ‘The Touch’, translated from the Bulgarian, which captures the consuming intensity of love, lust and loss;
  • Anthony Kane Evans’ murder mystery ‘The Problem With Castles’;
  • Scathing rants like the aforementioned ‘_iH_ttocS_’ by Warwick Sprawson: ‘You use words like pellucid and roil and exculpate without the faintest awkwardness that comes from a lexicon source book… Your level of control throttles the life out of words, leaving pages littered with lines like mangled ants.’ (p. 132)
  • The cruel variation in interpretation and intention between a husband and wife, in Ashley Cowger’s ‘Interpretations of Aurora’;
  • Alysse Near’s ‘caustic’ (p. 188) ‘Venus in the Twelve House’;
  • An unfortunate misconception of beliefs and human responses in Georgina Luck’s ‘The Butterfly Shawl’; and
  • An exploration of genocide in Rwanda in Ryan O’Neill’s, ‘The Cockroach’.

Dusk Till Dawn offered variety in length, flavour and colour, a definite must-read, if not quite as can’t-put-down as its predecessor.

Copies of Etchings 8: Dusk Till Dawn and its predecessors are available online from http://www.ilurapress.com, plus check out the ‘Submissions’ page for details on submitting to the upcoming issue, Etchings 10: The Feminine – La Femme.

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Christine Priestly is currently studying for her Master of Arts in Writing and Literature at Deakin University. She writes fiction and creative non-fiction and knows you can never own too many pairs of stilettos or love enough cats.

Guest reportage: Eagerly awaiting Etchings 8 – Dusk till dawn

The launch of Etchings 8: Dusk Till Dawn could have been straight out of a how-to manual. It had every element you’d expect:

  1. a sexed-up venue with indoor-outdoor schmoozing space
  2. bar snacks (very important)
  3. bar service (more important)
  4. eager interns (Eliza-Jane Henry Jones and Lana Rosenbaum) taking turns to act as MC
  5. the metaphoric breaking of the champagne by appropriate famous person (poet Anthony O’Sullivan)
  6. a taste of said launch product to activate salivation (A.S. Patric read from his story ‘The Wife’, Georgina Luck, from ‘Clutching the Butterfly Shawl’, Kate Murfett her award-winning poem ‘The Red Queen’, and twenty-year-old writing student from Deakin University, Allyse Near, from ‘Venus in the Twelfth House’)
  7. a plug-in by one or more field professionals (Professor Jennifer Radbourne, Dean, Faculty of Arts and Education at Deakin University, celebrated the literary successes of Deakin’s past and present students)
  8. and most importantly, discounted launch product (I managed to score a copy of Etchings 8: Dusk Till Dawn and Etchings 7: Chameleons – which included drink cards – for not much more than the cost of an extra drink. Happy me).

Having said that, for an issue touted to be ‘dark and sinister’, which ‘delves into the obscure, goes undercover, seduces, spirals into obsession, journeys into other galaxies, and is haunted by the otherworldly and mysterious,’ I had been hopeful of a Tarantino tribute, or at the very least, volumes of vampiric verse.

Instead, with its fabulously floral-faced podium and 80s discothèque dance floor, I discovered a serious insufficiency of ‘Dusk Till Dawn’ décor. None of the guests even got into character or played dress-ups.

On the whole, a successful, if staid, evening.

Here’s hoping the issue itself provides what the launch lacked: some deliciously devious darkness.

-CP

My amateur photos (check out Ilura Press on Facebook for a more professional, less fuzzy and with fewer shots of the backs of peoples’ heads impression of the evening):

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Christine Priestly is currently studying for her Master of Arts in Writing and Literature at Deakin University. She writes fiction and creative non-fiction and knows you can never own too many pairs of stilettos or love enough cats.

Excuses, excuses

I’ve been very bad with the not posting lately. Blame Labour Day long weekends and hail the size of golf balls (not that I got to see any of Melbourne’s freak storm, since I was raining it in Macedon). I’d like to think that you’ve missed me, but you probably haven’t, and now after the dispensing of my uninventive excuses, I have some photos in the style of Read You Bastards for your viewing pleasure:

Confessions of an open mic virgin: Christine Priestly ‘fesses up on her RYB experience

Showing your creative work to people is intimidating. Reading it aloud, more so. And with a mic, to a pub full of strangers, are you insane? But when I walked into The Empress last Wednesday night for Read You Bastards there was an anticipatory vibe. Encouraging. Supportive, even.

Before I could wallflower myself, I wrote my name down to read. Volunteered alongside published guest speakers, seasoned Read You Bastards regulars, and fellow open mic virgins. There was no getting out of this. I took my seat with some quality pub grub, a bottle of booze, and looked around. I was among friends.

Our hosts made a night and a half of it, with kooky door prizes between sets (I won the appropriately titled Mills & Boon Man-Hater—my story ‘Nesting Season’ is about a woman who murders her lover in a cemetery), live music, and encouragement aplenty. Hearing authors and poets perform their work gives it a flavour you can’t taste from reading it yourself.

Then my name was called, my hideously scrawled bio deciphered. I was up on stage. Lights blurred out most of the audience. Blind and deaf to everything but my beginner’s violin voice, I was in the story. I was the story. It was adrenalin-city.

Then it was over. I took my seat, still shuddering. I looked around. Still among friends. And all I wanted was to get up there and do it again.

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Christine Priestly is currently studying for her Master of Arts in Writing and Literature at Deakin University. She writes fiction and creative non-fiction and knows you can never own too many pairs of stilettos or love enough cats.