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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

'FREEDOM': Jonathan Franzen discusses his novel and the writing process with Leigh Sales on LATELINE

Be all that as it may, meanwhile:
'In other news…'
30th November 2010

Tuesday: But two hours broken sleep out of four in the cot, unable to sleep without eventually succumbing to my talking book and headphones.

Janny and I got to an appointment at Charlie Gee's by half nine, on this stinking hot day, high thirties Celsius. Before noon we were visiting Baby Inkletter in Adelaide Terrace, to drop of some supplements we'd been storing in our fridge for the last week for her, and we drove her to the Inglewood Library to save her bussing in the scorching conditions.

She finally has completed her assignments and exams for her Diploma of Education, which, assuming she has passed, will be her third degree; she will have to wear a triple deckered black flat cap at graduation.

Back briefly to Charlie Gee's for a prescription after dropping our precious daughter back home in the heart of the city, then finally home. I had to go to bed, and slept maybe another four plus hours till after dark.

Lateline: The (Leigh) Sales Graph: Thank you Ms Sales for bringing us a superb interview with Jonathan Franzen, celebrated author, who has recently had his latest novel 'Freedom' published.

Mr Franzen was able to open up and give some exceptional insights, under the skillful questioning of Ms Sales, about the novel and about the phenomenon of writing. He wasn't afraid to assess the devaluation flowing from even interviews like the very one he was engaged in with Ms Sales, late in the time allotted: "But there is something about the process – particularly of doing interviews like this, frankly - that it begins to empty you out and you start to feel as if more of the language you speak is going dead on you." Give us more of this type of honesty and integrity any day!

I could not think of a better ABC journalist, a better qualified one, to conduct an interview like this. Being very widely read, intelligent, and with a satisfyingly broadening insight, Ms Sales helped her honoured guest share much of value, and much of unusual but fascinating interest.

For example, Ms Sales asked Mr Franzen whether he missed his characters when he finished writing a book, and he gave a wonderful analysis of what leaving his characters be, when he pens his final lines, means to him.

For this line from Mr Franzen alone, thank you thank you thank you, Ms Sales: "You know, once it's passed a certain hour in the evening it's time to be reading… because I need that time alone to commune with a book."

I imagine interviews like this one are like getting a favourite dessert after a long and punishing diet for the likes of Leigh Sales, who, for her bread and butter must spend mind-numbing hours grilling mediocre politicians who are all mouth and trousers, these connivers, shallow-minded common scoundrels in suits.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Monday 29th November 2010

Be all that as it may, meanwhile:
'In other news…'
29th November 2010

Monday: This is not a short story (although it may well become the fodder to write one):
He was running late as usual, as damn usual – ask his Missus – and so to stop for a hitchhiker was not going to help the deadline; his wife wanted to go to her knitting group at Caffissimo's tonight, and he wanted her to go, because it was soul food for the poor thing, overworked, underappreciated, and discounted regularly by certain close ones.

But to make the trip worthwhile, he needed to be back at maybe ten past seven at the latest. That was going to be a challenge, because it was Bob's afternoon out in Perth today, and he liked to make the most of it. Not helped by the party in full swing, with tables groaning under the weight of goodies, at Bob's Guildford house, with more social trainers and their bosses than you could poke a stick at milling about, most of whom he knew, and felt obliged to acknowledge and chat a tad with.

He had even joked as he walked into the main room "How did you know it was my birthday?" He reminisced at length with Maxine, rarely seen these days, as she had been promoted 16 months ago to some arcane position in the mysterious corridors of the DSC. A favourite supervisor of his for years over Bob and all of his outings with said rascal. All the while Bob was finishing his 3 o'clock smoke and having a private cup of tea in front of his TV some metres away. A tonne of food, one of Bob's reasons for living next down the scale from tobacco, and he was determined to have a cup of tea on his own…

And so we left for the train into Perth even later than otherwise, due to the obligatory socialising to be done with colleagues old and new.

What of the hitchhiker, did you ask? Yes, powering along Marshall Road, the wonderful Whiteman Park's four thousand hectares on his left, he may as well have been a thousand miles out of Perth. There on the left, a woman in her forties, under a lone tree a few feet off the tarmac, hand out for a lift. Bloody hot, at least 35 Celsius.

Probably 15 years since he last stopped for a hitchhiker, he felt a sudden twinge of concern for an older woman, alone, in this heat, stuck out here, needing a lift somewhere. Pulled over, after some thinking time, overshooting by a hundred feet, maybe two hundred.

While she was hoofing quickly up to the passenger side, he was hoisting about five bags of things from off the seat and the floor, not quite moving it all by the time she arrived, opening the door, and hopping in as he just got the the last of the paraphernalia onto the back seat.

She had a small bag in her hand and a very low cut blouse, a plain faced woman. As he began asking "Where do you need a lift to?" she said, having just sat in the seat, "I'm a hooker. I'm from Sydney and need money."

This took the man by mild surprise, not shock, likely because he hadn't processed it fully, but he quickly said, with the mildest of irritation well concealed, "I'm running late for work, and I thought you needed a lift somewhere."

Just exactly what was said in the ensuing moments and in what order is a bit jumbled in his mind, but he got to reiterate his need to keep moving, and she got to imply that she didn't need to go to any place in particular but to get money, and it by plying any of the various skills of an ancient trade.

And so she politely vacated the seat, and he wished her well. He genuinely did. Not angry about what she did for a living – he felt sorry for her for that – but now under more pressure time-wise and for no noble outcome, like helping a fellow human being in need of a lift on a hot day.

As he digested what had just happened while he drove on to the controlled riot at Bob's digs, it dawned on him that she likely misunderstood one thing he said in repetition, as she faced him sporting sizeable in-your-face white breasts half covered, "I'm off to take out my intellectually disabled friend, who will be wondering where I am," touching his forehead. She said something he could not recall, but putting the pieces together she likely inferred that he was saying that he himself was intellectually disabled.

No argument from his wife on that one…
And by the way, Bob took his time in the city, we called on Baby Inkletter at her place in Adelaide Terrace (first time in about 14 years or more since they last met), and I did'nt get back home till a quarter to eight. I convinced Janny to go nevertheless to her knitting group, but she refused to let me drive her and wait for her there.

Lateline: The (Leigh) Sales Graph: Former Prime Minister John Howard should feel grateful at how pleasantly he was treated by a professional Leigh Sales during her long interview tonight. He came across more reasonably than usual, certainly better than his self serving debacle with Tony Jones on Q&A to flog his autobiography Lazarus Rising.

Ms Sales asked a lot of good questions, and didn't tear him to shreds like Kerry O'Brien would likely have. This resulted in a better interview, because we mug public can suss out the pricks whether they're being treated nice or nasty.

One of my main bugbears with John Howard began early on in his prime ministership, when it became apparent that he was as conniving a politician as the rest of them, while having portrayed for ages the illusion that he was a cut above, of a higher calibre concerning integrity and such. It quickly became obvious that he was yet another ordinary polly with whom you had to study the fine print, and that he was set apart mainly by ambition. Common as muck; sorry Howard lovers.

If he had not placed himself on an integrity pedestal, I would not be making such complaints. An ordinary politician is nothing inspiring, but there is something inspiring about an ordinary politician who does not pretend to be extraordinary.

I finished reading Cormac McCarthy's 'The Road' today: a powerful book, well worth the experience, and I adored the last paragraph, laced with insight and anticlimactic.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Monday 15th November 2010

Be all that as it may, meanwhile:
'In other news…'
15th November 2010

Monday: How does she keep doing it? Leigh Sales has brought us yet another wonderful interview on Lateline, this time with Lord David Puttnam. It was a total pleasure listening to Lord Puttnam responding to Ms Sales' questions. These interviews are inspiring, and a welcome relief from the run-of-the-mill politicians we have to suffer ad nauseam. More such please Ms Sales. By the way, what a great interview Ms Sales brought us recently with Dr Vandana Shiva.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

PLAINSBORO: "Walk her Gordon," PLInkletter called, "or you'll have Elsie in a dizzy spin. You'll do Lobelia! We'll have you milked in but 12 minutes."

Be all that as it may, meanwhile:
'In other news…'
13th November 2010

Saturday: I phoned Luke from Kambo's who we had met on Thursday, and I purchased by phone the 700 litre Westinghouse fridge-freezer we had looked at. Our faithful Kelvinator 390, over twenty years old, is so bursting at the seams all the time with what we need to keep in it, that we've finally said enough is enough, and it will be retired to The Dear Leader, for whom it will be a doubling of size.

Luke treated me very well, for which I am grateful. Delivery will be on Thursday, and I will almost have to dismantle our house to get it through the front door (I am not joking: the bright sparks who designed this house – it's only 24 years old – made a ridiculously narrow front and and back door width, and in their wisdom made sure the front opening was further compromised with a jutting piece of wall, such that anything like a recliner chair has to be magically shrunk to get around the corner into the lounge. I have often fantasised about getting the designer and gently pushing his or her head through a miniature basketball hoop, while giving the genius a twist and a bend.)

Late in the day I dug up some more of my absurdly small potato crop from under the outside sink, and juiced the smallest ones, and, wait for it, drank the couple of mouthfuls of juice; it is not going to take the soft drink market by storm, but it could have been worse. My first ever try of potato juice, and I'm still alive six hours later to write about it.

Meanwhile, the spinning tail was at her annual wind-up Spinning Guild day long meet in Dianella, winning the Christmas hamper, and being told no-one nicer could have won it, as well as having a great time, spoiling the ladies with her home cooking, including the wickedest cranberry and brandy chocolate balls.

Oh, great to see Stephen Long back with Leigh Sales last night on Lateline.

Monday, November 8, 2010

CLAREMORE: "I'm in a singin' rage with a waggly tail." PLInkletter toned, "Pinch me to prove I'm awake, my dreams, my dreams are through. Ay, ay, ay."

Be all that as it may, meanwhile:
'In other news…'
08th November 2010

Monday: I took Bob swimming and walking, having not seen him for a week and a half. Great to see Phoebe the old corgi and her master Peter on our walk along the river. Phoebe is intensely loyal to Peter, now in his 80's, and she went out her door and got a friend walking past to come in and help Peter this very morning, who was quite unwell at the time.

This evening late I began writing my next short story, titled 'Sugar', up to 2500 words, which I hope to submit to a competition closing in December.

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