Dog tired

Good lord I am tired. Part of it is insomnia: while other people lie awake thinking about their mortgages, I lie awake thinking about my word count. The rest is just trying to exist in this exhausting city with one day off a week.

For the past few weeks I’ve been corralling words into pens of meaning, barking after ideas which refuse to go in the gate and join up with other ideas, and chasing half of my writing out to pasture because it’s irrelevant. I’m desperate to just curl up in the sun and sleep, but there’s no chance of that, because it just keeps on fucking raining, doesn’t it? Where the fuck is summer? I have short skirts, frocks and stilettos that need wearing and a tan that needs acquiring.

And to cap it all off, the sow at work who DOES NOT STOP TALKING … EVER … wrote on the whiteboard yesterday; ‘The longest day of the year is June 22nd from then on it starts getting darker and my birthday.’

Aside from the fact that this is grammatically incorrect and the solstice is on the 21st, I do not need reminding that winter is back on its way. Winter means depression, and no light, and more tiredness, and horrible coldness … so of course her birthday would be on the day that it starts getting darker.

What a jolly barrel of laughs we are. But then, that’s nothing unusual.

So … to keep H happy we must think of some Happy Thoughts.

Viz: I have just finished the best book I’ve read for ages – and I’ve been reading quite a lot of good things lately. If you need something to read, pick up Helen Dunmore’s The Siege. The writing is bordering on exquisite, and the subject matter – an entire city of people starving to death during the siege of Leningrad in 1942 – is fascinating. But what makes it so captivating is that it’s a very feminine rendering of war, in the sense that it’s the women keeping everyone alive because the men are away. I’ve read other good war books – Primo Levi’s If This is a Man and the inevitable Birdsong (which has probably the worst sex scenes I’ve ever read, although the battle scenes are brilliant), but they don’t depict the experiences of women in war very well. Because of the attention to detail, and to the sights, sounds and smells which the female protagonist is feeling – there is this very delicate, almost sensual web laid across the utterly bleak landscape. As well as this, I had the sense that the author was handling the reader carefully by making sure that nothing really bad happened to the important characters, because if it had, it would have been too depressing to bear.

And on top of it all, Dunmore is a superb writer and I was feeling somewhat inadequate by the time I’d finished the book. But that was partly because I’d read a bad review of my novel on the web while I was bored at work. The reviewer, Gillian Dooley, is a librarian in Special Collections at Flinders University and reviews for the Australian Book Review. In the ABR website she says, ‘Reviewing is necessarily subjective and I will always express a forthright opinion, but I hope to tell readers enough to decide for themselves.’

She was certainly forthright when she wrote, ‘White might have done better to write the novel in the diary form, giving the narrative more immediacy than the conventional past tense she has used. But then again, there are so many things wrong with this novel that I’m not sure that any merely technical alteration could save it.’ But was she allowing the reader to make up their own minds? I should hardly think so. A good review finds the positive and negative things in a work and I believe this is also how you should approach teaching creative writing – never put someone down unless you have something with which to buoy them up. And the novel was in diary format, and it didn’t work, so I rewrote it in third person, even though this meant writing it out again for the third time.

How does one learn to disregard their reviews? They almost precipitated Virginia Woolf into a relapse each time they came out. I guess it’s just a case of thickening your skin. Mine is tough, since I’ve been writing for years, but a review like this still makes you think, ‘Ouch.’ But then you forget about it.

On the plus side (since H likes all manner of shiny linings), on the website for the gay and lesbian bookshop in Darlinghurst, they had put three little icons next to my book which said:

Staff Pick

The only other one (in the lesbian section) which had all three was Dorothy Porter’s new book El Dorado.



6 Responses to “Dog tired”

  1. Konnie Huxtable Global Says:

    Good morning Jess. At least I hope it’s ‘good’ for you, what with the insomnia and word counting. (Why not pretend the words are sheep? That is supposed to be a soporific)

    I’m mostly nocturnal the mo – get more done. Admittedly the quantity/quality thing comes into play here but…

    Much to say (as you might fear) on subject of war, words and bad nookie. But I won’t.

    Instead a practical matter, if I may. I am now “blogger”. I have taken liberty of linking here. I’d like to entitle my link something more allusive than simply “redden” (I care about things like this, I regret.)

    When I had a good read a couple of weeks ago, I saw a ref. to yr PhD tiltle/subject. Cannot for life of me recall what it was but it struck me as a Good Word, which wd make a Good Link.

    It was something like “Cryofictives” (or probably nothing like “Cryofictives, I dunno). Anyway, if you have the faintest idea wot i’m on about: A) congratulations, that makes you unique; B) any chance you cd post it here, please?

    – and I promise I am NOT blog whoring/fishing for reciprocals. Mine is silly. Different clientele’n’that….


    Hmmm… ‘Cryofictives: The Deglacialisation of the Disinherited Mind’. That’s got legs….Dr Steiner, where do I enroll?

  2. Jessica Says:

    Dear KHG,

    Pleased to make your acquaintance, and thank you for your remedies for insomnia. Alas I have tried to count sheep in the past but I could neither keep my mind, nor the sheep, under control, and they wandered away into the neighbouring paddocks, which defeated the purpose of the exercise entirely because they could not be collectively counted.

    I’m not quite sure what this magical word was, but it may have been ‘fictocriticism.’ Does that ring a bell?

    Cryofictives sounds like a splendid word however, and I was wondering if, with it, one could devise a whole new genre: fiction that makes you frigid? Sentences that make you shiver?? Frozen prose???
    However, I’m not sure that it could be paired with ‘Redden’ since, as you may have noticed, my blog is about my tendency to combust, get flustered and upset, and generally overheat rather maintain one’s temperature at a low and steady degree of coolness.

    But, links can always be made (this is the beauty of having studied books for 10 years)! If one deglacialises, one melts, and one could easily melt through being divested of their grey matter. So … I should think Dr Steiner would defintely take you on if you prepared an abstract on the literature of de-frocked priests who found that their icy cells needed, well, warming and thence, ahem, defrosting.

    Also, may I have the address for your blog.


  3. Konnie Huxtable Global Says:

    Ooo err… even more trepidatious that usual, given spleen-explosion! Why *are* academics patronising? I used to be one (shhhh!) and found them … well, I don’t do internet bile as a rule, so… anyway… here’s wot i dun earlier…

    Thank you, J! Yes, ‘fictocriticism’ was it. Excellent. I do, of course, recognise the reduncacy of redacting (wrong word) the already redolent ‘redden’, but I am bored (can you tell?)…

    I would normally only advertise in the Little Shagthorne Probe, due to its excellent rates and convivial demographic, but since you were kind enough to ask…. and it does not merit the title ‘blog’ – especially in the present rarefied company – being merely a cyber-onanistic list of pretty pictures and noises. Utterly pointless but it may yet develop – not sure…

    The links, however, may lead you to errr.. ‘interesting’ places; all safe-to-view (bar the vaguely borderline ‘Lucille’), in case the repressed librarians are on the prowl. I like ‘derives’, BTW: very sharp. Thank you.

    Class B177: Cryofictives reading list:

    1. ‘Love in a Cold Climate’ [obvious…]
    2. ‘Fahrenheit -451’ [lame…]
    3. “A cold coming we had of it” [perverts]
    4. Something laboured involving Kristeva’s ‘Black Sun’
    5. ‘Love in the Time of Stage 3 Hypothermia’ [he’ll kill me… I’m off]

  4. Jess,
    I’m sure the bitch Dooley never had anything published, let alone had ‘staff choice’ next to her work at one of Sydney’s leading bookstores.

    My theory is that one should only be allowed to criticise once you have created yourself. Book reviewers must be published authors, design appraisals must be carried out by those whose products are in shops, and music critics must have succeeded as composers. If you’ve never had to slog through the pain of creation then you can never fully understand the works you claim to be an expert on.

    Besides, she’s a twat with a stupid name. Fuck her.

  5. Jessica Says:

    Good morning KHG. I see from H’s comments that you woke in the wee hours as well. You must be one of those amazing people like Newton who can only exist on 5 or 6 hours a night. I am not like Newton, only a bad sleeper, and I surf when I can’t sleep.

    Nice blog. Nice pics. Nice blue lady. I should stop using ‘nice’ since it’s one of the blandest words in the English language. But I haven’t had enough sleep so my creative abilities are not yet operative. I shall have a look at your links when I’m next at work – the diversion will be v. much appreciated.

    Academics are patronising because they are a) fucking mad (you have to be to stay in academia) b) have poor emotional intelligence c) have a desperate need to bolster their egos on account of said lack of EI.

    What did you teach?

    Oh, and by all means use any name you want to title your link to my blog – I was never fussed with it, only bored like you (you must work in a library as well), and fiddling with words, as is my wont. But your alliterative appeal is leaping from the screen: brotherH shall take you for the next Mr Darcy.

    Class B177: Cryofictives assessment task 1: Using Dr. Free Zinn’s ‘On Cold Phenomenology’ and two texts from the reading list, analyse the use of affect in cryofiction. Reference must be made to the following: frigidity, algid skin conditions, brumality, boreal passions.
    Max. 3000 words. Weighting 30%.

  6. Dear Jess,

    Verbal dexterity like that when hungover, tired and riled by pompous colleagues and twat-wit reviewers? Wow, gulp, jealous etc…

    Ta for v. kind words re. blog. It’s a disposible distraction; given that ‘redden’ is probably the most textured word on the whole site, the label stays, but thank you nonetheless.

    I taught history and law (although never legal history, oddly). I left partly because I found my colleagues (yes – your portrayal is spot on) complacent and unimaginitive, in a role where intuition is fundamental.

    Do you teach as part of your PhD? Given yr daunting assignment for Class B177, I would both envy & slightly pity your students; in their shoes, I think I’d just submit a picture of a melancholic penguin and make a run for it. Speaking of penguins…

    Class B177: Field Trip

    The group will undertake a 3 month visit to the Ross Ice Shelf. Half the group will bring a partner of choice and half will be supplied with a copy of ‘Madame Bovary’ (Penguin Edition). Reports on psychosexual fluctuation, with particular reference to thermo-libidinal economy, to be filed with Prof Zinn. Please bring six huskies, food (lots) and a pair of woolly mittens.

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