It feels as though I’ve been blown off course, and my usual faith in myself is failing me. I’m wondering if a girl who is a feminist, who has (almost) four degrees to her name, and more than her fair share of looks, style, libido and confidence is destined to scare off every eligible man who comes her way. But then I found an article in the Sydney Morning Herald which said that brains in women are an asset, not something detrimental, as centuries of patriarchy would have us believe. So maybe there is a way to navigate myself back to happiness.

Yesterday mum, dad and I went to the Hayward Gallery to see Antony Gormley’s Blind Light. I liked the figures captured and tangled in wire, and the upright men standing like calm sentinels, watching over the city from bridges and buildings. If I’d been in better spirits I would have stayed outside in the sun to watch them for a little longer, but I was tired again, and I tend not to get much out of art, despite dad being an artist and art teacher. He stalled in a room full of concrete blocks that represented the dimensions of various people, and said it was interesting how the artist had taken something organic (people) and made it inorganic (concrete blocks) and put it in an inorganic structure (the gallery). I blinked, as this would never have occurred to me, and realised that art is to dad what literature and poetry are to me. Apparently some of the blocks were eager or sad, but there were no discernible characteristics of eagerness or sadness, each block being the same slab of concrete with wood whorls on the outside and a few holes poked in it to represent orifices. The blocks stood close to one another like people in a city, which irritated me, as crowds in a city are wont to do, because I could not fit myself and my handbag through the slabs to get out for a coffee. While mum and dad dawdled, I sat in Starbucks and read Lionel Shriver’s The Post-Birthday World which, every time I pick it up, bludgeons me with its clichés and obviousness. Success seems to have poisoned Lionel’s writing.

The drawcard of the exhibition was the room full of fog, outside of which a little queue had formed. A lady was standing patiently by the door, holding a laminated sheet of paper which warned that those prone to claustrophobia or who were of a nervous disposition ought not to enter the room. Since I fell into both those categories, I held mum’s hand as we went in. Immediately, we were enveloped by a cloud of thick fog and, startled by the suddenness of it, I swore extravagantly. After a few steps I was completely surrounded by whiteness and I panicked and cried, ‘Where’s the wall?’ I stretched my arm to the right and found it, and when I calmed down I thought I’d walk a bit further, but as soon as I couldn’t see anything except that whiteness I chucked it in, and told mum I wanted to get out. Since my sight orientates me, helps me keep my balance (which was screwed by meningitis) and helps me to interact like a normal human being (by lipreading and watching body language), to lose that sense – to be blind while seeing – scared the shit out of me. I cannot cope without bearings, as opposed to M who, finding the fog calm and meditative, told me she could walk around in the box for hours.


6 Responses to “Disorientated”

  1. Strange that. Me too. Words can set off thunderstorms in the head and the heart, yet daubs of paint or agglomerations of pixels leave me impressed, yet cold. Of course, it could just be down to visual illiteracy (in my case, not yours), but no-one ever needed to teach me how to enjoy a novel (as opposed to understanding one, which can, I suppose, be taught).

    Anyway, I’ve only ever had one epiphany in a gallery: the Serpentine, 2000. This genius:


    I was mesmerised.

    Please reorientate yourself in alignment with the lodestone of happiness. (That’s an order.)

    PS – I have a letter for Gillian Dooley. Would you care to proof-read it?

  2. Jessica Says:

    Alas, your tinyurl refused to expand and I was unable to see what powered your ephiphany. Would you have another address for it?

    You have a point about novels being a medium that can be simply enjoyed. Obviously art can be enjoyed too, but as you says it’s much less visceral, I think because there’s less of a journey involved.

    I would be delighted to proofread your missive for Ms Dooley, and fear not, Sgt Jn, for I am searching for the lodestone. I think I saw it last in my sock drawer.

  3. the idiot above Says:

    Hello Cpl Jess,

    Stand easy.

    Thank you for your kind reply; letter to follow in an hour or so.

    In all seriousness, however, I do recognise that your elegant blog is a window on your professional world. I have no wish to contaminate it or to compromise you. If, therefore, my doolisms are simply too doolally, please decline to publish.

    2nd Lt John (I’ve promoted myself)

    PS – Sorry for the duff url; odd that. Anyway, the idiot above has a functioning link at ‘somethingbrilliant’. (Please do NOT encourage him; he has not slept for 37 hours and is clearly heading for trouble.)

  4. Jessica Says:

    Ah, you clever man, you have recognised that the Oz literary scene is small and one ought not to ruffle feathers unnecessarily, although Ms Dooley has significantly ruffled mine and I look like a chook in the headlights after a dust bath. So I regret that I can’t publish your letter, though it was wonderfully scripted and entertaining, and you have subsequently been promoted to Major General.

  5. Your editorial discretion was correctly wielded (as I fully expected).

    BTW, best AUSD 35 I’ve ever spent. Actually, the only AUSD 35 (or any other amount), I’ve ever spent, but you get my drift.

    Would the author find relevant comparisons with ‘A River Town’* to be:
    A: Lazily wide-of-the-mark
    B: Offensive
    C: Sycophantic
    D: Well-received

    [*And not for the obvious reasons of historicity and relationship to terroir/nature: more for the jagged sensation of social and personal emergence. Thanks, Jess. I loved it.]

  6. Jessica Says:

    I am ashamed; I have not read A River Town and am therefore not in a position to answer any multiple choice questions. Rather than taking a stab in the dark however, I have got the book out of the library and will commence reading it tomorrow, and then I shall let you know my answer.

    I’m glad you liked the novel though, and that you’re contributing to the Oz economy (and to my fund for fine clothes, obviously).

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