I can’t think of anything funny to blog. I’m not your performing monkey! I don’t have to dance for you!
Archive for February, 2007
Jeremy remembered it was our anniversary today. I’d forgotten. We met Milo and Salome and caught the J-Church to Yerba Buena. Cream puff from Beard Papa, then ten-pin bowling, then naps all round. Now I am drinking and watching the Oscars. Hugh Jackman looks kinda shabby, Will Smith’s ears stick out. I prefer my husband, cranky as he is.
Seven years ago today, I walked across Cooper Park in a pale gold bias-cut shift and gold Roman sandals, my arm linked with my father’s, my face aching with its grin, to where Jeremy stood under the pine trees in his black pants, linen shirt and Issey Miyake vest. Emer and Alain threw rose petals at my feet, and four-year-old Kelly wore a tiny version of my dress in electric blue. Everyone was high on sunshine and champagne. The caterers outdid themselves. It was a great wedding.
We’ve been bickering continually of late, but I must say that marrying him was by some substantial margin the wisest thing I have ever done.
bama bama O;
bama hey bama Obama!
She fell asleep in Jeremy’s lap at 8pm last night, and I actually had to wake her up this morning to hand her over to Rosario. A miracle.
Claire woke first and came and snuggled in bed.
C: When I grow up, I want to be…
C: …an appetizer.
Claire presents her first knock-knock joke.
Claire: Knock knock.
Julia: Nak nak!
Rachel: Who’s there?
C: Underwear! Hahahahaha!
After explanations and revisions, Claire presents her second knock-knock joke.
C: Knock knock.
Ja: Nak nak!
R: Who’s there?
C: Cow underwear.
R: Cow underwear who?
C: Cow underwear moo!
When Quinn gave me The Years of Rice and Salt I was pretty skeptical. The conceit is an interesting one – Christendom entirely wiped out by the Black Death, rather than just mostly – but I couldn’t see how it could be made into a tractable story, especially as the book spans about a thousand years. Robinson’s ingenious hack around the technical problem is also an incredibly moving narrative feat.
He takes the idea of the jati from, I suppose, Buddhist mythology? I’m offline right now and can’t check (online now, wrong, Hindu) – but in the book a jati is a group of souls, a village, that accompany one another through multiple incarnations. So we have the same characters with different names but the same initials – B., I. and K. – reappearing in life after life together, as a tiger, a princess, a scientist, a sailor, a soldier, a reforming king, in China, in Spain, in North America, Yemen, Tibet.
The structure encompasses the novel’s millennium effortlessly, and it’s also a haunting and endlessly abundant metaphor for any group of travelling companions: your community, your kith and kin, the village it takes to raise your child. It packs the same emotional punch as the Dire Straits song Brothers in Arms (yeah, I like pompous eighties Britrock, so sue me), and it ties into Ethan Zuckerman’s provocative project – to engage our imaginative sympathy on behalf of people we don’t personally know. What the human race seems to need is a way to expand its loyalties, its tribe, to include everyone. Even Ronald Reagan recognized this, with his lunatic desire for alien invasion. I say, we need to embrace intelligent aliens as part of our jati as well. Me, I need to work on including the insane Republicans.
On a cheerier note, Morrissey sings that we hate it when our friends become successful, and Clive James’ best poem is “The Book of My Enemy Has Been Remaindered”, but I was actually delighted that Kate and Neal wrote wonderful books because how awkward would it be if I couldn’t think of anything nice to say about them?
Adult Themes is particularly interesting to me because it takes Australian society as a perfectly valid subject of study, noting cultural imports from North America and Europe without being engineered for resale to those markets. For all I know this has become the default mode of cultural studies in Australia, but it was new to me. After all, I cut my non-fictional teeth as Keith Windschuttle’s research assistant (not my proudest moment, though he wasn’t such an overtly racist whore back then) and now that he’s wrung every penny he can out of Aboriginal-holocaust-denying, he’s thinking of writing something about US history so he can sell more books. To which what can one say but: ugh.
None of which has anything to do with Kate except that she takes the set of prejudices and preoccupations I associate with people of Keith’s generation: real estate, marriage, children and so on; and deconstructs them as inadequate and meretricious cultural markers for adulthood. She is especially wry on the punitive economic structure of Australian society. It has become very, very difficult for young people to buy property, but in a home-ownership-obsessed society renters are considered sort of frivolous. Psych! Kate argues for replacing these shallow rites of passage – the excruciating wedding, the adjustable-rate mortgage – with a far more nuanced appreciation of modern adult lives, where for example your jati might take the place of a nuclear family.
It’s a terrific book, and it made me think pretty hard about how deeply I absorbed old-fashioned Australian prejudices without even realizing that I had done so. I loathed Sydney’s consensus reality while I lived there, but as soon as I got to San Francisco I got married, bought a house and squeezed out a couple of kids. I defined myself as a common-sensical Australian woman in contrast to the crazy Americans and their appalling taste in coffee. I made my career translating pretentious Latinate marketese into laconic Anglo-Saxon. I threw Christmas parties in summer. I sought pavlova. Mine is an expatriate patriotism, forged in exile, just as my mother’s most fervent Englishness dates from the day she stepped on the Fairsky in 1968.
Izzy and Eve is Neal’s best book, better even than his fantastic Glove Puppet, and oddly enough it deals intensely with changing structures for adulthood in Australia. Seems like the reinvented coming-of-age story has become a minor national preoccupation, for obvious reasons. There are chunks of Izzy and Eve that could have been lifted from the pages of Adult Themes and vice versa. But Neal’s take is a lyrical, melancholy, erotic urban fairy tale. Like improv jazz the book riffs around its themes, and like improv jazz a tight, complex structure underpins the appearance of effortlessness. It’s absolutely fucking brilliant.
Of course Neal had no end of trouble getting it published, and ended up going with a San Francisco house whose distributor promptly went belly-up. He’s discouraged and despite my pleas, says he doesn’t want to write any more science fiction. So I pointed him at John M. Ford and Emma Bull and the Nielsen Haydens, and now I’m going to send him Cory Doctorow’s Someone Comes To Town, Someone Leaves Town, which is lovely, lovely, lovely. And Leonard, you need to finish my space opera so I can send that to Neal as well.
Ay yi yi, my apologies, we are sleep-training Julia and in return, she is wake-training us. I am as sleep-deprived as a …thing, that …hasn’t slept much lately. The weekend has been the caricature of a fun weekend in San Francisco; yesterday brunch at Liberty Bakery with New Zealand Paul, a trip to the library, finally meeting Jeremy and Fiona at Nervous Dog, then high tea at Artur’s loft for Danny and Rose and then a proper dot-com party where dear Barney offered Jeremy a job (a job that Jeremy would love, but that the visa situation probably makes unfeasible. Bah.)
Today brunch at Nena’s with Ada’s daddies and their girlfriends and girlfriends’ boyfriends and all the kids, plus Daisy Dog; then we ran into lovely Jane Austin my prenatal yoga instructor on our way to meet Jamey and Rowan in the playground; then we ran into Aaron Ximm up on the hill and he told us of Great Horned Owls nesting on the Esmeralda stairs (me, I would have settled for Pretty Good Horned Owls), and there were red-tailed hawks and water springing from a red cliff face and Daisy Dog was a running fool! Home to make cottage pie for neighbours Colin and Naomi. Delicious food smells, I love you.
Notice of intention to write book reviews for The Years of Rice and Salt, Adult Themes, Izzy and Eve and Someone Comes to Town Someone Leaves Town. And, happy birthday Yoz and Big!
“Obama is the new black.”
Nine-thirty last night, nine-twenty tonight. I realize this is terrible by proper parenting standards, but it’s a lot better than we had been doing.
I also realize this blog has become excessively bedtime-centric, so I’ll close with a classic Dannyism on the nuclear missiles:
“World wars are like buses. You wait fifty years for one, then three come along at once.”
Both girls are asleep by nine. We may survive this phase after all. Maybe.
It’s not even ten and both girls are asleep. I’m having a stiff drink and going to bed with a book.
Bedtime, laughingly so-called, has been hell on earth lately. Claire gets up and comes to find us, Jeremy puts her back in bed, together they wake the baby. Rinse, repeat.
Just now Claire emerged from her room with important news.
C: I want a new house.
R: But I love this house!
C: We need to pack up all these things and take them to a new house …in Africa.
R and J, unison: What?
C (patiently): We need a house in Africa!
Another dry recounting of what passed. In Australia, dim sum is called yum cha. We lost Claire in Glebe; a wonderful woman found her and took her to the police station. I don’t want to talk about it. Picnic in Wahroonga. Jeremy to Tash: “I hear you’re full of people!” Mecca again. Met Tabitha, swam with Adrian and Korben. Swimming lessons have paid off – Claire took the purple noodle and jumped into the deep end! Drinkies with Neal and Tim, which was too short. Dinner with Pesce at Longgrain.
Sunday morning, Claire was assimilated into the Borg Collective that is Mike Lynch’s girls. It was ridiculously successful. We collected pine cones and took them to a pine cone show. Grace judged. She gave special mentions to Sasha and Clio but awarded first prize to Claire. That girl has a future in diplomacy. Roast lunch at Great Auntie Jan’s house, then a train ride home. Chatswood unrecognizeable. Question: is the giant soulsucker still lurking beneath?
Monday met Moira in Camperdown Park while Jeremy talked to accountant. Monday afternoon, made our wills: a strange and darkly funny pastime. Attorney Philip Crow tittered nervously every time we threatened to disinherit one another. Monday evening, Turkish pizza and a not-bad idea for a business. Tuesday progressive breakfast at Single Origin, then an amazing trip to Blakehurst to see the house Richard is building for cousin Rachel Fitzhardinge. Home to pick up the kids and whiz them down to Neilsen Park. Holding Claire’s hand and running full-pelt into the warm ocean. Diving under a wave, coming up spluttering and saying to Jeremy: “We are so moving back here.” J, serenely: “Of course.”
Wednesday morning Petit Creme. Wednesday afternoon girls behaved perfectly on flight home. Wednesday morning, again, airline lost yellow stroller that has been around world with us lo these many times. I was disproportionately upset. Patchy sleep and screaming children through second Wednesday and Thursday to Friday morning. Airline found stroller in New Zealand. J: “I hope it enjoyed its trip!” I have new glasses to replace the ones that broke, and Big is going to drop by the car rental place to see if he can find the CDs I left in the car.
A lossy trip, but good.