Archive for October, 2009

Bi Bim Bap

I love this Korean meal, served in a hot stone dish. The heat of the bowl remains long after you’ve finished eating and are sipping your green tea. The beef is tender, the vegies sweet.

For company I had my Japanese friend, just returned from Tokyo. She brought me another book. This friend introduced me to the author Soseki Natsume though his hilarious book, ‘Botchan’. She also gave me ‘I am a Cat’, but I’m saving that one.

Today she gave me Ryunosuke Akutagawa’s collection of short stories. What a tragic life he had! Listen to this, from his biography in the front of the book:

“His mother died insane when he was a child. His father, toward whom he had great resentment, was a failure who gave him up to his maternal uncle for adoption.”

The stories range from “The Hell Screen”, which is described as comprising the qualities of horror, the groteqsque and the macabre, and “The Nose” in which a Buddhist monk finds life difficult with his oversize nose.

I’m lucky in that I can read these books in the English translation. It’s hard for me to find Australian books for her. Her English is very good, but it is difficult to absorb a novel in another language, I think.

At the same time, on my search for last things, I’m reading “Japanese Death Poems written by Zen Monks and Haiku Poets on the Verge of Death”. The poems are of interest, but more fascinating are the descriptions of the men who wrote them. Seira, who died in 1791, apparently said that, having suffered from inflammation of th skin and a boil the size of  pumpkin on his head he could no longer escape the inevitable.



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I shouldn’t read The Guardian Weekly while eating my lunch. I shouldn’t read William Vollman’s “Poor People” at night, when I’m trying to get sleepy. Both are so full of ideas, stories and inspirations that I have to rouse myself to  note them down. If I’m eating lunch the food goes cold as I scribble this: The US has 8 grades of meat. Bottom three are Utility, Cutter and Canner – for processing. Described as ‘older steers with partially-ossified vertebrae’.

At night, I’m wide awake after copying these words from “Poor People”: Hope dies last says Elena, and they were already in the category of last things.

Will these notes end up in stories? Possibly. I know I have to make them, though, or else the thought is gone and all I’m left with is a vague recollection of a story that could have been.

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The Internet Review of Science Fiction is always a good read, but this month it comes with word of the apocalypse, from the sweet mouths of Angela Slatter, Deborah Biancotti, Peter Ball and Jason Fischer. With pictures. We talk about Puffins and what Gabrielle Lord wrote to me in “Salt”.

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Here’s an interview I did with Harry Markov at Temple Library Reviews. I talk about hell and other people.

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World SF

The World SF News Blog is running a round table discussion about how the environment informs our writing. They’ve asked writers from France (aliettedb[info]Aliette de Bodard), Mexico (Silvia Moreno-Garcia), India (Vandana Singh) and of course Fiji/Australia!

Next year I’ll be back to plain old “Australian writer”.

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Colin Harvey, Angry Robot Author, whose novel “Winter Song” is out now, reviews Slights at his Suite 101 site. Colin liked the way I tell part of the story in marginalia in library books. I talk about the books I deface at my live journal, starting at this page.

Jeff Ritchie, over at ScaryMinds, is very complimentary about “Slights”. I like that he’s picked up on a couple of small details in the book; I love it when that stuff works!

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Slights Location

In “Slights”, one of the people who inhabit Stevie’s dark room is a shop keeper.

This is how I describe their interaction:

I liked to dig for hours on end, sleep, eat, buy my needs from Mrs Beattie at the corner shop. I really enjoyed entering that place. It was dark, cool, small, the goodies all lined up like a marching band. I loved picking things up and putting them down, just out of place, until Mrs Beattie said, “Can I help you?” as if I hadn’t worked there for three years, from the tender age of fifteen. Her arms were fatter than ever, and she hadn’t bought a new dress in years, so you could see a tight line of strain pressing into her flesh.

The thing she hated most was the way I bought lollies. I had half the kids doing it too; they had a fine instinct for what irritated an adult.

“I’ll have a red traffic light. And a green traffic light. And another red traffic light. And a yellow traffic light. And a green traffic light,” until my bag was full. I don’t even like lollies; I gave them to all the sugar-starved children.

The shop I describe was inspired by the corner shop where I lived in Rose Street, Annandale. I passed it every day but rarely shopped there, because, like many corner shops, it often didn’t have what I needed. It was indeed quite dark with a great sense of age about it. I can’t remember if the shopkeeper had fat arms or not!

Now the old shop has been turned into a cafe! Jonathan Shaw, at his Me Fail? I Fly! blog has photos and a description. Revolver looks fabulous from the photos. If I ever write another story about Stevie, I’ll have to make her go and order a coffee in an irritating way!

Here is Jonathan’s history of the shop.

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