Monday, December 14, 2009

it is not polite to type

Last week I participated in a Christmas card Kris Kringle. We each had a card, each wrote on our card, all put our cards in a pile, and then each took a card. We were asked to write a poem, a story, something like that, and I wrote this:

"It is not polite to type a Christmas card," Christina Stead wrote in a Christmas card to the poet Rosemary Dobson and her husband Alec - she was typing - and three months later she was dead at the age of eighty, "the same age as her father," notes her biographer, Hazel Rowley. "This is the happy season," Stead wrote, "the days of celebration, love, closeness, friendship." Just before this part of the card she described the room into which she was planning to move a few weeks later: there was an en suite but the bricks were damp and the walls was being repainted. The room was in a friend's house. Stead's money was running low, she couldn't afford to keep the accommodation she was living in. At the end of March this friend, whose name was Heather Stewart, bought an Easter egg for her while she lay in hospital; she never lived to see it.

Merry Christmas.


  1. Well THAT was a cheery card! I hope the person who got it sees Easter! Actually, this is a nice idea that I might try for my bookgroup next year. Too late now as they're coming here tomorrow. I've often tried literary challenges - eg that write a review of a book we've done this year as a haiku idea. Not many takers. This year I suggested Twitterature on our books but that went down like a lead balloon.

    PS I knew Rosemary Dobson's husband, Alec Bolton, quite well for a while, when his office was just around the corner from mine at the National Library. A really lovely man who died too young.

  2. How sad to think of a writer such as Stead worrying about money in her old age. I always donate 10% of my CAL & ELR payments to the ASA's Benevolent Fund but it's only a drop in the bucket. Now that backlists are almost a thing of the past even quite successful writers find it hard to make a decent living, never mind invest for their old age. There should be a better way ...

  3. 'Tis jarring to think that one of our most original writers was still couch-surfing at eighty, and that if she hadn't had help from friends, family, fellow writers, and academic institutions, she would have been in real trouble. Wealthy spouses are the only reliable answer, I'm thinking. Either that, or be born Tim Winton, or do as our filmmakers do and move to the States, a la Geraldine Brooks, and win Pulitzers, or else do as people did in Victorian novels, and discover that you have a long-lost extremely rich and stingy uncle who wills everything to you on his deathbed after repenting his youthful rejection of your mother, his sister, who ran off with an Italian tenor when she was seventeen.

  4. Re. I suggested Twitterature on our books


    In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust

    marcel: omg i need to write a book *procrastinates*


    Summertime by JM Coetzee

    coetzee: if this was me id be a lousy lay but it isnt me. lol


    Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

    marcusaurelius: stop being pleased w urself marcus no 1 will ever know you’ve written a book


    A Dance to the Music of Time by Anthony Powell

    anthony: every1 i knew in school is sleeping with some woman ive just met wtf

  5. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

    marilynne: prodigal son is the neighbours kid thx god i hart u