Sunday, September 22, 2013

themselves to realise

It is as if the first three volumes (the two Hymns and The Manor House) existed so that Ada Cambridge could turn against them when she wrote the ones that came after them; she was preparing herself, without knowing it, to repudiate her own stated points of view, not denying the words of other people but denying her own words and pressing back against them, "one of those comparatively rare at that time who do their thinking for themselves in regard to these matters," she says decidingly; and then she describes her own thoughts (her pushing-back thoughts) being acted out by Jim as though they are independent actions and not opinions that are attached to her own brain: as though a butoh teacher had said, "Let's be a tree," but in place of a tree they said, "Let's be Ada Cambridge's point of view," and Jim obeys (since actual living people will not behave like that so the fictional must: they are a balloon blown up and tied to the opinion, they are rustling and coloured heliums) -- a clergyman's wife for forty-seven years until her husband died -- much harder not to wonder what her husband's congregation thought, than to wonder it -- the tantalising and useless mental effort quite relentless there, and irresistible, like the Dockers in the semis.

A woman who once spoke to Ada Cambridge at a funeral spends the rest of her life wondering, "Am I Aunt Ellen?"

Then novels, novels, and Caroline Leakey -- I'm coming back to her -- wrote a novel ten years after her book of poems had been published (that same Lyra Australis).

Neither of these authors stopped after one or two books of reiterated shapes (Leakey's rub) but went onward like the cockroaches that try to make themselves houses in the kitchen, or like the people downstairs who broke back into their flat or apartment when they had been locked out -- rent not paid -- the bedroom window grinding down there at two a.m. followed by shoes on the gravel -- evidence that the person has hands and feet -- that same window later smashed and boarded up -- further evidence of their existence, finally the evidence stops when the manager of the apartment complex has a dowel rod inserted in the window runner.

Leakey wrote about the convict system and called her book The Broad Arrow after the convict pheon. Marcus Clarke? She came before Marcus Clarke. He used her book for research. Why do we read his book and not hers; why do the schools teach one and not the other? In Australia I mean. There must be reasons. Her story is more detailed; his story is more exciting. I mean there are more whippings, drownings, failed rescue attempts, etc, "uncontrolled, unbearable brutality," Susanna Hoe writes in her book about Tasmania (Tasmania: Women, History, Books and Places (Of Islands & Women) (2010)): "the contrast could not be more striking between the control and subtlety of the writing in The Broad Arrow and the uncontrolled, unbearable brutality of the treatment of Rufus Dawes."

Just prior to that, on the same page, she (Hoe) has quoted a woman who lived at Port Arthur with her husband from 1846 to 1850. "There has been a great deal of exaggeration about Port Arthur and the way the prisoners were treated there, but you have only to look at the numbers of them who came on and did well for themselves to realise that it was not so bad after all [...] They were not the depraved nearly maniac creatures you may have read about, at all. Some of them had been sent out for trifles, and never broke the law again," which, if you want to consider it as an emotional shape exposed by language, is similar to the article that David G. Schwartz published in Las Vegas Seven on September 3rd when he wanted to describe The Green Felt Jungle (1963) as a "pack of fabrications, half-truths and tall tales." His article is called The Book That Tried to End Las Vegas. "Reid and Demaris vacuumed up just about every stray anecdote they found and passed it on without verifying a word. And it's no surprise that the city's reputation suffered." "And while people living in Las Vegas knew much of the book was, at best, exaggerated, those who didn't had no way to distinguish fact from fiction."

Las Vegas feels that it suffers like this often, old Tasmania too, certainly other places: very easy it is to feel misunderstood, very tempting to write correctives.

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