Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Charlotte Wood discusses 'Animal People'
Animal People was one of my favourite reads last year - and also an introduction to the writing of Charlotte Wood. It is a mature and insightful book and it is beautifully written I spoke to Charlotte late last year about this book and Stephen, the returned protagonist from her earlier novel The Children. You can listen to the interview here.
The book opens oppresively with Stephen on a sweltering morning, Sydney high summer and a sense of forboding is apparent from the first page. We learn that today is the day that Stephen is going to break up with his girlfriend, for reasons that seem to be beyond even his own comprehension.
Stephen is a man who chooses to reject things, in some instances simply to be a contrarian says Charlotte. She admires this in people, those who "step away from the wheel of aspiration or status." Stephen has no career ambitions, a risky state for contemporary man to inhabit.
The story is condensed in to a single day in his life- and is laden with detail, it builds in rich layers as the sticky, humid day progresses. The prism of the day forces the detail to be tightly wrought - indeed, it is observation, paying attention and a knack for getting detail right that Wood talks about here on her post on Damon Young's blog darkly wise, rudely great. She mentions how Iris Murdoch said "that paying attention is in itself a moral act," a notion which resonates for me; a gentle yet insistent chime.
The animals - and the animal people of the title are a recurring motif. Charlotte discusses this in our interview -"a fear of animals is a fear of chaos, a fear of life."
by Charlotte Wood
Allen and Unwin 2010
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