Wednesday, February 22, 2012

South From Alaska - an interview with Mike Litzow

I have a penchant for nautica extrema - which, in all likelihood is a made up expression. It essentially translates as 'excellent sailing stories' - so when I saw South From Alaska; Sailing to Australia with a baby for crew - I was pretty impressed.   Then the publicist from New South Books emailed me to advise that the author, Mike wasn't just 'somewhere' in Australia, he was in fact in Hobart with Alisa his wife and their 'baby' Elias, who was ten months old when they left Kodiak in Alaska for Australia. Elias is now five years old - and has been joined by another seafaring baby, Eric, who is one year old.
     The book is great, it has the wonderful multi layered flow that I think a good travel narrative should have; story of the journey itself, story of the inner journey - or what the experience of the travel means to those travelling it - and how it transforms and changes them. It also tells of the places visited - and these storylines meld with ease.
   In our conversation - which first went to air on Edge Radio's Book Show on February 21st, Mike and I discuss some of his and his family's trials and joys, their visit to the mythic Marquesas, a group of islands in the Pacific who lived under ritualised warfare between valleys for centuries and is now shot through with (stereo?)typical Polynesian friendliness. We discussed some of the friendships that can develop in the intensive environment of the boat and I learnt a  wonderfully self explanatory Alaskan expression "end of the roaders," - a lot of whom can be found on sailing boats and in remote regions of the world.  Oh - and we talked about new translations of Tolstoy's War and Peace.And of course we talked about what makes traveling with a child - and traveling with a child on a boat different from traveling alone.
You can listen to the full interview here and read Mike and Alisa's blog Twice in a Lifetime here.

South From Alaska
by Mike Litzow
New South Books

Sunday, February 19, 2012


Tonight I became a little flustered preparing some lentil soup. I've had it in my head that I would like to post here more regularly - podcasts, interviews and reviews yes! absolutely - but I've been slowly turning in my mind the notion of linking to some of the fantastic essays and short(ish) works that, beyond a retweet or a splash on the transitory facebook timeline I feel I don't pay enough respect to. The fluster arose from the fact that I have been procrastinating writing the first post in what now will come a regular (weekly, mostly) project - because I couldn't decide which piece to link to first. Pfffft. Procrastination?
  Cut to: spicy, spicy soup smell drifing through the house, laptop perched on knees, cat asleep on a copy of (unread at this point) The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach and to my left a stubby of Cascade Draught.
  I considered Gillian Mear's eloquent essay 'Fairy Death,' originally published in Heat from The Best Australian Essays 2011 (edited by Ramona Koval, Black Inc), also an article I read about Lord Byron and the birth of celebrity that was published in The Independent - but the one piece that rocked my mildly bruised heart last week was an essay about reading Joan Didion that was published and tweeted by The Rumpus and retweeted by Readings Bookshop - and read by me on the Gagebrook bus I sometimes catch home.
  People often create a spray of white noise around them, an energy of static that inhibits any closeness, any appearance of secret thoughts and feelings, rawness hidden behind hand gestures, chat, or the propensity to gently probe others with questions. I have my own tricks for diverting people away; it is simpler to keep the carapace intact.
   But when I read I discard the shell, there is no need to be protected or closed. It is just me and the text - yeah?  And this is the wisest way I think we can read - raw, open - and awake. Except when you are on the Gagebrook bus - and as I slowly read this incredibly moving essay about a mother and a daughter's shared reading of Joan Didion, penned by the daughter, Abby Mims, I felt exposed and I had to fight back tears. I have sisters and, of course, I have a mother. The relationships that Abby describe aren't the same that I have with my family, but the nuance echoed clearly.
  I've read Joan Didion only intermitently; the occasion essay. One of my best friends, a journalist, talks about how important Didion has been for her writing life. I read the reviews of Didion's most recent book Blue Nights, in which she tells the story of the death of her daughter, Quintana at age 39. The reviews have generally not been good - though the admiration and respect for what she had written before has not dimmed for those who read her, excitedly and diligently. The essay is truthful and sad; an exploration of both Abby's family and Didion's writing.
  The fluster which is so wrong for my newly discovered Sunday evenings, has abated, I'm glad I have commited to more regulary posts - and I truly hope you enjoy the well written, honest-to-raw essay from Abby Mims about Didion 'What We Talk About When We Talk About Joan Didion'.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Interview with Rosie Dub about 'Flight'

It has been four years between the publication of Rosie Dub's first novel Gathering Storm and her latest, Flight which was launched by the director of the Tasmanian Writers' Centre, Chris Gallagher to an audience of more than 100 people last week in Hobart. Flight tells the story of Fern who we first meet, depressed and in an attic - and then we travel with her as she tumbles down and down into both her psyche and the depths of love - and despair - to the heart of darkness, if you like. More prosaically, we journey with her from the attic in Sydney to the mythic heart of Tasmania's forests.
    I really enjoyed chatting to Rosie live to air on Edge Radio last Tuesday. She has just finished her PhD - of which Flight is a major component. We talked about the importance of story, how they are told to recalibrate and heal. We talked the magical links between shamanism and madness and  Rosie's personal numinous experience  - and how growing up with a fear of life allowed her to  walk hand in hand with her protagonist Fern  as she heals and begins to soar.
You can listen to the whole interview here

by Rosie Dub
Fourth Estate

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