How strange it is, Anna. Yesterday, I have filed in my mind as a good day, notwithstanding it was filled with mortal illness and the grieving of the recently bereft. Yet it is a good day, for the simple fact that no one died upon it. We are brought to a sorry state, that we measure what is good by such a shortened yardstick.
But that Franklin trip changed me profoundly. As I believe wilderness experience changes everyone. Because it puts us in our place. The human place, which our species inhabited for most of its evolutionary life. That place that shaped our psyches and made us who we are. The place where nature is big and we are small.
And when I'd be reporting in Israel, Palestinians would say, the Jews they're not like us, and the Jews would say the same things about the Palestinians, they don't want what we want. And I never bought it as a reporter and I don't buy it as a novelist. I think, you know, the sound of somebody crying for their lost child sounds the same.
All the times, all the very many times, I had been forced to thwart and stifle my own nature seemed to gather together then, in that hot and dismal corridor. I heard a rushing sound in my head and felt a pressure in my breast, like floodwaters rising behind a flimsy dike. Before I knew I did it, the soup bowl was rising in my hand as if elevated by some supernatural force. Then, its yellow-gray contents were running down the nurse's pudgy face.
And at this moment in history, our core value happens to be the raw, aching truth of the human predicament. It may also be the only belief that can save us as a species. A species that will continue to find comfort and delight in the companionship of animals, the miracle of birds, the colours of the corals and the majesty of the forests. We are in it together, on this blue spinning marble in the cold and silent void. And we must act on that belief, if we are going to be able to continue to live a good... Read more »
While I love to read contemporary fiction, I'm not drawn to writing it. Perhaps it's because the former journalist in me is too inhibited by the press of reality; when I think about writing of my own time I always think about nonfiction narratives. Or perhaps it's just that I find the present too confounding.
And one of the things that I learned was you can't generalise at all about a woman in a veil. You can't think you know her story, because she will confound you over and over again. She may be an engineer or a diplomat or a doctor. Or she may be an unbelievable babe with bleached hair down to her waist.
I was a news reporter for 16 years, seven of them a foreign correspondent in the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. Perhaps the most useful equipment I acquired in that time is a lack of preciousness about the act of writing. A reporter must write. There must be a story. The mot juste unarriving? Tell that to your desk.
Sydney in the 1960s wasn't the exuberant multicultural metropolis it is today. Out in the city's western reaches, days passed in a sun-struck stupor. In the evenings, families gathered on their verandas waiting for the 'southerly buster' - the thunderstorm that would break the heat and leave the air cool enough to allow sleep.
Yes, it seems we've got this mutant gene in our human personality that makes us susceptible to this same kind of mistake over and over again. It's really uncanny how we build these beautiful multicultural edifices and then allow this switch to be flipped and everybody goes, 'Oh, the other, get them out of here.
Men can absent themselves from real life for their art more easily. Women are anchored into the quotidian business of getting food on the table, making sure everybody's socks match, the soccer gear is ready. I admire idealists, but they're usually enabled by someone who holds the tether on their balloon, who pays the bills and sweeps up after them.
What's wrong with leading the way? We've played that role before, after all. We gave the world the secret ballot... that did so much to raise living standards and improve conditions for workers worldwide. We were a leader in extending to women the right to vote. We were barely a nation when we set the bar for bravery and sacrifice by common soldiers in foreign wars. We grew up out of racism and misogyny and homophobia to become a mostly tolerant, successful multicultural society. We did these great things because we know we are in it together. It is our... Read more »