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Posts tagged ‘Ghosts’

That was the year that was

Polar Bear

So, it’s December, and although I’m still scrambling to get some things locked away the year is pretty much done. I’m going to post something about the books I’ve enjoyed most over the past twelve months next week (I’m leaving it so late because I don’t want to preempt the picks I’ve made for The Weekend Australian and The Thought Fox, although if you want a preview you can check out my picks for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, which were published last week) and if I get really excited I might do a musical round-up as well (although I’m not going to make any big promises on that score).

Looking back over the past twelve months I’m sort of amazed by how much I’ve gotten done. I haven’t managed to write much long non-fiction, but I’ve written a lot of reviews, written and submitted my doctoral dissertation and somehow managed to stay on top of all my normal commitments (or at least mostly on top).

More importantly though I’ve written a lot of fiction, some of which is even good. I’ve knocked over most of the first draft of a new novel (or novelly thing – in fact it’s a discontinuous narrative made up of ten interconnected stories), and with luck I’ll have something deliverable by April next year. Although it still doesn’t have a title the opening section was published as a standalone story in The Big Issue earlier this year and I’m hoping two more sections will be published as stories in the new year. What I’ve got is rough but I’m really pleased with it.

As well as the novel I’ve written and published a number of stories. Some – like my Rapunzel novelette, ‘Beauty’s Sister’, which was published as part of Penguin’s excellent Penguin Specials series (and is available for KindleiBooksKobo and Google Play), and my alien invasion story, ‘Visitors’, which was published by The Review of Australian Fiction – have been published as in electronic formats only, others, like my zombies in suburbia story, ‘The Inconvenient Dead’ are available online and in print (you can pick up ‘The Inconvenient Dead’ in Best Australian Stories 2012 as well as Overland 206). In addition to the stories above I’ve got another two which will be published in the new year and several more about to go out, all of which I’ll link to as they appear.

I’m also pleased to say my essay about growing up in Adelaide, ‘The Element of Need’, was also republished as a Penguin Special a few months back. If you haven’t read it you might want to check it out: I think it’s one of the best things I’ve written in recent years. There’s a post with more details about it here, or you can buy it for KindleiBooksKobo, and Google Play. And staying with the creepy theme, you might also want to check out my essay about ghosts and ghost stories, ‘Encounters with the Uncanny’, which appeared in Meanjin earlier this year. I’ve also just finished a longish piece on 2001: A Space Odyssey that I’m really pleased with and will link to once it’s published in the new year.

At this point I’m hoping next year will be equally productive – I’ve got a pile of stories that need writing and at least two novels I want to get written once this one is done – but for now I’m just happy to have gotten so much done over the past twelve months. I hope you’ve all had equally productive years.

And, finally, because it’s summer in Australia I thought I might direct you to this piece I wrote about summer and the myths of Australianness a couple of years ago: it’s not new but I like it. Or you could check out my review of John Smolens’ Quarantine, which appeared in The Washington Post a few weeks back, or my review of Ronald Frame’s Havisham, which appeared in The Weekend Australian last Saturday.

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Encounters with the Uncanny: Postscript

Last week I mentioned that the September Meanjin has an essay by me about ghosts and ghost stories. At the time the piece was print-only, but I’m delighted to say it’s now available online in its entirety.

Obviously I think you should read it right away, but once you have I think you should come back here, because in the week since it was published it’s acquired an extremely unsettling postscript …

Read more

Encounters with the Uncanny: Ghost Stories and the Brain

Bronwyn Rennex, ‘Safety Pin’, © Bronwyn Rennex, 2004.

The new Meanjin is out today, and as well as being an incredibly gorgeous physical object, includes a piece by me about ghost stories and recent research suggesting many of our encounters with the uncanny may have a physiological basis. You can buy the issue in good bookshops, online or you can subscribe (a particularly good deal at present because Meanjin are offering five issues for the price of four during September), but if you’d like a taste, here are the first few paragraphs:

In 2007, while on a residency in Paris, my partner and I took time out to visit friends in London. It was August, and we were fortunate enough to be offered the opportunity to mind a friend’s mother’s house in Balham Hill. The first night we stayed we were tired; it had been a long day, travelling on the Eurostar with our fifteen-month-old, and so we ordered a pizza, watched television and went to bed early.

I have never been a good sleeper, especially in unfamiliar places, but that night I was asleep almost as soon as my head hit the pillow. For a time I slept undisturbed, but then, sometime deep in the night, I woke, falling out of a deep dreamless sleep into the sort of strange wakefulness jetlag induces. At first I was disoriented, the room unfamiliar in the darkness. Next to me I could hear my partner breathing. Gradually I realised where I was, but even as I did
I was gripped by the certainty I had not woken of my own accord, and that something, somewhere, was wrong.

And then, quite suddenly, I heard a child cry …

Update: the piece is now online, so you can read it at your leisure. But when you have make sure you come back and read the postscript. Alternatively you can buy Meanjin 71/3 online or subscribe.

2011 and all that

Wayne Levin, 'Circling Akule', © Wayne Levin (click to embiggen)

Despite having given myself an open-ended holiday from the site I think there’s no denying that even in the Antipodes the summer is over once Australia Day has passed. To which end I’m getting back on the blogging horse. I suspect things will stay a little bit slow around here for the next week or so (my daughter doesn’t go back to school for another week and a half) but I’m still aiming to get a few things up in the not too distant future.

That said, 2011 is looking like a big year for me in general. Unfortunately it looks like my new novel, Black Friday, may now not be on shelves until early 2012, but I’m about to launch into editing it, and once that’s done I’ve got two more books I’m hoping to knock over reasonably rapidly, which will make for a busy year.

Elsewhere, The Penguin Book of the Ocean has been going gangbusters, with one reprint already under its belt, and a brace of very, very positive reviews. I’ll pull together some links for those soon, and if I can find it links to the interviews I’ve been doing about it over the break, but in the meantime if you’d like to buy a copy you can check prices on Booko.

Some other bits and pieces that might be of interest. First of all, I’m planning to post something about it soon, but in the meantime you might want to check out Wayne Levin’s stunning new book, Akule. Anyone who’s seen a copy of The Penguin Book of the Ocean, or read some of my previous posts about Wayne and his work will have a sense of how extraordinary his work is, but if not check out the sample pages and if you get a chance, order a copy: it’s wonderful, and like all of Wayne’s books comes with a terrific essay by another of the writers featured in The Penguin Book of the Ocean, Tom Farber.

To continue with The Penguin Book of the Ocean theme, Kevin Hart, whose pulsing, luminous poem, ‘Facing the Pacific at Night’ also appears in the collection has a new book, Morning Knowledge on the way as well. It’s not out for another week or so but it’s already possible to pre-order copies.

And finally, since I’m about to go and tidy up a long piece I’ve written about ghosts and ghost stories, you might want to check out my review of Peter Ackroyd’s The English Ghost: Spectres Through Time, which appeared in The Australian a couple of weeks ago.

I hope you’re all well, and have survived the summer, particularly if, like many Australians, you or your family have been caught up in the flooding and fires of recent weeks. And however it began, I hope 2011 is a great year for all of you.