Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Melbourne cliche alert: I love this time of year. Autumn, when the mornings turn crisp and the nights warrant a really comfy doona pulled up around the ears. When the mornings are pale blue, streaked with white, and the dark green of the trees around the Brunswick Street Oval take on a reddish tone.
In the mornings, the Yarra and even the Merri Creek steam gently. Falling leaves start to pile up in the gardens along the streets near my house and the air has a rich, faint tone of organic decomposition. I can imagine the flowering bulbs settling in under the layer of natural compost, dreaming of spring already. there's something about the closing of the summer season that lets the city look inwards again, to its warm fireplaces and sunny corners of the room; and something about the fierce brevity of the midday warmth that makes it all the more precious. we let go of the summer; we know when enough is enough, and we lean into the rising, biting wind with a kind of determined relish; it's familiar and exhilarating and exactly what we expect from our place this time of year.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

in the change room at the pool today, a woman who I see from time to time said to me: "Don't you love Melbourne. It's snowing about 1700 metres."

well yes I do. I love: the cold when it blasts in so suddenly from the south. and I love that half-naked half-strangers feel strongly enough about it to bring it up in unexpected conversation.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

the art show we - my husband, the kid, and a couple of friends - wandered along to the Affordable Art Fair on Saturday afternoon. There was an extraordinary photographer, some on-the-verge-of-kitsch pieces made with swirling crystalline effects in coloured perspex "canvases" that I don't have a site for, and a surprising number of sketches and paintings of fanciful and/or hybrid animals.

but the photograph I actually bought was of the Esplanade Hotel. the fact that the photograph - about 60 by 45 centimetres - really was affordable at $150 instead of $1500 or $15,000 - helped. (I can't find the image online: the photographer is here.) I liked its combination of washed out buildings and hyper-coloured sky, I guess. but most of all, I liked it because it was the Esplanade Hotel on a sunny afternoon, packed with happy drinking Melbourne people; because it was yet another photo of possibly Melbourne's most photographed hotel; because it wasn't a photo from the days of parasols and horsedrawn carriages, but from my time, the time of branded market umbrellas and blokes in singlets milling around the crowded tables. I bought it because it was a photography of something I knew to be real. In the days when I worked on the local paper down there, I must have covered two or three "battles for the Espy", from dodgy licensees to attempts to gut the building. the locals always rallied and the Espy always won.

in the upper right corner, the massive apartment block that sits behind the Espy is just visible, and strangely, I like that too, because it forms a kind of modern background that adds a layer to the scene, that underlines the survival of the Espy; it dates the scene to now, and yet the big white Victorian Esplanade Hotel yields nothing. it just sits there, looking out across the bay in a pleasant haze of beer and distant music.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

thinking aloud...

...hallow there. Where a book is coming out, so inevitably a blog does here I am, thinking aloud about thinking about Melbourne.

The contract is (nearly) signed, the image permissions are flying in seventeen directions at once and I am getting snippy over semicolons. It must be book-production time.

My book, When we think about Melbourne: the imagination of a city is, barring volcanos and what the Australian Society of Authors' standard contract charmingly calls "marine peril", due to come out through Affirm Press in about August this year.

You'll notice that there is no link to a page for the actual book yet. This is because the title took a while to get right; that was because the book is a bit of a strange beast; part memoir, part social history, part art-film-literary criticism and part guidebook. But there will, in due course, be an official Book page; this blog is more of a what-happens-along-the-way-random-posts affair.

Of course, most of it has already happened: reading the three foot high stack of novels set in Melbourne; the square-eyed movie marathon reviewing the Melbourne movies of my youth; the scribbling of notes at the halfway point of some early-morning bike ride; the hours online and in libraries and op shops marvelling at the many ways one place can be depicted, and how things have changed/stayed the same over the past 170 years.

And really, the best of the thinking, I hope, is in the book. But as the process of putting it together comes to a close, I can see another process - to be frank, selling it, in the sense of getting people to be interested in it - starting up. For instance, I'm on the bill at the Emerging Writers' Festival on May 30, on a panel of writers talking about place. To me, "selling" the book is about doing what I can to get people thinking about the city - this book is unashamedly parochial - and also thinking about representation, of this and any other place. I'm endlessly fascinated by the funhouse mirrors we make for ourselves, the ways we choose to inhabit and interpret the world and looking forward to talking about it to anyone I can buttonhole.

(btw, don't tell my editor I'm here. I'm supposed to be checking commas and finding pictures of the West Gate Bridge...)