Story telling from Australia
I’m grateful to JR Benjamin for reminding me in a recent post on The Bully Pulpit what an excellent – and prolific – writer Clive James is. He’s an avid reader too, with an immense intellect and a great sense of humour. His abiding fascination is the topic of his own life, but he’s also written extensively about other people, and Clive James never lets political correctness get in the way of a good yarn.
Consider this, from North Face of Soho, published in 2006:
I should say in haste that his [Robert Lowell’s] early poetry gave him the right to think of himself as a giant. But he was also a nutter, one of the manic-depressive type who, when in a downhill phase, accuse themselves loudly of being Hitler. (They never accuse themselves of being the seventh anonymous storm trooper from the right at a dedication ceremony for the new blood banner in a provincial town twenty miles from Dortmund: they always accuse themselves of being Hitler, just as the people who had previous lives in ancient Egypt always turn out to have been pharaohs or chief priests, and never night-shift workers on the crew that put up the third tallest obelisk in one of the satellite temples at Karnak).
I was reminded of Clive James last week, as I sat in my studio churning out the first ten thousand words of the manuscript on farming families (I hope the publisher isn’t reading this, the deadline was meant to be the end of January).
As part of the research for the book, I interviewed Philip and Adele Hughes, cattle farmers who run Rangeland Quality Meats with their family in Queensland. Philip doesn’t have much time for political correctness either.
‘It’s pretty constraining when you’re not allowed to say something; you’re thinking it, it’s just that you’re not allowed to say it.’
‘The good thing about saying stuff is that yes, it might offend some people, but it creates debate. So if I say something, and somebody disagrees with it, then I will be forced to listen to their argument, and they might change my way of thinking, but if they don’t say anything I’ll just carry on thinking what I thought before.’
‘So I reckon you should just say what you think, it’s corrosive otherwise.’
Say what I think? Hmmm…I’m normally one to keep the peace. I tread carefully and hold back what I’m really thinking for fear of causing offence. Maybe it’s something to do with being shut inside a small shed for several hours a day, I don’t know, but recently I seem to have lost those inhibitions. And there’s not much peace to be had here in Sydney anyway.
So, to the neighbour who gamely practices the trumpet at ten thirty each morning, just as I’m getting into the groove to churn out a daily target of two thousand words, I think we can all agree that you know Twinkle Twinkle Little Star quite well by now.
Please, for all our sakes, PICK ANOTHER TUNE.
There, that feels a lot better.