The Children’s Bach (1984) is a novella by Australian writer Helen Garner. It was her third published book and her second novel. It was well received critically both in Australia and abroad.

I recently read Murray Bail’s Eucalypt and discovered he was married to Helen Garner. I had never actually read any of Garner’s work, so found The Children’s Bach on the local library’s audiobook app.

Like Raymond Carver, Frank Moorhouse, David Williamson, it feels like Helen Garner’s writing captures a zeitgeist through everyday ordinariness of small moments or ‘eventlets’ that are often caught in glimpses. This might be an overheard conversation, a passing comment or a chance observation. Take for example the comment about concerts:

‘Dexter!’ she said. ‘Nobody dances with anybody any more!’

Interestingly, I think that Garner’s writing style is best summarised by Philip, one of the characters in the book, who provides some feedback to a fellow artist, just replace ‘song’ with book:

Listen. I like your song. Look, I’ll give you a tip. Go home and write it again. Take out the clichés. Everybody knows ‘‘It always happens this way’’ or ‘‘I went in with my eyes wide open’’. Cut that stuff out. Just leave in the images. Know what I mean? You have to steer a line between what you understand and what you don’t. Between cliché and the other thing. Make gaps. Don’t chew on it. Don’t explain everything. Leave holes. The music will do the rest.’

Ben Lerner describes this as a mixture of ‘intimacy and distance’.

What a summary of the plot can’t capture is how the point of view moves rapidly but somehow seamlessly among various characters, focussing on and through them, before it alights on someone else. But this ability to depict multiple perspectives is cut with a sense of how little access we really have to other minds and motivations; Garner’s prose is a singular mixture of intimacy and distance.

Source: Unheard Melodies: On Helen Garner’s “The Children’s Bach” by Ben Lerner

The world is presented in a non-judgemental way, with Garner both celebrating and critiquing the world of responsibility and commitment.

Peter Hayes has highlighted how this can sometimes be confusing or inconsistent.

There’s a hollowness to The Children’s Bach that is ultimately what makes it so tiresome to read: it isn’t really about anything, nor does it tell the entertaining story that would redeem it to that extent.

Source: The Children’s Bach Reconsidered by Peter Hayes

I wonder though if this is maybe how life is? Is the reality produced through the reading, rather than the book itself?

I vaguely remember my grandmother talking about Garner’s non-fiction writing, but really cannot imagine her reading this. Maybe I just did not really know my grandmother that well.


I dive deep into the new firmware updates for the Roland MC-101 and MC-707 grooveboxes, which offer some much requested improvements and features, including complete sound design from scratch on the MC-101 (the partial tone editor), new effects including phonograph, exciter, and JD Multi, scatter step sequencing, MC-707 sample assign, and more.

I finally got around to updating my MC-101 today after watching Gabe Miller’s walk through. I was circumspect about how fiddly the partial tone editor would be. I found it fine and love the ability to build from scratch. A great addition.

Listened That Said, by Tony Martin from Tony Martin

Nine pieces from Tony Martin’s popular ‘Scarcely Relevant’ column at the much-missed ‘The Scrivener’s Fancy’, now in spoken-word form and exclusive to Bandcamp.

Awkward encounters with journalists, shop assistants, delivery men and members of the public who have mistaken him for someone else are mined for comic gold; two contrasting movies, ‘The Shining’ and ‘Alvin Rides Again’, are commemorated nerd-style; a feeding frenzy by tabloid commenters is dissected in ludicrous detail; and a five-year attempt to domesticate an ungrateful cat is recalled with more affection than was ever shown by the subject. All this plus Anna Wintour guest-edits Australia’s notoriously filthy ‘Picture’ magazine.

I listened to That Said, Tony Martin’s reading of a collection of pieces originally published in ‘The Scrivener’s Fancy’. In part I came upon these via an unplugged episode of Sizzletown where Martin read Irresponsible Journalism. I really enjoyed Lolly Scramble. Although some of the stories are better than others, there is something about Martin’s ability to capture the seemingly ordinary world around and bring it to life.

The Truce (Italian: La tregua), titled The Reawakening in the US,[1] is a book by the Italian author Primo Levi. It is the sequel to If This Is a Man and describes the author’s experiences from the liberation of Auschwitz (Monowitz), which was a concentration camp, until he reaches home in Turin, Italy, after a long journey. He describes the situation in different displaced persons camps after the Second World War.

The Truce recounts Primo Levi’s journey after being liberated from Auschwitz. It follows on from If This Is a Man. I have read and watched a lot about World War II, but I had never really thought about what happens afterwards, especially with the divide between the Russians and the Americans. I wonder if one of the differences with something like Erich Maria Remarque’s The Road Back is that there was possibly more movement in World War II? It also made me wonder if Waiting for Godot and Rainbow’s Gravity are not as absurd as they seem?


 So for us even the hour of liberty rang out grave and muffled, and filled our souls with joy and yet with a painful sense of pudency, so that we should have liked to wash our consciences and our memories clean from the foulness that lay upon them; and also with anguish, because we felt that this should never happen, that now nothing could ever happen good and pure enough to rub out our past, and that the scars of the outrage would remain within us for ever, and in the memories of those who saw it, and in the places where it occurred and in the stories that we should tell of it. Because, and this is the awful privilege of our generation and of my people, no one better than us has ever been able to grasp the incurable nature of the offence, that spreads like a contagion. It is foolish to think that human justice can eradicate it. It is an inexhaustible fount of evil; it breaks the body and the spirit of the submerged, it stifles them and renders them abject; it returns as ignominy upon the oppressors, it perpetuates itself as hatred among the survivors, and swarms around in a thousand ways, against the very will of all, as a thirst for revenge, as a moral capitulation, as denial, as weariness, as renunciation.

The market of Cracow had blossomed out spontaneously, as soon as the front had passed by, and in a few days it had invaded an entire suburb. Everything was bought and sold there, and the whole city centred on it; townsfolk were selling furniture, books, paintings, clothes and silver; peasant women, padded

He explained to me that to be without shoes is a very serious fault. When war is waging, one has to think of two things before all others : in the first place of one’s shoes, in the second place of food to eat; and not vice versa, as the common herd believes, because he who has shoes can search for food, but the inverse is not true. ‘But the war is over,’ I objected : and I thought it was over, as did many in those months of truce, in a much more universal sense than one dares to think today. ‘There is always war,’ replied Mordo Nahum memorably.

I felt my sense of freedom, my sense of being a man among men, of being alive, like a warm tide ebb from me. I found myself suddenly old, lifeless, tired beyond human measure; the war was not over, there was always war. My listeners began to steal away; they must have understood. I had dreamed, we had always dreamed, of something like this, in the nights at Auschwitz: of speaking and not being listened to, of finding liberty and remaining alone.

They were months of idleness and relative comfort, and full, therefore, of penetrating nostalgia. Nostalgia is a fragile and tender anguish, basically different, more intimate, more human than the other pains we had endured till then – beatings, cold, hunger, terror, destitution, disease. Nostalgia is a limpid and lean pain, but demanding; it permeates every minute of the day, permits no other thoughts and induces a need for escape. 


Inga Clendinnan’s Reading the Holocaust is what the name suggests, a reading of the various texts produced about the Holocaust. This reading is divided into sections, including a discussion of impediments, accounts from witnesses, what it meant to resist, the grey zone of those Jewish people who helped, the leaders, the police and the SS. It involves explorations of various texts, including memoirs, photographs, documentaries, poems, novels and historical accounts. This is something akin to a literature review.

Throughout, Clendinnan addresses the dangers of treating the Holocaust as unique just because it stands so near in time.

Our sense of Holocaust uniqueness (and we do have that sense) resides in the fact that these ferocious, largely secret killings were perpetrated within ‘twentieth-century Western society’, and that both our sense of portent and of the peculiar intransigence of these actions before puny human interpretation find their ground in the knowledge that they were conceived, executed and endured by people very like ourselves.
It is not that this material stands too far from us. It stands too near.

The limits to compelling the silence to speak and giving voice to the voiceless.

While we can never be sure what lies behind silence, I will begin to map the silences behind the words we have by exploring the circumstances under which people might feel the compulsion to speak, but find themselves unable to do so: situations, that is, when words fail.

Writing to find peace, to mend, to resist.

Levi was to find both personal peace and a way back to society not through the social activity of talking but the private one of writing: ‘By writing I found peace for a while and felt myself become a man again, a person like everyone else, neither debased nor a saint: one of those people who form a family and look to the future rather than the past.’

The difficulty with making sense of motives of leaders.

Explaining is not excusing; understanding is not forgiving. The notion that one must simply reject the actions of the perpetrators and not try to understand them would make impossible not only my history but any perpetrator history that tried to go beyond one-dimensional caricature … I must recognise that in such a situation I could have been either a killer or an evader – both were human – if I want to understand and explain the behaviour of both the best I can.

The theatre of the camps, like Auschwitz.

The theatrical perspective helps expose understandings otherwise left implicit, and flush into light some of the sadistic impulses which lurk along the boundaries of consciousness. It can expose the determined ‘othering’ by the SS of their ‘enemies behind the wire’. It can take us a certain distance into even this action sequence – into what Olga Lengyel, who saw it, diagnosed as one of the ‘fits of destructive insanity’ she thought occasionally possessed the SS. But I do not believe it can take us to the heart of the scene described, or into the hearts of similar scenes scattered through the record.

The problems with trying to provide thick description of thin material.

Despite the most diligent research, the material remains too thin to allow a sufficiently detailed retrieval of actions to achieve ‘thick description’, save in one singular instance: the Hamburg Reserve Police Battalion’s first day of mass murder at the little Polish town of Jozefow. More damagingly, Goldhagen tends to confuse detailed external descriptions of actions (‘They did this, they did that’) with the ‘thick description’ which Geertz would have us aspire to, where the actors’ meanings are the quarry (‘She’d gone too far, so I hit her’).

The challenges in attempting to represent the Holocaust.

The most effective imagined evocations of the Holocaust seem to proceed either by invocation, the glancing reference to an existing bank of ideas, images and sentiments (‘Auschwitz’), or, perhaps more effectively, by indirection.

In the end, she ends with the claim as to why history writing, with its balance between telling and interpreting, provides the best means of telling the past.

Historians are the foot soldiers in the slow business of understanding our species better, and thereby extending the role of reason and humanity in human af¬ fairs. Humankind saw the face of the Gorgon in the concentration camps, petrifying the human by its denial of the human both in itself and in its prey. The shadow of the Holocaust has lengthened with the years. In that shadow, none of us is at home in the world, because now we know the fragility of our content. If we are to see the Gorgon sufficiently steadily to destroy it, we cannot afford to be blinded by reverence or abashed into silence or deflected into a search for reassur¬ ing myths. We must do more than register guilt, or grief, or anger, or disgust, because neither reverence for those who suffer nor revulsion from those who inflict the suffering will help us overcome its power to paralyse, and to see it clearly.


If This Is a Man (Italian: Se questo è un uomo [se kˈkwesto ˌɛ un ˈwɔːmo]; United States title: Survival in Auschwitz) is a memoir by Italian Jewish writer Primo Levi, first published in 1947. It describes his arrest as a member of the Italian anti-fascist resistance during the Second World War, and his incarceration in the Auschwitz concentration camp (Monowitz) from February 1944 until the camp was liberated on 27 January 1945.

If This Is a Man is Primo Levi’s memoir of how he survived the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. A trained chemist, Levi approaches the recount in a very factual manner. This methodical nature reads something like an absurd Choose Your Own Adventure novel. Whether it be only being transported later in the war, having the right skills required for work in the laboratory or falling sick at the right time, as Primo states at the beginning, chance played a significant part in Levi’s survival.

One of the strange things about the text is the trick of language that makes you feel that you could actually imagine what it was actually like. It has me wanting to go back to Inga Clendinnen’s Reading the Holocaust.


It is man who kills, man who creates or suffers injustice; it is no longer man who, having lost all restraint, shares his bed with a corpse. Whoever waits for his neighbour to die in order to take his piece of bread is, albeit guiltless, further from the model of thinking man than the most primitive pigmy or the most vicious sadist.

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Let me ask you a question. Do you remember having water when you were a kid? You went out and fiddled around out in the world, but did you have a water bottle with you? You followed streams and went into the wild, but how long were you gone and did you have a water bottle with you?

Laura, that is a great question about water. I vaguely remember actually getting random drinks from taps on people’s front lawns, but I don’t remember carrying around a bottle much. I actually do not remember there being many public water bubblers, especially not like parks today in Australia. (Wonder if this is a global phenomenon?)

Associated with the water debate, I cannot remember drinking water or actually anything at all when I went to music festivals, like the Big Day Out.

I wrote a review of Sonya Hartnett’s The Ghost’s Child here.


She would have the memory of him, but the truth is that a memory is hardly ever good enough to console a heart.

But she longed for him to be happy, to be hers: so she would not open the prison of her heart to let him go. “I love you,” she told him, and this was true, and she knew that he believed her; but when she said it she saw the chain around his ankle, a length of links that let him wander, but not far. She did not see the chain around her own ankle, because love is blind.

Since the day by the pond Feather was always saying pretty things that were like bubbles of air, things she doubted and brushed away. His face darkened, however, and he said, “I should not have stayed. When I first met you, you had no cares. You shone with all the fabulous things you had seen, your world was wide and full of colours. Now there are shadows under your eyes, and you live in a lonely forest.”
“But I wanted you to stay.” She was willing to take the blame. “I trapped you into being with me, and threw away the key.”
Feather shook his fair head. “That’s silly, Maddy. There never was a trap, there never was a key. I stayed because I wanted to. How else could I have shown you that I loved you?”

Matilda sat back, tapping her heel. “I didn’t know much in those days,” she said. “I was just a girl. I’d always imagined that love was something which couldn’t be destroyed. I thought that, once conjured, love was towering and eternal. But wandering around the cottage alone, I began to suspect I was wrong. Maybe love was really a feeble, spineless thing, which easily forgets the thing it once adored. If that was true of ordinary love, then my love was different. My love was something colossal, my love was great. I wanted to stop loving Feather, but I simply could not. He had hurt me, he had deserted me, he had never tried – and he’d never wanted the fay. If Feather had ever loved me, it was only with that faulty, insipid love. And yet, despite all this, I missed him, and I longed for him to return. I was shackled with love, I was blighted by it; I was its victim, plagued to despair. But Feather, I imagined, was carefree somewhere, never giving me a thought. He’d got everything he wished for, and nothing he didn’t want. Me, though – I had nothing! A broken heart, that was all! And it wasn’t fair – it made me angry – eventually, it made me kick and punch and smash my way out of that awful white box.”

The islands used to float about, following the summer, until somebody realized that the islands should stand still. Because that’s what endless fulfilment is, isn’t it? That’s what forgetfulness is. Just stopping still. So the islands stopped floating, and now, on an Island of Stillness, everything is still.”
“How awful that sounds,” mused Maddy.
Zephyrus shrugged breezily. “You’d be surprised. Some people like things that way.”

Maddy drew a breath, rehearsed the words in her head, and asked, “How can you know love, and lose it, and go on living without it, and not feel the loss forever?”
“You can’t,” Feather answered. “You feel the loss forever. But you put it in a safe corner of yourself, and bit by bit some of your sorrow changes into joy. And that’s how you go on living.”

In the beginning, the blind ex-soldiers were reluctant to be treated by her. There was still something barbarous and odd about Maddy; and she was youthful, and not stern, and she wasn’t a man – in short, she was nothing a doctor should be.

Liked Is Martha Stewart’s turn on the cover of Sports Illustrated really about the male gaze, or is she chasing something else? (

When we get fit and put on good clothes, even sexy clothes, we’re hoping our girlfriends greet us with shrieks of delight at our well-toned arms and how well our jeans fit. Martha may have been on the cover of a men’s magazine, but almost all the discussion since her appearance has been by women.

Bookmarked Book Summary: The Order of Things: The Archaeology of the Human Sciences / Michel Foucault by Huzeyfe Kıran (Thinking Prismatically)

“One thing in any case is certain: man is neither the oldest nor the most constant problem that has been posed for human knowledge. Taking a relatively short chronological sample within a restricted geographical area — European culture since the sixteenth century — one can be certain that man is a recent invention within it. It is not around him and his secrets that knowledges prowled for so long in the darkness. In fact, among all the mutations that have affected the knowledge of things and their order, the knowledge of identities differences, characters, equivalences, words — in short, in the midst of all the episodes of that profound history of the Same — only one, that which began a century and a half ago and is now perhaps drawing to a close, has made it possible for the figure of man to appear. And that appearance was not the liberation of an old anxiety, the transition into luminous consciousness of an age-old concern, the entry into objectivity of something that had long remained trapped within beliefs and philosophies: it was the effect of a change in the fundamental arrangements of knowledge. As the archaeology of our thought easily shows, man is an invention of recent date. And one perhaps nearing its end.

If those arrangements were to disappear as they appeared, if some event of which we can at the moment do no more than sense the possibility — without knowing either what its form will be or what it promises — were to cause them to crumble, as the ground of Classical thought did, at the end of the eighteenth century, then one can certainly wager that man would be erased, like a face drawn in sand at the edge of the sea” (The Order of Things p.386-387).

I remember reading Michel Foucault’s Archeology of Knowledge during university, but never got around to The Order of Things. Wondering about the crux of the book I stumbled upon this lengthy summary from Huzeyfe Kıran. I was left thinking about archeology in relation to my Honours thesis on psychoanalysis and the way in which what we talk about when we talk about psychoanalysis.

Who the f*** is Damian Cowell?

Damian Cowell wrote a song called “I Was The Guy in TISM”. So there’s that. There was no Damian Cowell in TISM, but one of the masked personas’ voice and those distinctive lyrics are pretty familiar.

Since 2004 Damian Cowell has formed 3 bands, released 8 albums, been a stand-up comedian, published a graphic novel, been commissioned by MONA, produced a 19-episode podcast and created a 19-episode animated series. Now he’s back to bring you some of the best bits.

What the f*** is Damian Cowell?

Damian Cowell is a compilation album celebrating his work in ROOT!, The DC3 and Damian Cowell’s Disco Machine, plus some new things. It features a new version of”Fuck I’m Dead”, his collaborations with Tony Martin, Shaun Micallef, Celia Pacquolaand, Ella Hooper plus previously unreleased versions of songs from his 2010 lost masterpiece “Surface Paradise”.

Why the f*** is Damian Cowell?

He started out wearing a mask and pretending to be someone else. Since then he’s hidden behind the security of 3 bands. Now he’s just Damian Cowell: the social satirist, the singer, the songwriter, the band, the brand.

Who the f*** are Damian Cowell?

Damian Cowell the band features some familiar faces, like Gordon Blake, Andy Hazel and Emily Jarrett, plus some new ones. Oh, and Damian Cowell will be there too. His old friend Tony Martin may also make an appearance. To celebrate the release of Damian Cowell the album, Damian Cowell the band are touring nationally, playing selections from across his career. And even a few from you know who.

Not sure what ‘Damian Cowell’ the album is, but I am a yes whoever or whatever Damian Cowell is. Kind of feels like Cowell’s own Eras-style tour.
Checked into
Ventured in with the children to Melbourne on the weekend for the first time post-COVID. We went to the Queen Victoria Market to buy donuts from American Donut Kitchen. In the process, we discovered that CRFT*WRK Melbourne Craft Fair was running. The girls loved looking at the different stall. Lost a whole afternoon. Eventually bought a couple of different luck dips.
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“Semantic-Linkbacks” is open source software. The following people have contributed to this plugin.

Wordfence told me that there was issues with semantic-linkbacks, so I disconnected it after seeing that Matthias Pfefferle had archived the app. However, I agree with Khürt Williams, it made my site “feel like an 8-track cassette player.” So I am reactivating it. I guess we will see.
Bookmarked When a mum breastfeeding her baby sparks outrage, we’re focusing on the wrong things by Virginia Trioli (ABC News)

What confused me was all this deeply felt concern for children, when I really hadn’t seen much anxiety similarly expressed for all the thousands of Australian kids who live in dangerous, damaging, high-risk circumstances and whose lives are being compromised and even cut short, all with our full understanding of their problems.

I guess I might take all the outrage a bit more seriously if I heard wails of anguish about the more than 15,000 children in Lyle Shelton’s state who need foster homes and can’t live safely with parents who I assume are mostly still the gender they were assigned at birth; the criticism would be easier to take if it came from people who daily expressed horror at the 1.3 million Australian children who went without enough food every day, or the more than 50,000 kids who don’t get to go to school.

State and territory child protection services responded to more than 178,800 children in 2020–21 — an increase from about 168,300 in previous years — and the issues ranged from child abuse or neglect through to care and protection orders, or placement in out-of-home care.

Virginia Trioli’s reflection on focusing on the wrong thing to me is another highlight to the challenges of having conversations in the modern world? This again has me thinking about Waleed Aly and Scott Stephens’ discussion of contempt. For me, this is all nicely captured in Tony Martin’s Sizzletown, a podcast that is hilariously funny, until you realise the truth associated with so much of the commentary. I guess here I fall back on my oft repeated quote from Peter Goldsworthy ‘Maestro’:

Cartoon descriptions? How else to describe a cartoon world?

Listened The Loveliest Time by Contributors to Wikimedia projects from Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.

The Loveliest Time is the seventh studio album by Canadian singer Carly Rae Jepsen, released on July 28, 2023, by 604, Schoolboy and Interscope Records. It serves as a companion piece to The Loneliest Time (2022), featuring songs from sessions for the original album. It was preceded by the single “Shy Boy”.

I am always intrigued by the choices made in putting an album together. I accept that there are some artists, like Tame Impala, that record the album and that is it. However, Carly Rae Jepsen has spoken quite a bit over the years how she write a lot of songs, many of which do not it onto the album. This has led to a tradition of releasing a B-side album with each of her albums.

In the course of composing her last two albums, Emotion and Dedicated, Jepsen wrote more than 200 songs. Many of her favorite works didn’t make it onto either final album, so she’s started a tradition of releasing “Side B” records on the one-year anniversary of her last release.

Source: “I’m a bit of an overwriter”: How Carly Rae Jepsen whittled 200 songs down to 12 for her new album by Charlie Harding

One of the interesting things in listening to Loveliest Times is how some of these songs would have changed the feel of The Loneliest Times. This is picked up somewhat in the title of the album ‘The Loveliest Times’ as this album does feel more upbeat to the often reflective The Loneliest Times. Maybe we might never hear ‘Disco Sweat’ in its entirety, but it definitely feels like it always has a presence, especially in the B-Sides:

I have an entire album called Disco Sweat that no one will ever hear. It was really fun to make, though. “Cut to the Feeling” is a good example of that. It was never going to come out. And then I did a voiceover for the cartoon film Ballerina, and they were like, “Do you have any tunes?” And I’m like, “Well, this one’s very theatrical. I think it could work.” So that’s sort of how I roll. [The song made the year-end best lists on Billboard, Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, and Vanity Fair.]

Source: “I’m a bit of an overwriter”: How Carly Rae Jepsen whittled 200 songs down to 12 for her new album by Charlie Harding

Listen to This Love Isn’t Crazy from Dedicated B-Sides for another possible ‘Disco Sweat’ track.

Read The New York Trilogy

The New York Trilogy is a series of novels by American writer Paul Auster. Originally published sequentially as City of Glass (1985), Ghosts (1986) and The Locked Room (1986), it has since been collected into a single volume. The Trilogy is a postmodern interpretation of detective and mystery fiction, exploring various philosophical themes.

I wrote some extended thoughts on The New York Trilogy here.


It was like watching a marionette trying to walk without strings.

For the most part his entries from this period consisted of marginal questions concerning the Stillman case. Quinn wondered, for example, why he had not bothered to look up the newspaper reports of Stillman’s arrest in 1969. He examined the problem of whether the moon landing of that same year had been connected in any way with what had happened. He asked himself why he had taken Auster’s word for it that Stillman was dead. He tried to think about eggs and wrote out such phrases as “a good egg,” “egg on his face,” “to lay an egg,” “to be as like as two eggs.” He wondered what would have happened if he had followed the second Stillman instead of the first. He asked himself why Christopher, the patron saint of travel, had been decanonized by the Pope in 1969, just at the time of the trip to the moon. He thought through the question of why Don Quixote had not simply wanted to write books like the ones he loved— instead of living out their adventures. He wondered why he had the same initials as Don Quixote. He considered whether the girl who had moved into his apartment was the same girl he had seen in Grand Central Station reading his book. He wondered if Virginia Stillman had hired another detective after he failed to get in touch with her. He asked himself why he had taken Auster’s word for it that the check had bounced. He thought about Peter Stillman and wondered if he had ever slept in the room he was in now. He wondered if the case was really over or if he was not somehow still working on it. He wondered what the map would look like of all the steps he had taken in his life and what word it would spell.

As for Quinn, it is impossible for me to say where he is now. I have followed the red notebook as closely as I could, and any inaccuracies in the story should be blamed on me. There were moments when the text was difficult to decipher, but I have done my best with it and have refrained from any interpretation.

◆ Ghosts

Two days later, when Blue receives his check in the mail, there is finally a word from White. No more funny business, it says, and though it’s not much of a word, for all that Blue is glad to have received it, happy to have cracked White’s wall of silence at last. It’s not clear to him, however, whether the message refers to the last report or to the incident in the post office. After thinking it over for a while, he decides that it makes no difference. One way or another, the key to the case is action. He must go on disrupting things wherever he can, a little here, a little there, chipping away at each conundrum until the whole structure begins to weaken, until one day the whole rotten business comes toppling to the ground.

◆ 1

I hauled the two suitcases slowly down the stairs and onto the street. Together, they were as heavy as a man.

◆ 2

In the end, each life is no more than the sum of contingent facts, a chronicle of chance intersections, of flukes, of random events that divulge nothing but their own lack of purpose.

Stories happen only to those who are able to tell them, someone once said. In the same way, perhaps, experiences present themselves only to those who are able to have them.

◆ 3

No one wants to be part of a fiction, and even less so if that fiction is real.

This was the tiny hole between self and not-self, and for the first time in my life I saw this nowhere as the exact center of the world.

◆ 5

I wandered in my mind for several weeks, looking for a way to begin. Every life is inexplicable, I kept telling myself. No matter how many facts are told, no matter how many details are given, the essential thing resists telling. To say that so and so was born here and went there, that he did this and did that, that he married this woman and had these children, that he lived, that he died, that he left behind these books or this battle or that bridge—none of that tells us very much. We all want to be told stories, and we listen to them in the same way we did when we were young. We imagine the real story inside the words, and to do this we substitute ourselves for the person in the story, pretending that we can understand him because we understand ourselves. This is a deception. We exist for ourselves, perhaps, and at times we even have a glimmer of who we are, but in the end we can never be sure, and as our lives go on, we become more and more opaque to ourselves, more and more aware of our own incoherence. No one can cross the boundary into another—for the simple reason that no one can gain access to himself.

There is also M. M. Bakhtin, the Russian critic and literary philosopher. During the German invasion of Russia in World War II, he smoked the only copy of one of his manuscripts, a book-length study of German fiction that had taken him years to write. One by one, he took the pages of his manuscript and used the paper to roll his cigarettes, each day smoking a little more of the book until it was gone. These are true stories. They are also parables, perhaps, but they mean what they mean only because they are true.

◆ 8

After all these months of trying to find him, I felt as though I was the one who had been found. Instead of looking for Fanshawe, I had actually been running away from him. The work I had contrived for myself—the false book, the endless detours—had been no more than an attempt to ward him off, a ruse to keep him as far away from me as possible. For if I could convince myself that I was looking for him, then it necessarily followed that he was somewhere else— somewhere beyond me, beyond the limits of my life. But I had been wrong. Fanshawe was exactly where I was, and he had been there since the beginning. From the moment his letter arrived, I had been struggling to imagine him, to see him as he might have been—but my mind had always conjured a blank. At best, there was one impoverished image: the door of a locked room. That was the extent of it: Fanshawe alone in that room, condemned to a mythical solitude—living perhaps, breathing perhaps, dreaming God knows what. This room, I now discovered, was located inside my skull.

The story is not in the words; it’s in the struggle.


“One,” in other words, is entirely the wrong number for a book, which is always simultaneously more than one (a multiplicity) and less than one (a part). The attempt to identify the book as one-whether it be through the attribution of an interiority, an ontology, an origin, or a destination-is a habit, an anchoring of “arborescent” thought, which for Deleuze and Guattari can be uprooted. All that’s needed, they argue, is a practice of thought that follows the model not of the tree but of the “rhizome”

Source: Wrong Numbers: The Endless Fiction of Auster and Deleuze and Guattari and . . . by Robert Briggs

A book is not a container, but is rather full of holes through which connections can be made to others. A book is thus both an assemblage of multiple components and a part within other assemblages.

Source: Wrong Numbers: The Endless Fiction of Auster and Deleuze and Guattari and . . . by Robert Briggs

Nevertheless, a few points of correspondence can be found between the three stories, which could define Auster’s collection as not so much a nonidentical or uncertain trilogy as rather a trilogy about the nonidentical and the uncertain. So, although there is little continuity between genre and character, there is a certain persistence of duplicitous identities.

Source: Wrong Numbers: The Endless Fiction of Auster and Deleuze and Guattari and . . . by Robert Briggs

In other words, that Auster’s The New York Trilogy is a trilogy is a fiction. But if that is the case, then The Red Notebook is no less a fiction, despite its claim to proffer “true stories” and despite the implication that the interviews within it present the real Paul Auster, author of The New York Trilogy and Mr Vertigo.

Source: Wrong Numbers: The Endless Fiction of Auster and Deleuze and Guattari and . . . by Robert Briggs

Consequently, or according to Auster at least, City of Glass (and perhaps the entire Trilogy) is not the work of detective fiction that it always seems to be taken for, but rather is a work of autobiography, albeit a fictitious one.

Source: Wrong Numbers: The Endless Fiction of Auster and Deleuze and Guattari and . . . by Robert Briggs

It becomes possible therefore that the Trilogy is not the fiction that the fictitious Paul Auster in The Red Notebook claims it to be, which is as much as to say that the story that the Trilogy is a fiction-even a fiction about the problem of identity-is yet another fiction in the endless fiction of Paul Auster. Ultimately, then, the arborescent reading of the Trilogy as a trilogy-its organization according to a system that reduces it to a work of fiction with an identifiable beginning and end, to a set of themes and intentions with an identifiable author-such a reading may well be just as fictitious as a reading that would seek to produce it as a multiplicity.

Source: Wrong Numbers: The Endless Fiction of Auster and Deleuze and Guattari and . . . by Robert Briggs

Even though you might start off reading fiction, you can’t expect, in the end, not to find yourself writing the story of your life.

Source: Wrong Numbers: The Endless Fiction of Auster and Deleuze and Guattari and . . . by Robert Briggs

The New York Trilogy treats authorship in such a way that conflates the planes of phenomenology and fiction into one rhizomatic plane. Deleuze and Guattari argue that the nature of books is to form a rhizome with the world; books are simultaneously part of world of which they “remain the image” (6).

Source: Paul Auster’s rhizomatic fictions by Gary Matthew Varner

The inclusion and fracture of Auster’s biography in City of Glass deterritorializes Auster, and overthrows the ontology of biography, by erasing the division between phenomenology and fiction.

Source: Paul Auster’s rhizomatic fictions by Gary Matthew Varner

What makes Auster’s Trilogy endless, and rhizomatic, is that it “nullif[ies] endings” (Deleuze and Guattari 25) … Readers may not want to begin reading Auster’s book at any point in any volume, but the Trilogy nevertheless nullifies its own “endings.”

Source: Paul Auster’s rhizomatic fictions by Gary Matthew Varner

The confining within the walls of New York is very similar to the solitude of the forest found in Henry Thoreau’s Waiden, recollections of which dominate the Trilogy. In both these works, the authors achieve perfect isolation within the spaces delineated by the city or the forest that endows them with a transcending ability to observe and reflec

Source: Paul Auster’s “The New York Trilogy”: The Linguistic Construction of an Imaginary Universe by Clara Sarmento

One must understand how the universe functions before one confronts it with the force of creativity; this is the writer’s task. In citing Samuel Beckett, Auster defines his own ideological and literary bent, thereby depicting his profound critical acumen and his feeling for the mission of the artist: “To find a form that accommodates the mess, that is the task of the artist now.”

Source: Paul Auster’s “The New York Trilogy”: The Linguistic Construction of an Imaginary Universe by Clara Sarmento

The re-working of the detective story as a search for the ultimate language shows that it is not the final and speculative textualization that is most appropriate for the postmodern world, but instead, the text that is written about the text. Stories about stories and books of questions, as opposed to books of answers, are the forms that best typify the difficult reality of our times. The New York Trilogy participates in the deconstruction of the legendary tower of the ancestral city and its language, as it describes the Babel-like shattering of the contemporary metropolis at the same time that it expresses the crisis surrounding linguistic representation. Its ideological structure of a wandering through and a detachment from pre-existing principles forces the postmodern subject to question the basis of all legendary archetypes.

Source: Paul Auster’s “The New York Trilogy”: The Linguistic Construction of an Imaginary Universe by Clara Sarmento

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Listened From Little Things Big Things Grow from ABC Radio National

This is the story a song written by Kev Carmody and Paul Kelly around a campfire in 1988. What started off as a casually recorded folk number has become what Carmody calls “a kind of cultural love song”: a foundational entry in the Australian songbook.

This year’s NAIDOC Week theme is “For Our Elders”, so RN’s Rudi Bremer went to speak with Kev Carmody at his studio on Kambuwal Country to gather his recollections of From Little Things Big Things Grow as it started, the story of the Gurindji Walk Off that inspired it, and the many different iterations he’s performed and heard in the last thirty years.

Wik and South Sea Islander rapper Ziggy Ramo, Electric Fields vocalist Zaachariaha Fielding from the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands and Adelaide producer Michael Ross, and Zillmere State School Year 7 Class of 2003 student Tonii-Lee Betts join Craig Tilmouth to talk about their interpretations of the song that Carmody says “belongs to everyone now”.

From Little Things Big Things Grow, as performed by:

Kev Carmody, Paul Kelly and the Tiddas from the 1993 album Bloodlines

Paul Kelly & the Messengers from the 1991 album Comedy

Kev Carmody and Paul Kelly live at the national memorial service for Gough Whitlam, 2014

The Waifs, from the 2020 album Cannot Buy My Soul: The Songs of Kev Carmody

Electric Fields from the 2020 album Cannot Buy My Soul: The Songs of Kev Carmody

Ziggy Ramo, from the 2021 single From Little Things

Zillmere State School Year 7 Class of 2003

Paul Kelly & Jess Hitchcock live in 2019 on the album People

You also heard Kev Carmody’s song Thou Shalt Not Steal from the 1988 album Pillars of Society, and the opening of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 (‘Choral’), performed by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and Wilhelm Furtwängler.

Rudi Bremer speaks with Kev Carmody about writing of his track From Little Things Big Things Grow with Paul Kelly and its legacy. The two explore the many covers of the track, including:

  • Ziggy Ramo
  • Electric Fields
  • The Waifs
  • Zillmere State School
  • Paul Kelly & Jess Hitchcock

Carmody compares the various covers to “the embers coming off the fire”. This is interesting to consider alongside Walter Benjamin’s idea of ‘the translation as a tangent‘.  Carmody also says that as a song it “belongs to everyone now.”

Listened Atta by Contributors to Wikimedia projects from Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.

Átta (lit. ’Eight’) is the eighth studio album by Icelandic post-rock band Sigur Rós, released through Von Dur and BMG Rights Management on 16 June 2023. It is their first studio album in 10 years, following Kveikur (2013), and is their first since 2012’s Valtari to feature keyboardist Kjartan Sveinsson, who rejoined the band in 2022. The seven-minute lead single “Blóðberg” was released on 12 June 2023 alongside its music video, directed by Johan Renck. Physical editions of the album are scheduled to be released on 1 September 2023. The band will embark on a tour from June 2023 backed by a 41-piece orchestra.

In Phil Mongredien’s review, he describes Átta as ‘disappointing homogeneity’. I wonder if the criticisms of the albums ‘unengaging’ nature reflects the challenges of the modern world where so much revolves around the ‘next hit’. If this is what you are after, then this album may not be it. (Maybe try Jonsi’s solo album Shiver?) However, I wonder if Sigur Rós ever really fitted that niche?

Ian Cohen suggests that the album offers ‘equisite beauty’.

While he’s never made the same album twice, either as a solo artist or a collaborator or the frontman of Sigur Rós, he’s also never made an album that turned out anything other than exquisitely beautiful, no matter how much he’s fought against it.

Source: Átta – Sigur Rós by Ian Cohen

While NPR argues that this is an album for our times. In an interview with Bob Boilen, Jónsi describes the album as heavy but hopeful.

It is interesting because when we were doing this album, there was this, I don’t know, maybe it’s just in the world we’re living now, but it’s this doom and gloom everywhere you scroll on social media and and everything kind of has this apocalyptic feel to it. The world is ending, nature is dying, climate disasters one after the other. Yeah, wildfires in Canada and a lot of wildfires in LA War in Ukraine and all this stuff. And we were kind of doing it at that time the war started and all these disasters. And I remember, yeah, there’s definitely something … not gloomy, but, I don’t know, something heavy but also hopeful [at the] same time.

Source: Jónsi explains how Sigur Rós made its first new album in a decade by @NPR

This balance allows the listener to make of it what they want.

I think what is most remarkable is that people take their own meaning from it because they don’t understand the lyrics. Or everybody makes their own meaning and interpretation in their mind. And I think that’s kind of amazing. You’re not like being spoon fed some specific lyrics, some love lyrics or something.

Source: Jónsi explains how Sigur Rós made its first new album in a decade by @NPR

I feel this album important for the moment in the same way that Mixing Colours was right for the start of the pandemic. It forces us to stop and consider.

Read Antarctica

Antarctica (1997) is a science fiction novel by American writer Kim Stanley Robinson. It deals with a variety of characters living at or visiting an Antarctic research station. It incorporates many of Robinson’s common themes, including scientific process and the importance of environmental protection.

In The Return of the Native, Thomas Hardy talks about heath to set the scene, however Antarctica for Kim Stanley Robinson feels like more than just a setting, it is both a physical place, but also political one too. With this, the book can be appreciated as an investigation into Antarctica, while being about Antarctica. Whether it be the geography, history, science, Robinson explores Antarctica in all its detail. In particular, the book attempts to go beyond the surface level of opinions on past expedition:

Everyone who joined a Footsteps expedition was an expert; it only took a half-dozen books to fill you in on the entire history of Antarctica, and after that everyone had an opinion.

Source: Antarctica by Kim Stanley Robinson

In some ways Robinson’s intertextual approach reminded of James Mitchener and the way in which different narratives are tied together to capture a particular subject. In Robinson’s case, this includes X, an idealistic young man working as a field assistant at McMurdo; Val, a trek guide helping people to trace the steps of past explorers; Wade Norton, an aide for a Californian senator; and the ferals, the ‘native’ people of Antarctica.

(Alternatively, I was also reminded of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. This made me think about whether Melville should be considered as a science fiction author?)

With each of the competing narratives, It is Norton who ties all these stories together. He has been sent down to Antarctica to get a picture of what is happening by Senator Phil Chase. As the novel unfolds, he relays everything back to Chase.

In some ways, this relationship is a proxy for Robinson’s relationship with us as the reader. Like Chase, we depend upon Robinson to provide an insight into all things Antarctica. One such insight relates to science.

It was not a matter of evil-doing either way; the simple truth was that science was a matter of making alliances to help you to show what you wanted to show, and to make clear also that what you were showing was important. And your own graduate students and post-docs were necessarily your closest allies in that struggle to pull together all the strings of an argument. All this became even more true when there was a controversy ongoing, when there were people on the other side publishing articles with titles like “Unstable Ice or Unstable Ideas?” and so on, so that the animus had grown a bit higher than normal.

Science was not a matter of automatons seeking Truth, but of people struggling to black-box some facts.

Source: Antarctica by Kim Stanley Robinson

As a medium, fiction allows a means of capturing various perspectives.

There are so many aspects that reminded me of The Ministry for the Future, ranging from blimps, science, politics and terrorism. I am left wondering if these are usual aspects to all of Robinson’s work.