Monthly Archives: September 2014

Letters to the newspaper: ‘name supplied’

There’s no excuse

I am the son of a firearms-related domestic violence murderer. Murder is murder. It’s a choice that a man makes to end the lives of others. It is not about the ”strain” they have to deal with or anything else, for that matter. It’s about a vulgar sense of ownership. Some men feel like their family belongs to them and therefore the man feels entitled to end the lives of those they love if they can’t get what they want. The judge who sentenced my father in May this year made this point: ”You say you still love your wife, but you love her as a piece of property and were prepared to destroy that property so no one else could have it.” I can only say that as the son of a murderer, this is really important for people to understand. Not all men are like this, like myself and my brother who are both loving fathers and are not ”like him”. Men need to share this, because this type of thinking in our communities, in our families, does not get the attention it deserves. Things have to change and journalists need to report on these issues with the emphasis on premeditated murder, not as an unfortunate set of circumstances. There are some of my family members who feel distressed and confused about this issue. This is all part of the ripple effect of domestic violence murders. However, I can’t keep this indoors any more, nor should any of us.

Name supplied, Brunswick West

Forever fearful

As a victim of sexual abuse by my father, at the age of 13, I don’t know the answer to the problem of ”child sex abuse level ‘horrific’ ” (13/9). I loved and feared my father but feel he couldn’t help his problems. I still believe that there should be more help for people who have these problems. I don’t believe they are born evil. With my father, he seemed to change when he drank. I never told my mother as I felt she had enough problems living with an alcoholic and sometimes violent husband. I never forgot it and the fear has remained with me all my life. However, I wonder if now children can speak up. The consequences are so bad, the family will be broken and what will happen to the perpetrator of the crime, your own father?

Name and address supplied The Age, 14 September 2014

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Underlying the stories we tell

“whatever story we are telling, we are always also telling the story of our own wanting … at any moment in Freud’s life we can ask, encouraged and legitimated by his own work, what is Freud wanting from psychoanalysis? What is the pleasure he seeks? What is he doing it for and what is it doing to him? What about himself is he seeking to sustain and enjoy, and what would he prefer to ignore?”

Adam Phillips, Becoming Freud (more here) 

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Everything contains its opposite

Yes, everything is painfully ridiculous and subjective and partial, because everything contains its opposite and depends entirely on the moment and the place and the virulence and the dosage, delivering either sickness or vaccination, either death or beautification , just as all love carries within itself its own staleness and every desire its own satiety and every longing its own ennui, so the same people in the same position and place love each other and cannot stand each other at different moments in time, today, tomorrow; what was once a long –established habit becomes slowly or suddenly unacceptable and inadmissible – it doesn’t matter which, that’s the least of it – and the merest contact, a touch once taken for granted, becomes an affront or an insult, what once gave pleasure or amusement becomes hateful, repellent, accursed and vile, words once longed for would now poison the air . . .

Javier Marías Your Face Tomorrow: Dance and Dream

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Writing and reading as exploration

Interviewer: What is the purpose of writing for you?

Javier Marías: I think it was Faulkner who once said that when you strike a match in a dark wilderness it is not in order to see anything better lighted, but just in order to see how much more darkness there is around. I think that literature does mainly that. It is not really supposed to “answer” things, not even to make them clearer, but rather to explore — often blindly — the huge areas of darkness, and show them better. So in my opinion it does not really matter if subjects are unanswerable (all of them are, possibly), as literature is not expected to solve riddles or mysteries, but just to show them — perhaps putting them in a slightly new light, perhaps calling attention to overlooked aspects of them.  (more here) 

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Telling a story

By imagining something you are starting to resist it, and that applies to things that have already happened as well: you can withstand misfortunes more easily if, afterwards, after experiencing them, you can manage to imagine them. And, of course, the way most people do this is by talking about them. Not that I think everything could or should be told, far from it, but neither is it admissible to over-falsify the world and send idiots and dimwits out into it who have never known the slightest disappointment or anxiety. Throughout my life, before telling something, , I have always tried to guage what could be told. To whom, how and when. You have to stop and consider what stage or moment in their life the person listening to you has reached, and to bear in mind that what you tell that person will stay in their mind for ever. It will become incorporated into their knowledge, just as the murder I heard about on a tram became incorporated into mine, even though it was just one of many. And, as you see, I haven’t managed to dislodge that story from my knowledge . . Javier Marías Your Face Tomorrow 2. Dance and Dream

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Good stories have a quality of authorlessness. The better they are the more authorless they seem. They give the sense of being out there, like facts.

Janet Malcolm, Two Lives: Gertrude and Alice

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Talking at parties

At a party when a woman tells you where she bought a wonderful pair of shoes, say you believe shopping for clothes is like masturbation, everyone does it, but it isn’t very interesting and therefore should be done alone, in an embarrassed fashion, and never be the topic of party conversation. The woman will tighten in her lips and eyebrows and say, ‘Oh, I suppose you have something more fascinating to talk about.’ Grow clumsy and uneasy. Say, ‘No!’ and head for the ginger ale. Tell the person next to you that your insides feel sort of sinking and viny; like a Claes Oldenburg toilet. They will say , ‘Oh?’ and point out that the print on your dress is one of paisleys impregnating paisleys. Pour yourself more ginger ale.

Lorrie Moore How To Talk To Your Mother, from  A Gate at The Stairs 

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What is your favourite fabric? Have you ever raised a wild baby bird? Which of your parents would you say was the more selfish? Do you have the patience for pickup sticks? Do you like high-tech gadgetry? Are there any significant personal betrayals in your past, to you or by you? Do you know what is meant exactly by synthetic motor oil?

. . .   Would you like to have an executive maid who beyond a clean house would assure that you have crisp lettuce at all times and nothing gone bad and no bills not paid? .. Did you get Hegel? . .What would we prepare if told that Einstein was coming to dinner? Would we set the dishes more carefully in the light? Would we, I mean, adjust the lighting? Would we microwave for him?

Padgett Powell, The Interrogative Mood

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The urge to explain

It is difficult to resist the urge to explain, even if only to oneself, the experience of encountering a work of art. To be fully, autonomously human is to be self-aware, capable of learning, capable of understanding what we do as we do it. A great deal of postwar art relies on that capacity. It engages us, makes us active and holds us in the present. Often it is enigmatic, even frustratingly cryptic, and occasionally impossible to understand fully. Coming to terms with Twombly’s indirect connections might feel like tinkering with an equation that will never be solved; or like falling in love for the first time, again and again. Each experience has an innate history that defies words.

James Lawrence, Cy Twombly’s Cryptic Nature,

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How not to be interrupted

pearls shirley 2

Necklace by Shirley Cass

When Nadezhda Mandelstam [the wife of the poet] was taking dictation, “Mandelstam treated her ‘as a puppy’ and even stuck a pacifier in her mouth so she would not interrupt him; he insisted she wear one on her neck and it was attached to her pearl necklace.”Review of The Wives: The Women Behind Russia’s Literary Giantsby Alexandra Popoff

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