The realities of remote learning and working necessitate a kind of family ballet, a coordinated effort of who gets to use which space at which time. As such, for example, I’m writing this in one of the kids’ bedrooms while my usual spot in the dining room is being used for dance practice (the kitchen table having been moved out of the way for this end). I don’t mind this particular arrangement, actually, because one thousand years ago – pre-children – this room was once our study and I got a lot of work done in here, such as finishing writing an entire novel (130,000 words) in six months. The space is conducive to productivity and I’m not entirely sure why, beyond the obvious guesses that it has a nice view to an outside tree and gets a fair bit of light. I daresay being confined to our houses have many of us looking around these spaces in similar ways, from the reevaluating to the sentimental.
We weren’t in lockdown in June and July here in Vic – well, not all of it anyway. I don’t think. I’m losing track of time. In fact, one of the ways I’ve been able to track when we haven’t been in lockdown has been through my consumption of audiobooks. So what I know for sure is that I was listening to In My Defence, I have No Defence by Sinead Stubbins during the occasional school run (I almost miss them) and chuckling along with the essays, written with a deft tone-perfect touch. I tell you, it was a tonic. I need to laugh more than I have been lately and this provided in spades.
Next up is Everything Harder Than Everyone Else by Jenny Valentish, which also came along at a rather providential moment. I’d recently bought a new pair of runners as the first step on preparing a more regimented training schedule for an upcoming triathlon (Jan 2022), and as regular readers know I’m a fan of books that deal with the subjects of sporting endurance and mindset. The subtitle ‘Why Some of Us Push Our Bodies to Extremes’ is apt – Valentish is very interested in the WHY people do certain things: step into a fighting ring, lift incredible weights, or subject their bodies to all sorts of stress. As a woman in her 40s who still likes to occasionally step out and run long kilometres, and dabbles with the idea of another Spartan race or marathon but wonders if those days are numbered, this gives me hope to think “Well, I JUST MIGHT’.
Finally, I come to Fury by Kathryn Heyman. I began listening to it on audiobook and got only a few chapters in before I had to stop. Not because I wasn’t enjoying it – just the opposite. Listening to Heyman’s narration and to the wonderful language and gripping storytelling, I had a thought to myself: Wait. You’re not quite ready for this. Not right now. So I returned it to the library and just this week I’ve re-borrowed it. I’ve seen a few online reviews where people have said they’ve read the book very fast, unable to put it down because it is so compelling. I suspect this will be me, too.
What have you been reading lately? Have lockdowns affected your reading habits?
A note: some writing news. I was recently shortlisted for the 2021 Ada Cambridge Poetry Prize for my poem ‘Changing the Sheets Before Lockdown’. If you follow this link you’ll be able to find my poem if you want to read it. It was heartbreaking to hear of the cancellation of this year’s Williamstown Literary Festival, among so many other affected festivals, programs, literary events and book launches. Sending my love out to everyone in the arts x