The days go by and you muddle through the best you can. You wait for the big, grand adventures but often you forget that not only can you take little ones along the way. You forget that they’re just as important and special. If we only limit ourselves to the big and important things, we miss making the every day nicer. It won’t always hit the mark, but at least you can say you tried. As spring starts to break through the grey winter skies, I’m reminded to take a moment to soak up the sunshine, take a deep breath, slow down. For the last few years I’ve coped with Melbourne winter by rushing through it, making myself as busy as possible with work so that I don’t have time to sit still and be blue. But eventually this has caught up with myself, as I wrote about in my last post for My Salinger Year. So I couldn’t be more excited to see spring start to break through: the crisp mornings, lunchtimes spent in the park with a book, the light gradually staying longer and longer into the commute home.
As another Melbourne Writers Festival comes to a close, I find myself with new inspiration from the words of authors I admire, new books to read, new names to follow. But of course there’s always the one author I don’t have time to see that I wish I had. This year it was Meg Wolitzer, who’s book The Interestings has been on my mind for awhile. Last year it was Tao Lin who I missed seeing but was interested to hear what he had to say and how he came across. I heard great things about the discussions though and had been wanting to read his work ever since. I was excited to try something new: a new style, a new voice. He was recently included on this list of 35 Writers Who Run The Literary Internet, which sparked my curiosity once more.
I was intrigued where Lin would take a novel titled Richard Yates. As I mentioned in my post for We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves here, Revolutionary Road is one of my all time favourite reads. It fuels my love of stories of dysfunctional families, middle class breakdowns and reflections of the every day. Richard Yates has no connection to the author but at the same time is the ultimate ode to his writing in a contemporary setting. In a similar vein the two central characters are named after film actors - Dakota Fanning and Haley Joel Osmont - but their characters bear no relation to the names they share.
The novel is really a character study of a relationship between two young people in love. They meet online and most of their communication is via Gmail Chat, email or text. It’s one of the few pieces I’ve read that accurately portrays how we actually communicate - so many authors still seem to create formal dialogue that would only really be communicated in writing, when more and more of our day to day communication is either in person or online, as is the case with Dakota and Haley. Like a slow burn independent film, nothing extraordinary happens: at it’s heart it’s a simple boy meets girl kind of story. But Lin’s use of language does give a voice to an online generation that few have put forward before: he doesn’t judge, comment or dissect, he just puts it forward.
If you're a parent or teacher this book is not for you - you're likely either sick of these kids or don't want to know that your kids are capable of this. There are conversations about teenage anxiety - weight, relationships, self harming, sex, self esteem - that are disarming in both their content and their accuracy. The long distance relationship between the two central characters grows increasingly hostile and intense, building like a thriller, as does their relationship to the world around them. The words also seem to build like a crescendo: the paragraphs growing in length and ferocity that made it very difficult to pull out an example of Lin’s writing from Richard Yates but it is also one of it’s best characteristics.
I didn’t find Richard Yates to be the easiest book to read, or the most engaging, but I did find it interesting and appreciated what Lin was able to do with technique that was new and authentic. I don't know that I’d seek out Lin’s work again, or at least for awhile, but I’m glad that I took a chance and experienced something new. A little break away from my usual style was a great reminder of how big the bookshelves of my favourite stores are, and all the nooks and crannies of their collections that I have yet to explore.
Six weeks or so ago my partner and I were feeling restless. We live in a beautiful part of Melbourne where we can get by without ever leaving the area, so often we don’t, other than to go to work. Not having a car anymore we don’t just pick up and drive somewhere with lots of trees like we used to. On this particular Saturday we had grand plans to get up early and get the train out of the city. We slept in. We were exhausted from a big week and the pressure to go on a big adventure was too much. So we took our time, we packed a book for me and a crossword for him and we just caught a metropolitan train to a suburb on the other side of town from us and went wandering. We went out for a late breakfast and had the most incredible baked eggs. We took some deep breaths, walked through parks and side streets and just took a break. For a Plan B, it was a pretty magical day. Ever since we’ve been reliving it the best we can by making baked eggs: it’s a delicious, comforting meal that’s perfect weeknight fare. It’s quick, easy and a great way to use up leftovers. For the version pictured I used a few marinated anchovies from our local deli and some leftover grilled asparagus from the night before, with a few dollops of yoghurt (it keeps it creamy and holds it together without the weight of using cream), a few slivers of parmesan and a couple of organic, free range eggs. It’s a Plan B dinner but a great one: it helps remind us that little adventures are just as special as the big ones.
Also featured in Flavorwire’s Literary Internet list is Teju Cole, another interesting writer who blurs the line between the page and the screen. I loved his recent project for the World Cup called The Time of the Game. This article on The Verge does a great job of explaining the project and putting it into context.