The Rereaders is collecting the Best of 2011 from everyone involved in the podcast this year, which will be posted over the next few weeks. Fiona Wright co-hosted The Rereaders in 2011.
In 2011, for the first time, I kept track of every book I read, kind of hoping to chart a year’s imagination. A year’s worth of startling moments, where something on the page grabs a hold of something in your heart, or of experiences-by-proxy. In 2011, I kept track when these things happened:
This was the first book I read in 2011, sparking off a pretty intense love affair – I’m currently devouring my fourth Lorrie Moore [pictured] book for the year. The protagonist here is a provincial girl in the city, awkward and a bit naïve. She makes mistakes because she cares too much, she’s odd, and obsessed with the sounds and skew of words. I liked her a lot, understably.
In late 2010, I moved house, and moved in with another writer and editor and oh! I had a whole new set of bookshelves to ravage. I discovered Ishiguro; later, how each of his books is so stylistically different, but so coherent and hurt at their heart.
13 short stories by the inimitable, feisty Dorothy Hewett; I read these whilst driving through the South-West corner of WA, where they are set, where I’d never been before, and where I was continually dazzled by the landscape. It somehow made the whole thing more intense, to fall asleep reading stories populating the places I’d just been through, a kind of futured ghosting.
I was really excited to see this book come into being this year. There’s so much written and spoken about the ‘Generation of 68’ that I often wonder at what point ‘contemporary’ begins and ends – when, that is, does a generation pass on its newness to the next? It’s bizarre how flexible the idea of ‘new’ and ‘young’ and ‘fresh’ are in poetry. It’s a good thing we’re not vegetables, or there’d be shitloads of salmonella going around.
I’m never going to forget Duras’ description of her husband, just returned from a concentration camp, smuggled out disguised, because the liberators didn’t expect him to be able to survive. Or of waiting, and unknowing: peace seemed imminent…there’s no present in the city now except for us who wait.
In 2011, I wrote my honours thesis, on three current Australian poets. Sarah Holland-Batt was one of them; I’m obsessed now with ideas of musicality and time, of monologue and memory, and with the word ‘lemniscate’
In 2011, I’ve developed one of the most intense and important female friendships of my life, born out of mutual illness and slow recovery. During which I read these lines:
These connections between women are taken for granted, a backdrop to the real business of our lives…these neglected intimacies, independent of more passionate demands, can offer the terms on which we best learn to be ourselves…‘I do not wish to treat friendships daintily, but with roughest courage’ RW Emerson writes. ‘When they are real they are not glass threads of frostwork but the solidest things we know.’
A friend lent me this slight-spined little book, I was a third of the way through when I realised that it offered me a model for writing about illness and about grief. The books that make you want to write are real treasures. I’ve added Blue Nights to my pile for 2012.