Saturday, October 16, 2010

Convent, coincidence, compliment

I love that someone's tried to spruce up this
 grimey city alley with hanging plants

How great is the view when you're going up the hill on Studley Park Road? I don't get over that way much, but I've caught a bus to Kew for appointments the past two Saturdays and love to look back towards the modern city towers over the the brooding, medieval bulk of the Abbotsford Convent (anyone who follows my Girl in Melbourne blog will know the contrast of old and new is a photographic fetish of mine. Sorry, no photos from today).

I haven't been to the convent in years. In fact, the one and only time I've been was back when it was disused and on the verge of ruin (my then boyfriend was an extra in a low-budget movie made by a friend of a friend, which was filmed at the convent. My bf was Henchman no 3 or something). Now it's "fast becoming an important arts, learning and education precinct" with regular farmers', art, craft and design markets. There's a couple of markets on tomorrow and since I'm going to be in Fitzroy tomorrow to visit the Centre for Contemporary Photography...well, it's gonna be another big Sunday out and about for me. Ace.


I was reading my book When We Think About Melbourne on the bus today and just after I came down the hill on the way back into the city, I read this passage about award-winning Melbourne writer Helen Garner's classic Australian novel Monkey Grip (which I re-read earlier this year):

"Garner's fiction is famously close to lived experience, but what does it matter where the line [between fiction and non-fiction] is drawn when it produces passages like this from Monkey Grip on cycling down Studley Park Road: '(H)alf a mile of steady, inexorable downhill run. I let go and flew down it in ecstacy, head thrown back, mouth open, feet at a quarter to three...the wind pushed at my front, the mudguards rattled so fiercely I thought the machine would fly apart... on my left the convent low down on its mediaeval banks, ancient trees shadowing its courts...' The writing is so evocative, so grounded in place, that I can just about feel the wind on my face and the ground rushing by beneath me." 

Not quite as exhilarating on a bus, but it's pretty cool to be reading about a place in a book you've literally passed through moments before.

And, yes, it didn't escape my notice that I'm reading a book about Melbourne which has a chapter about books about Melbourne. It's like watching a TV on TV.

"When the writer's subject is their own town, the result is often dismissed as thinly disguised autobiography - not proper fiction...And yet they say: 'Write what you know.' And let's be honest, it can be a lot of fun to read about what you know. If evocative writing is the art of revealing to the reader what they had only dimly felt, evocative writing about Melbourne reveals what makes the city feel like ours..."

The author (Jenny Sinclair) also mentions the pleasure of location-spotting in books set in your own town and the sense of ownership and recognition it produces. Yup.

She likes how books set in Melbourne are written from a place of "deep intimacy with the city". And that's what I'm enjoying about her book.

Anyhoo, enough of that...another little coincidence. Today I was listening to Holly Golightly and the Brokeoffs' song Escalator as I went up an escalator at Myer.


The dude at the DVD store complimented me on my choice of movie tonight. Go, me. Yeah, I was a little bit pleased. I probably wouldn't have been if I was a Blockbuster customer, but I go to a tiny independent place on Swan Street and for some reason I'm flattered when they approve of my selection. Probably because you can tell they're movie buffs, not just pimply kids trying to earn some spending money. (I borrowed Cool Hand Luke, if you're wondering. It's my cult movie for the month).

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