Sunday, July 13, 2014

Thoughts on Thorpe. So Ian Thorpe has come out as gay in an interview with Michael Parkinson, who clearly is not taking this 'retirement' caper seriously.

My main feeling about this is compassion. It didn't surprise me to learn that Thorpe is gay; it's something about him that pretty much the entire Australian public has always assumed. And that's shameful. What a burden that assumption must have been for him – and it's only a burden because of the negative baggage that non-heterosexuality still carries in our society.

Even if we fancy ourselves 'cool with' gay people, and approve of them when they mirror conservative heterosexual morality by marrying monogamously and raising children in stable, two-parent households, the fact it's still 'news' when a famous person declares themselves queer, and the fact it changes our perceptions of them, is a terrible shame.

I feel like the 'outing' activism in some sections of the queer media has played a damaging role here, reminding us that sexuality matters, that someone can't be respected or understood unless it's widely known, and suggesting it's weak, cowardly and not 'true to yourself' to withhold it from those you know, and the general public.

I realise that the political purpose of outing is celebratory: to show that queerness doesn't make someone weird, different or unacceptable, and that there is a spectrum of sexualities in the public sphere. But unfortunately, this impulse to talk publicly about sexuality also makes it a means of dividing people into 'tribes' or 'teams' to which they might not want to belong – or sidelining the other qualities for which they'd much rather be known.

Nobody should ever be held to be hypocritical if they seek to protect this part of themselves from being discovered and publicly discussed – even by lying or equivocating in public. Your sexuality is yours. It doesn't belong to anyone else. It's an interior monologue: do I want this, that or the other? What feels right to me? What – and who – makes me happy? Who do I want to know this about me?

It is just nobody else's business, and poor Ian Thorpe shouldn't be tormented now with his previous on-record comments, or pictures of him in pearl necklaces or that truly unfortunate party mask. Everyone seeks ways to express themselves, and they can change those expressions any time they want. Thorpe says he's gay now. Maybe he's been reticent to say so in the past because he's feared losing professional opportunities, or being thought lesser. But perhaps it's just taken him a while to figure out.

The 'born this way' narrative was another political rebuttal to homophobia – in this case, to the homophobic notion that queerness is an aberrant choice. But its determinism also squishes the reality that not everyone 'has always known' their sexuality or had a name for what they felt.

Some people have, and that's great. But sometimes they only recognise their sexuality suddenly, and in retrospect their lives make sense. It's this sense of 'rightness' and security, of feeling at home with yourself, that is the kernel of sexuality. And it's a lifelong quest. It doesn't always need to come from the same source throughout your life. You have the right to discover these things about yourself without being condemned for self-delusion or inconstancy.

The worst bit about Thorpe's coming-out is the blasé reaction of "So what? I always knew." What is revolting about this is that we seek mastery over people by claiming to know who they are before they tell us. Unlike race, which is visibly inscribed on the body, sexuality is an interior attribute. Unless you see someone having sex or they tell you their sexuality, our 'knowledge' about it is only ever gained in stereotypical ways that are inscribed by culture. Stereotypes are no use in reliably identifying what individuals do.

Just finally, I feel really sad at the way that Thorpe's personal life has been so comprehensively subsumed into a mediated self. I've read some comments to the effect that this is yet another diva move from someone who performs his life in public out of either narcissism or commercial cynicism. But I really feel as though Thorpe is trapped in a media persona based on second-guessing from a young age what sponsors and 'the public' want of him.

Two years ago I saw the documentary profile of Thorpe, The Swimmer, on TV and, as I blogged at that time, I was struck not really by the dissonance between Thorpe's 'private' and 'public' selves, but rather by the the permeability of the boundary between them:
Thorpe is a stolid, physically imposing presence with a strikingly classical face. Over the course of endless press conferences and TV interviews, he has taught himself an inscrutable composure and an uneasily anodyne manner of speaking. At some points he seems relaxed and chatty over lattes, the way we are with friends; but when Thorpe scents a 'serious' moment may be happening, he slips into his public persona as cleanly and neatly as diving into a pool.
I can only feel sorry for someone whose private self has been eroded like that. Surely the ultimate horror would be to have no private self: to be constantly what the public expects you to be. This is the same kind of horror as any narrative in which one is replaced by a robot or alien replica.

When I was a kid I was profoundly disturbed by the Ray Bradbury short story 'Fever Dream', in which a sick boy insists that his body is being gradually colonised at a cellular level by some malevolent microbe, only to be disbelieved by adults. Then he wakes, seemingly well and fully composed: the polite, mature antithesis of the scared child he had been. Only we, the readers, know what this public 'recovery' has cost him.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

My compleat hair colour angst. As the six or seven regular readers of this blog may realise, it has been four years since I dyed my hair red for a costume party and then just kept on being a redhead. My mother continues to be miffed that I am rejecting my 'natural' hair colour, but as I have always wanted to be a redhead, I feel more myself this way.

I'm always pleased whenever strangers or acquaintances assume this is my 'real' hair (of course any hair that grows from one's head is 'real'), and am chagrined whenever I have to admit that I have to use dye to maintain this colour.

But this year, I think it's been part of my malaise that I have been fretting that my hair colour has grown faded and dull. I have done a lot of thinking about different shades of red, including the creation of my Celebrity Ranga Swatch Chart. Christina Hendricks continues to be my guiding light.

Maybe now is a good time – and this personal blog the ideal space – to look back in narcissistic detail at the evolution of my hair colour since May 2010.

30 May 2010 – uneven pinkish shade achieved using LiveColour Red Embers

5 December 2010, looking like Chopper Read

13 February 2011, about to go to a Yacht Rock-themed event

27 May 2011, super unimpressed by the stupid brown colour Stanley's colourist dyed my hair. Brown ≠ red!

28 May 2011, after getting my hair redyed. The original colourist was so angry she refused to look at or speak to me; another person did the dyeing.

11 June 2011 – toilets selfie at Anusha's wedding

4 July 2011 – I used this pic as a work headshot for a while

7 July 2011, seriose hipster

18 July 2011 – ruh-oh, regrowth! I used LiveColour in Aztec Copper to cover it up, with limited success

19 October 2011 – I used this as a headshot for a while, too

18 December 2011 (note the Christmas outfit) – getting seriously faded and regrowthy by now. I think this is when I started to use Cinta Colour Highlight Shampoo in Auburn. You just use it like a regular shampoo (I tend to wash my hair every three days) and leave it in for a couple of minutes before rinsing. It has henna in it and the colour builds up gradually and permanently.

2 March 2012: I'd just had a haircut but didn't dye it – this is achieved solely through colour shampoo. I honestly think this is the nicest hair colour I have ever achieved.

10 October 2012, stupid face, still nice hair colour

2 February 2013, in Savers: "LOL look at me, I'm Julia Gillard!"

16 June 2013, wearing my Red Gestalt Lipstick

1 November 2013, in my Dead Lady's Cardigan. (Here's a secret: sometimes when I feel sad and desperate I put on the cardigan and imagine that its former owner, Hedi, is my spirit guide)

30 November 2013: Here's where I think the sad fading begins to be obvious. In November I went away to Mallacoota for a week and didn't take my colour shampoo.

3 March 2014, after I tried to do Amy Adams-esque American Hustle hair for Oscar night

12 April 2014 – tragic grunge hair

30 April 2014 – pitiful! Looks like my frickin' natural hair colour

1 June 2014 – a collage I made when I started to seriously fret about my terrible faded hair. The bottom left pic was taken on 15 August 2013, when my hair was last cut.

10 June 2014, after most recent haircut. But hair colour still no less blah and faded

28 June 2014, windswept. This week I decided to leave the colour shampoo in for 10 mins rather than the usual 2-3 mins, and maybe it will take a few washes to see the effect of that. But if not, I now have the option of freshening up my hair colour using one or more of the following products:

Top left is some hair dye I got in a showbag at last year's L'Oréal Melbourne Fashion Festival (Virgin Australia is now the name sponsor). It's too fake-looking and pinkish for my taste, and a Google Image Search suggests it produces something like Rihanna's red hair period, or that deliberately fake-looking hair that rockabilly chicks seem to like.

My colour shampoo is in the centre, with good old LiveColour Aztec Copper on the top right. That's probably my next option, as it's just a subtle rinse.

The bottom two are permanent dyes I bought but then chickened out of actually applying because I was worried what they would do to my hair. I think the Essential Colour would produce a colour more like my 2011 redye job, whereas the Excellence Creme would produce a paler but hopefully brighter colour.

Also, the other day I was in the supermarket and noticed that L'Oréal's Féria brand has a range of bright reds which includes "Mango Intense Copper".

Going by Google Images, it gives you a colour that looks obviously fake, but is still within the general spectrum of natural reds. You look like Tori Amos or Shirley Manson.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Makeup, in sickness and in health. I am currently in the throes of a Melcold, which is just like a regular cold except it is the most dreadful, debilitating thing imaginable because it is happening specifically to me. In actual cold terms it is not that bad, I guess.

Anyway, I am not wearing any makeup today, but I am wearing lipstick. (Well, I just took it off with a tissue.) I've always marvelled at how you can wear no makeup except lipstick and still look 'made up', which is why I use lipstick as a pick-me-up when I am feeling rubbish and blah, and I always have heaps of them kicking around in the bottom of my bag.

As you know by now, I have a terrible, ham-like complexion. These days I have largely abandoned Hulk Primer for the Rimmel BB cream, which provides the coverage of a foundation plus SPF25. You need to blend it in quite well otherwise it can look streaky, but that is the price you pay for such excellent coverage. You can even layer it up over pimples etc and it works as a concealer.

Mere tinted moisturisers seem kind of hopeless to me now. But since a while ago I bought several bottles of Hamilton Everyday Face, which is SPF30+, and I tend to wear that in summer purely because of the sunscreen. One tube lives in my toiletry bag, which I only ever use when I'm travelling.

However, its major failing is that it is totally rubbish in terms of making my face look less hammy. Every time I go away with friends I think, "You don't need to bring any makeup or jewellery – this is a relaxed holiday and you don't need to impress your friends!" But then every single time I end up applying the Hamilton and feeling sad that my face looks just as hammy afterwards, and wishing I'd brought my BB cream instead.

Yesterday I was feeling ratshit, having probably brought my cold on by pulling an all-nighter after having just arrived home from a weekend away with a group that included two people with colds. Because I'd worked all night to meet my deadline, and then had to hustle straight out the door to make a 9:30am screening, my face looked even more awful than usual.

I had a long-awaited, much-needed haircut at 2pm but I couldn't stand the idea of having to look at my makeup-free face with wet hair plastered back under the bright salon lights. So I had about half an hour to kill beforehand, and I decided to spend it in Priceline applying makeup.

On the right side of my face I applied Nude by Nature BB 5-in-1 Miracle Cream. I've always avoided it because it has no sunscreen, but in terms of coverage it was not bad. I also tried Models Prefer CC Unbelievable Colour Correcting Cream on the worst bit of my cheek, which was okay but did not have the dramatic eraser effect I expected from something promising to colour-correct.

Then I went to the Rimmel concern and noticed they have a new matte formulation of my favourite BB cream, which I applied to the left side of my face. It didn't seem noticeably less shiny than the one I use, but since my skin goes greasy and shiny at the drop of a hat I might try it in future.

Because of my shininess problem I looked around for a powder to fix my makeup. The problem at Priceline is you can try the powders but they don't provide any brushes or puffs so you can't apply them properly. So I looked around for a product that had a brush in the packaging and saw the L'Oréal True Match mineral foundation.

Technically I suppose I was adding more foundation rather than just a light veil of powder, but I used the L'Oréal on my neck as well. It was so lovely to see the redness completely gone and a smooth mask of makeup there instead. However, this was much more makeup than I ever usually wear, and to me it looked really unnatural.

So I realised I had to add blusher! I never normally wear rouge because why add extra pinkness to my already hammy cheeks, but back I went to the Nude by Nature concern and got their Virgin Blush, which I applied to the apples of my cheeks using my fingers and blended it in. It actually looked good! I looked pretty and healthy.

Then I realised I should make my lips look pink and healthy too. So I put on some Nude by Nature lip gloss, and then with my finger I got some Rimmel Kate Moss Lasting Finish lipstick in shade 22 (a bright red) and dabbed it onto my lips with my finger, mixing it with the lip gloss to create a natural-looking reddish-pink colour.

Oh, and then I applied some beige eyeshadow by Nude by Nature to my eyelids and my haircut makeup was done! Here is what it looked like after being dripped on with water from the haircut.

So that was me using makeup to pretend to be healthy. But on the tram on the way home tonight I remembered that I used to craftily apply makeup when I was trying to convince my parents, work or school that I was sick (usually for the purpose of chucking a sickie).

I would use talcum powder to make my face look pale, and then I would accentuate the natural bags under my eyes using a combination of violet, grey and green eyeshadow. I would rim my eyes and nostrils in red lipstick and blend it in to suggest lots of coughing. But my real trick was to cover my lips in foundation. I have pale lips anyway, but this made them look deathly.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Updated thoughts on Vanderbilt comfort. Something occurred to me just now: what if the feeling of comfort I get from the perfume Vanderbilt comes from associating it with 'old ladies'?

At Fragrantica, it is deemed very poor form – n00b behaviour – to dismiss a perfume as smelling like or being for 'old ladies'. The usual rebuttal is twofold: either "this perfume isn't for old ladies, it's for real women who flaunt their confidence, sophistication and taste" or "when you get older, you might find your tastes changing and maturing and then you'll understand".

Personally I reject it because the perfumes I tend to like are those with long histories which, simply because they've been around for decades, have accumulated memories of people's grandmothers and mothers wearing them. Rather than using perfume to express my modernity, I use it as a kind of olfactory continuity between me and all the glamorous women in the past who've previously loved and worn these scents.

This is an extension of my thinking about secondhand clothes – I use these signifiers of 'old-fashionedness' to draw on previous iterations of feminine glamour, and as a means of affective time travel. Also, generally I prefer to find echoes of human continuity throughout history rather than seeing radical breaks between the past and present.

But anyway, usually I seek these feelings from 'classic' perfumes, which Vanderbilt isn't. It's a daggy perfume. But what if its dagginess – its association with mums and grandmas – is the source of my feelings of comfort? What if I am dousing myself in this perfume to imagine being hugged by an older woman who loves me?

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Vanderbilt comfort. In the lead-up to Mother's Day I noticed that there were perfumes being sold at the supermarket – for the truly lazy person who picks up a gift for mum while doing the weekly grocery shop. I eagerly anticipated going back the week after Mother's Day to see if they were reduced.

Yes! It was cheap, mumsy perfume, however. There was Elizabeth Taylor's Diamonds and Rubies and Diamonds and Emeralds, in giant bottles in gift sets. And then there were small 15ml bottles of Red Door by Elizabeth Arden, Sunflowers by Elizabeth Arden and Vanderbilt by Gloria Vanderbilt. 

I consulted Fragrantica, the perfume website with which I have become increasingly obsessed as my interest in perfumes has grown. (You can see my profile here, which lists my reviews and the perfumes I own and am interested in.) And on the basis of the descriptions, the notes listed and the reviews by other Fragrantica users, I figured that Vanderbilt would be the perfume I'd like most. So I bought it.

I remember seeing ads for Vanderbilt perfume in magazines during the '80s and '90s. It had a blurry, mysterious swan motif, as if wearing it would transport you into Swan Lake or something.

The Vanderbilts are one of New York's oldest and historically most privileged families. (I have a personal tenet that if a New Yorker's surname starts with 'van der' then they are very wealthy and established.) But the Vanderbilts' social and economic clout had waned by the mid-20th century.

Gloria Vanderbilt inherited her dad's vast fortune as an infant, but her globetrotting mother was accused of frittering the money away. After a sensational 1934 custody trial, ten-year-old Gloria went to live with her aunt, the artist and Whitney Museum philanthropist Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. Gloria also became an artist, specialising in design for textiles, pottery and glassware. In 1976 she ventured into fashion, putting her name and swan logo to a range of eyebrow-raisingly tight jeans, along with other clothing and accessories.

She also licensed her brand to Estée Lauder, which engaged the nose Sophia Grojsman to create Vanderbilt in 1982. Grojsman's other well-known fragrances include Estée Lauder's Spellbound and White Linen, YSL's ParisBvlgari Pour Femme, Trésor by Lancôme and Volupte by Oscar de la Renta.

Some reviews suggest that Vanderbilt is quite powerful and strong-smelling, but to be honest, I find it relatively subdued. Maybe it's because I have the eau de toilette. I can't smell it on myself, really, without sniffing my wrist.

At the beginning I get a tiny fizz of aldehydes – as much fizziness as you'd get from an open then resealed bottle of soft drink. Nowhere near as aggressively fizzy as White Linen. On me it disappeared quite early and I get a sweet and powdery scent like carnations and jasmine, with a warm undertone. I can smell the pineapple in the bottle but it doesn't seem to make it onto my skin.

It's not sweet in the gourmand, fruity way that many contemporary perfumes are sweet, but it's still one of the sweetest perfumes I own (maybe April Violets by Yardley is sweeter). It smells old-fashioned but not in the complex, 'expensive-smelling' way that 20th-century classics do – rather, in the daggy way of formerly trendy perfumes that have gone out of style.

Perhaps it's the powdery spiciness of it, but Vanderbilt gives me a warm, comforting feeling. For me it's not a glamour perfume that you put on when you want to feel sophisticated; it's a comfort perfume for when you want to feel secure.

As my purchase of it has coincided with my malaise, I need a lot of comforting right now. So I have been spraying myself with Vanderbilt much more liberally than I normally wear perfume. I've even been spraying some on before I go to bed, which I would never normally do.

I've since discovered that you can buy giant 100ml bottles of the stuff from Chemist Warehouse for $13. I sometimes wonder if in future, this will be the olfactory motif of my malaise, but for the moment I'm deriving tremendous solace from wearing this.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Human, machine, system. Right now I have three neighbouring browser tabs open, each containing a fascinating article. Together, they seem to tell a dispiriting story about the relationship between capitalism and the human body.

The first is 'You're A Woman, I'm A Machine', Haley Mlotek's essay on Donna Haraway's cyborg theories and women's self-help narratives. I thought it was just extraordinary that such an essay might be found on BuzzFeed, of all places – snobbish media narratives hold it is only for moronic listicles and quizzes. (Look, I wrote an essay of my own about the quizzes.) But it seems that it's precisely the hectic pageviews BuzzFeed attracts that enable it to feed investigative and intellectual enquiry. It's just hired one of my favourite pop-academic writers, Anne Helen Petersen, away from academia.

"Nobody ever asks if a cyborg can have it all. Nobody ever tells a cyborg to lean in," writes Mlotek. "For a cyborg, identity is a fusion of organic and/or human elements with machinery; a cyborg cannot be one thing, stretched in too many directions, because a cyborg has always been a multiple within itself."

I've never studied Haraway and have never really got my head around what she means by 'cyborg'. I get the idea that she doesn't take the obvious definition of organic bodies incorporating machine parts, but instead more an idea of how our human capabilities are augmented by technology, and how even our organic selves are being made machinic through the robotic way we subject them to systems to work, in Daft Punk's words, "harder, better, faster, stronger" as "more than ever, hour after hour, work is never over." As Mlotek notes, the word 'robot' means 'slave'. 

"Years of slavish devotion to my own labor and the labor I sell to companies and individuals at a premium rate has already made me into a kind of machine; I am an impatient, unsatisfied person, constantly looking at the easily quantifiable achievements of my labor and forcing myself to do the same, but better and faster, next time."

This paragraph really struck a chord with me regarding my malaise. Mlotek wonders if the very category of 'woman' is cyborg: "a hybrid body made up of organic material and the implanted subconsciousness of those voices telling women how to behave, how to be better."

"Maybe, instead, we should think of our consciousness as a circuit board that we are in control of. Instead of being something that must be formed, we can hold ourselves as individual units open to being rewired, to adapting to new advances, and not simply mechanisms who are in need of constant repair from some sort of patriarchal tool box."

The second article is an essay by Jeff Sparrow about Soylent, that gross chemical slurry that some Silicon Valley bro with poor social skills dreamed up so he wouldn't have to waste his precious brain time on a task as onerous and expensive as eating.

Now, as a terrible cook and a fierce loather of foodist culture in all its repulsive decadence, you would think I am into Soylent. I am not, because while I dislike the palaver of cooking and banging on about food, I really enjoy eating. Pretty much the only pleasure in my life is reading novels in cafes and restaurants.

Because Soylent is designed to remove the rituals and the sensory experiences that constitute eating 'meals', it's not a genuine meal replacement. As Sparrow points out, it's "a product designed not to feed people but to feed people under capitalist conditions".

Sparrow points to Marx's description of 19th-century workers, trapped in rigid regimes of productivity, who could only exercise their humanity through the necessary actions of life: dressing, eating, drinking and procreating. This is a familiar argument to me from my days studying Marxist subcultural theory, which argued that 1970s youth subcultures were so spectacular and homologous because society offered young people no other exercise of their human agency.

But as Sparrow argues, our entire lives have become colonised by work. 'Life hacking' – a diffuse field of technologies and logistical strategies ostensibly intended to buy the user free time to pursue his or her own interests – instead structures all time, turning leisure into a resource from which to mine more labour productivity.

Just as life hacking represents "the internalisation of management practices by the managed themselves", Sparrow writes, "Soylent’s deliberately unflavoured because it’s a utility rather than a snack, a system rather than a supplement."

Convincing people to pay money for this horrible slurry, with the intention of 'becoming more productive' – and naming it after a dystopian system! – is the ultimate triumph of the anti-human neoliberal project. "Soylent presumes and promotes an order in which working people possess no agency whatsoever but simply embody a labour power to be grudgingly replenished with spoonfuls of sludge."

Perversely, Sparrow adds, Soylent making has become a hobby. "This, then, is the strange paradox of life hacking: simply, in the era of neoliberalism, we can feel most human by eroding our humanity." Soylent Green may have been people, but Soylent is not.

Yet Sparrow ends on a utopian note. "What would happen, we might ask, if the creativity now expressed in private activities like cooking found a public and social expression? What possibilities would open up if, instead of replacing meals, we replaced social structures; if, instead of hacking our lives, we hacked our society?"

It's ironic indeed that I have now been writing this blog post, ostensibly in my 'leisure' time, for about four hours, and it is feeling really onerous. But I want to think through these ideas and find connections between them. So, to return to the first article. What if the corporate women's self-help books Mlotek rejects – Lean In and so forth – arise from the same culture as the life hacking Sparrow critiques? They both have their origins in the tech sector, and they both encourage adherents to work within systems rather than to imagine ways to flourish around or outside them.

The final article appears on radical, pseudonymously authored investment website Zero Hedge. It's called 'Where the World's Unsold Cars Go to Die', and it's extraordinary because it reveals car manufacturers' obscene reactions to supply shock

Basically, car manufacturing is run using frictionless just-in-time systems that assume a certain steady market. When demand is steady the system works. It's great; you get your car a day after ordering it. However, the continued world recession following the GFC means people simply aren't buying as many cars, or buying them as frequently. There's a glut at the supply end.

However, the manufacturers must maintain the illusion of a market for their cars at full price. Rather than altering the system to produce fewer cars, or pricing them lower, car manufacturers are burying their mistakes. Worse, car manufacturers must produce the appearance of technological innovation, so they are continually advertising newer and better cars they must then make. 

Why? "The car industry cannot stop making new cars because they would have to close their factories and lay off tens of thousands of employees. This would further add to the recession. Also the domino effect would be catastrophic as steel manufactures would not sell their steel. All the tens of thousands of places where car components are made would also be effected, indeed the world could come to a grinding halt."

It is just overwhelming to me to think how dependent we are on systems and procedures, to the point where it defies logic, logistics and economics. 

At the moment I'm driving my brother Matt's 1991 Mazda 626 Eclipse while he is working in Singapore.

This is not the actual car, but it looks exactly like this. I sometimes ponder that this car is 23 years old. But it drives pretty well. And it doesn't seem ancient to me in the way that, say, the 1975 Volvo sedan I first drove in 1997 did, or indeed the way my 1985 Camry did in 2005. Maybe, growing up with a Car Dad has inoculated me to the virus of newness that seems to afflict the car market.

At the moment I'm watching The Walking Dead with my brother Lina. Of all the TV shows I feel an intense pressure to consume, it's the one I seem most interested in right now. And partly what I find interesting about The Walking Dead is that its zombies don't merely bite you and move on; they fucking feast on you. They take massive chunks out of you. They pick corpses clean to the bones. Are they not the ultimate avatars of our Soylent society, keeping themselves busy by consuming, without any 'higher function' in mind? (I still get a lot out of Annalee Newitz's Marxist analysis of horror tropes, Pretend We're Dead. I also notice the publisher's website selectively quotes a very boring bit of my review.)

Part of my fascination with zombie/pandemic narratives is in observing systemic breakdown and renewal: the complete inability of governments, police and the military to control a mounting crisis; the strategies of individuals; the replacement systems they devise; and the decay of infrastructure when nobody is there to keep it running.

I remember reading that the United States' roads and bridges are already in a parlous state, and we haven't even had the zombie apocalypse yet. All those millions of cars just sitting there – maybe it's better than trying to navigate another busted system.

Monday, May 19, 2014

I'm in a malaise. I've known something was wrong for most of this year but I always thought it was a temporary period of stress or discouragement that I could work through and emerge clear-headed and ready to tackle life. But I was out for dinner just last Friday with Tash, Amanda and Lucy, and I felt very heavy and sad because they were all talking about their husbands and children. I was disinclined to talk about myself because all I do is sit at home in my pyjamas, so I said "I'm in a malaise" and as I said it I realised it was absolutely true.

It is an irritating thing to say about yourself, like something Frances would say in Frances Ha, only I lack Greta Gerwig's adorability. I am not merely undateable (though I am also that!) but also unloveable and also much older than her. I find my general mood is one of annoyance and I constantly have to stop myself writing needlessly mean things on social media. Even so I still manage to, quite a bit of the time. And I find myself seeking support from my various coteries only in terms of criticising people I don't like, which I recognise is a way to make myself feel less like a loser but is pyrrhically the behaviour of a loser.

I feel overwhelmed all the time and find myself frittering away my days, taking long lunch breaks and binge-reading novels, staying up way too late and then oversleeping. It is my turn to choose the next book club book and I haven't been able to rouse myself to that. I berate myself for my laziness but I can't seem to

My work is feeling like a real slog of bits and pieces at the moment with no narrative of progress. I keep saying to myself that once I hit this or that deadline I'll be free to work on things that are of bigger-picture importance but I never seem to be able to get off the treadmill, and it is dispiriting to me that I put such painstaking effort into things that don't get read and don't get paid enough to justify the effort.

Perhaps the malaise started when it became obvious my book was a failure. I find it hard going into bookstores because I can't see any copies of my book in there any more. At least I've never seen one in a bargain bin or op-shop (SO FAR: TOUCH WOOD I BET IT HAPPENS TOMORROW). I felt so embarrassed today because one of my Facebook friends posted a pic he took of a signed copy in a bookshop in Sydney. I signed it last July and clearly the only reason the book is even still in the shop is that they can't return it to my publisher because I ruined it by signing it. Ha.

The rituals of successful authorship just bum me out beyond belief because I am not participating in them. I haven't won or been shortlisted for any awards and have stopped asking my publisher if they have entered me in any because they have moved on to other authors with fresher, more successful books and it embarrasses me to have to remind them that ole yesterday's news still exists.

I have received absolutely no money from the book and honestly I doubt I'll even pay back my advance. Not that I was expecting to receive a red cent; you write a book for the opportunities that 'having written a book' gives you, rather than to earn a living from it. But still, I felt sad that another writer earned enough from her royalties this quarter to get her hair permed. I haven't had a haircut since last August and a fringe trim since last December and my hair looks terrible, and perhaps that's part of the reason for my malaise – having to look at my stupid forehead.

I also haven't been invited to any writers' festivals apart from last year when I did my hometown writers' festival and the Emerging Writers' Festival. This year I am feeling really heartbroken and excluded from the EWF because even though I haven't actually emerged I have technically 'emerged' on their terms because I have participated in the festival for a few years in a row and now I suppose it's time to give younger, better-looking and more successful people a go. I'm feeling really old and past it and as if the generational torch has been passed straight over my head to people ten years younger than me.

A couple of weeks ago I was at a party and someone was asking me about my book and honestly I was in such a deep malaise that I didn't even want to talk about it, but I was trying to anyway because you've gotta Self-Promote, right, and even as I was trying to explain the book (which I have obviously done many times before), I realised what a ridiculous, overly complex book it was and marvelled to myself that my publisher had taken a chance on such a weird book, and thought to myself that no wonder it sank like an absolute stone.

People are always asking me, "What are you working on now?" and honestly I have a text file with six different synopses in it, and several other ideas that are so dumb they haven't even got to synopsis stage yet. My plan was that I was going to sit down and finish all the synopses so they were basically one-pagers and then just send them all to people like a menu and maybe they would point at one and say, "That one" and then I would write it.

But I am struggling to emerge from this malaise. For instance, writing this has made me feel so low that I don't even feel like watching Game of Thrones which is not only one of my favourite TV shows but also I have to recap it for tomorrow morning. I just want to go to bed.

Once again, super glad that like five people read blogs these days. I let my ten-year blogging anniversary go past without comment. Ten years. That's a lot of crap I've written that I could have monetised or some shit.

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