Writer, reader, teacher

  • Fanny Price, the necessary ninny

    Fanny Price, the necessary ninny

    Mention Mansfield Park to a devoted Austen-ite and you get the tell-tale sigh: yes, but Fanny Price! Why does she have to be so … Pious? Humourless? Blessedly, teeth-grindingly annoying? In any situation, you can count on Jane Austen’s heroine (a poor cousin taken to live with rich relatives at age 10) to be terribly proper. […]

  • Making pretend people matter

    When my husband was four, he asked for a clock. Any kind, really. As long he was going to be allowed to pull it into tiny little pieces. Over time, he moved on to old TVs, broken video recorders, radios, cars. Eventually he learned to put things back together—and at some point, he even found […]

  • Running’s not about, um, running

    When I was 14, my foster sisters told me they were going for a run. It’d only be about 1km, they said. Would I like to come? By the time I’d ‘jogged’ down the driveway and onto the road, the two of them were blurry, heat-affected smudges in the distance. My ankles were searing. My […]

  • Sea Hearts, love … and hair

    Really pleased to have a piece on Killings, Kill Your Darlings journal’s blog, today. It’s about Sea Hearts, a novel by Margo Lanagan. Here’s a taste: “There’s a right mess unfolding here, but it’s not moral condemnation we’re being served with. It’s a kind of truth. These are people in all their difficult, mean, loving glory.” You […]

  • Knock, knock

    On Day 14, Kat drew this: On day 10, this: And on Day 3, this: Day 3 is my favourite. Something about that feather-ish headdress, the Big Top-like shape in the backdrop, and the rings radiating from the figure. Every day now, for the past two-and-a-bit weeks, my friend Kat—whom I share housed with back […]

  • Everyday strange

    So you wake up one morning, and you’ve become a bug. You’re flailing on your back, the bedroom door is locked, and you’re really worried: you’ve missed not just one, but two early trains to work. You may well recognise this as the opening sequence of Franz Kafka’s novella Metamorphosis. I didn’t. I only picked […]

  • Failing, blathering … playing

    Breath trembling and vision fuzzing around the edges, I picked my way through the crowd. Messed it up. Started over. Crept away. The kids in the front row were encouraging, and the applause was friendly, but I left that stage – my first piano recital – feeling that I’d failed. We tell our children that making mistakes […]

  • The Katniss strategy

    The Katniss strategy

    I don’t like games. Don’t care about sport. Can’t see the point. I realise this makes me a freak. In Melbourne, having an AFL team is a tribal thing. I’ve had friends who grew up interstate tell me that you can’t live in Victoria and not follow footy. But I’m here to tell you – you can. […]

  • On Beauty

    Let’s pretend. Let’s pretend that I spent my high school lunchtimes in the library because I was an undiscovered genius with an unquenchable love of books. And not because I was – ahem – between friendships. These days, I mostly visit the library to stock up on picture books and novels featuring mystery-solving mice. Occasionally, […]

  • In praise of Miss Bates

    In praise of Miss Bates

    As every politician knows, the trick is to push – but not too much. You want to hit that sweet spot between keeping people comfortable, and stirring them up. Jane Austen understood this. But okay, first things first. Having mentioned Austen, I need to say that her writing is gorgeous, her characters finely drawn, her […]