i.m. HST

but it is truly the West
as no other place,
ruined by an ambition and religion
cut, by a cowboy use of her nearly virgin self

by a real placement

is the birthplace
of Mr. Pound
and Hemingway in his own mouth
chose to put a shotgun.

Edward Dorn: Idaho Out


sisters of mercy

Sometimes on Sundays I like to go for a walk. Who doesn't? I find my walks tend towards the east, I often visit Petersham Oval in the hope that there will be a cricket match going on and I can watch a few overs. On the way to the Oval you go past the Australian HQ of the Sisters of Mercy, which I find comforting too; it recalls the Leonard Cohen song, singing on in my head for a few hours afterwards. There's a Primary School with white marble statues of saints lining the asphelt pathways, a 19th century sandstock church with the stones blackened by soot from, probably, the railway line only about a hundred metres away, quiet green lawns where no-one walks under the eucalypt trees. Going up that way last Sunday I found a throwout, as they are called here: a line of things someone didn't want any more neatly arranged on the footpath. Naturally I stopped and looked: some crockery, some books, a brand new kettle still in its box, a whole range of differently flavoured skin conditioners, a few children's toys ... melancholy remainders of a shared life? Or just surplus from someone who had too much? Or not enough? I sorted through the box of books and chose two of them. One, a novel, is by Irish writer Michael Collins who is both a relative of the famous political figure and a world class extreme sportsman: he has run and won marathons in the Antarctic and on the Himalaya. He writes a good thriller too. This one is called The Keepers of Truth and is set out on the Great Plains of America at the dawn of the Reagan Era. The other, a Picador from 1975 with browning pages, was The New Journalism, edited by Tom Wolfe and E.W. Johnson. I've read some of the books from which selections have been made for the anthology but I hadn't come across the anthology itself before. Course I sat down and read the introduction first: why would I not, since the perhaps problematic relationship between fiction and non has been interesting me lately. I'm not going to write an essay on Tom Wolfe here. I'm not going to say much at all, except that, at a certain point last night, I started wondering who he was? Was he the same guy who wrote The Bonfire of the Vanities? was my question. Even though I knew he was, I had to go on the Net to find out for sure - and there was an article about what George Bush is reading these days. The point of the article was that, not on Dubya's official reading list but, according to the cognoscenti, on his bedside table anyway, is Tom Wolfe's latest, I am Charlotte Simmons. Tom supported George's re-election, by the way - as surprising (not) as the news that British novelist Ian McEwan thinks Tony Blair might be doing the right thing in Iraq. The placement - of the article, of the book on the bedside table, of the news that Dubya reads - was impeccable. I went back to Tom Wolfe's intro with new eyes. It is an immaculate act of self-promotion. It is a kind of virgin birth of himself. His later career as the Balzac or Dickens of late 20th century and early 21st century America is prefigured here. His disastrous relationship with the movies, likewise. His politics ... are nowhere evident. You could assume he was as cynical as Daniel Defoe. In fact it is Defoe who comes most strongly to mind. The Defoe sketched in Diana Souhami's Selkirk's Island, the writer and poltical advisor who did whatever he needed to do to keep the wheels of commerce turning. The Defoe who was a friend of William Dampier, whose fate is so strangely entwined with that of Alexander Selkirk. The Defoe of whom Virginia Woolf wrote: There are no sunsets and no sunrises; there is no solitude and no soul. There is, on the contrary, staring us full in the face, nothing but a large earthenware pot.