How I Got Here: The Long and Winding Road of My Career

I have, as really many people do, an odd sort of background to librarianship.

Let’s go back.

There was a good year or two of my life that was lived inside of a personal essay that I never quite wrote about the conflict between art and science and which side of the fence I thought was ‘right’. Once you get a little bit older you realise that, well, neither side is purely right and as a matter of fact that fence was largely imaginary to begin with.

It was my grappling between science and religion in the burgeoning stages of of my personal atheism that led me to believe that art was the true path – I literally drew a diagram of this, which I wish I could find, but it was something like:

sketch

Religion was up in the clouds, all wishy-washy and unanchored to anything and vague.

Science was too specific, down in the microscopic dirt, with fundamental laws about particles but no bigger picture, no essence.

And then there was art, there was creativity, which seemed to draw these two together to make them larger than the sum of their parts. It’s true: my English major literally saved my academic career. I’m not sure I could have completed a degree in pure science.

And now, a decade out from my University qualifications, in a move that could perhaps have been predicted by some people but certainly was not by me, I have found myself in a University library, pointing to a stapler and answering fine queries from oblivious undergraduates (oh how the cycle perpetuates, there I am, a ghost of myself transposed ten years into the future and meeting myself), but also, if you step back, teaching people how to find, how to know, how to learn, how to synthesise, which is almost the same thing as pure creation, or at least the opening steps of the dance of it.

There are many things about my current life which I never could have foreseen but which at the same time have a certain inevitability about them. For example, blog posts written at 1am after a reasonable amount of chardonnay find their parallels in the essays I used to write the night before the due date, finishing at 4 or 5am after 4 or 5 cups of coffee. Some things do not change as much as we think they do.

And that’s how I got here.

Advertisements

I Can’t Keep Quiet

A couple of things making me think.

  1. Friend comments that I really should start blogging again (thanks Nick!)
  2. Red wine.
  3. This:


So here is something that I truly believe. In these dangerous times, if you have an ounce of creative instinct in you, it is unethical not to create. Make good art.

This joy in protest, in the face of ugliness, this beautiful resistance. This harmony in the face of being torn apart. Personally this is my favourite act of protest that I have seen. What could be greater, what could be more glorious than this?

(There’s something ancient and undeniable in song. When you open your mouth and your throat and your everything and it comes pouring out like the purest fucking thing you’ve ever experienced)

What if this is opportunity? There’s a crack in everything, and that’s how the light gets in. What if this could be how the light gets in?

How dare I stop writing? Even for a moment. You have to write like you’re running out of time, because what if you are? Hard times require furious dancing.

And what if it happens here, what if this insane wave of neo-liberal-fascism comes to my country? It’s already stirring. If it can happen in America it can so just as easily happen here (let alone all the places around the world that are in even greater suffering), and the planet these days is just one big place, anyway, what’s an ocean or two in separation?

I gave up on this stuff for a while, I burnt out, I thought we got what we deserved, I stayed (relatively) quiet. Fuck you Tony Abbott.

… You know what? No.

No one deserves this.

That’s not good enough. Try harder.

We (earth, people, us, the pale blue dot) are better than this.

Time to re-ignite.

~

Cause I can’t keep quiet,
a one-woman riot.
I can’t keep quiet
for anyone.
No. Not any more.

 

Popping the Hamilton cherry

I recognise that I’m late to this party, but tonight I finally sat down and listened through the Hamilton soundtrack.

… Hoo boy.

I was going to write a thoughtful blog post about storytelling through musical theatre and the cleverness of weaving a tale through not just words but melodies and beats, but let’s be honest, I’m great at deconstructing prose but I’ve always found musical analysis harder to pin down and express.

(I’d rather be divisive than indecisive, drop the niceties)

So instead I’ve given it a modicum of thought:

Hamilton is Valjean, Burr is Javert, Eliza and Angelica are clearly Cosette and Eponine, Phillip (I think) is Gavroche, oh and I think Washington is Enjolras?

… And now I want to watch a hip-hop version of Les Mis.

But there’s a lot about writing in there, writing like you’re running out of time, and this morning I read an article about how Harry Potter changed the world (or changed people) a little bit, and now I’m like, you know what? I want to do that. That’s what I want to do. I want to make something that makes it. I want to create something great.

(And look, I don’t know much about American history but it seems like Hamilton was pretty much a professional shit-stirrer, so at least I know that’s a career option.)

The Delights of the Australian Christmas

Of the many different aspects I enjoy about Australian Christmases, one of them is the pleasing and oddly ironic contrast of listening to Frosty the Snowman with a background sound of fiercely shrieking cicadas in 35 degree heat.

Here’s my annual posting of Tim Minchin’s White Wine in the Sun.

Merry Christmas, and here’s to 2016!

‘Emo’

Okay, I recognise that there was a legitimate ’emo’ moment in the first half of the 2000’s, but really, could there be any more of a stupid and inane description of music?

What kind of music isn’t emotional? Music made by ROBOTS?

#FridayNightInsights

#Wine

“Poetry was coming true.”

This passage is Virginia Woolf writing about moments of intensity she experienced after her mother’s death:

“I remember going into Kensington Gardens about that time. It was a hot spring evening, and we lay down – Nessa and I – in the long grass behind the Flower Walk. I had taken The Golden Treasury with me. I opened it and began to read some poem (which it was I forget). It was as if it became altogether intelligible; I had a feeling of transparency in words when they cease to be words and become so intensified that one seems to experience them; to foretell them as if they developed what one is already feeling. I was so astonished that I tried to explain the feeling. “One seems to understand what it’s about”, I said awkwardly. I suppose Nessa has forgotten; no one could have understood from what I said the queer feeling I had in the hot grass, that poetry was coming true. Nor does that give the feeling. It matches what I have sometimes felt when I write. The pen gets on the scent.

My first memory of understanding a poem was a bit like this. It was either my first or second year of high school, so I would have been about 12 years old. The teacher read the poem aloud to the class; it was ambiguous and we couldn’t figure out the context. The classroom was a sea of mildly confused faces. Then she read it out a second time, and as she reached the end of the final line (I remember what it was: “I am first to go.”) the realisation hit me with an almost physical blow. I inhaled a little “oh!” of surprise and pressed a hand to my mouth and my eyes started watering.

The context was a hospital; the ‘I’ of the poem had finally decided to obey the wishes of their loved one, and leave them to die on their own and keep their memory intact.  I realised all of this in an instantaneous moment, like a magic-eye puzzle suddenly materialising in my brain. And yes, my reaction in the dead silent classroom and everyone’s baffled eyes swinging towards me were mildly embarrassing. But the teacher – I can’t even remember her name or what she looked like – as soon as I made a sound her eyes locked on to mine like bam, a shooting laser beam of empathy and connection. A wordless understanding forged through words.

Virginia Woolf speaks to me again:

“Behind the cotton wool is hidden a pattern; that we – I mean all human beings – are connected with this; that the whole world is a work of art; that we are parts of the work of art. Hamlet or a Beethoven quartet is the truth about this vast mass that we call the world. But there  is no Shakespeare, there is no Beethoven; certainly and emphatically there is no God; we are the words; we are the music; we are the thing itself.”

… And now I have an inkling of where my love of semi-colons has come from.

Guest Post by Laura: How to Take the Ultimate Selfie (with commentary by Jen)

Quote from Laura, to set the tone for the evening: “The quality of your blog just got a whole shit-lot better.”

~

How to take the ultimate selfie!! By Laura.

This is how it's done. Apparently.

“Well number one you have to be in the right selfie mood. It’s all about attitude and confidence. No point taking a selfie when you ain’t feeling it. (What “it” is, is different for each person, so don’t ask!)

You need good lighting. Nothing sadder than a badly lit selfie!! Also background is important. I don’t wanna see your untidy bathroom or dirty bedroom floor in the background. So either clean that shit up or go outside (the lighting is probably better outside anyway).

To pout or not to pout?? IT AIN’T A QUESTION!! POUT like you’ve never pouted before.

You should already have worked the mirror and know what your best angle and pout is. Duck face, Keira Knightley face. The options are endless. Play around with it. Have fun.”

For more Selfie brilliance, you can follow Laura on Instagram.
  ~

 
Jennifer:

 

I would just like to add (though I am certainly not the biggest fan of The Selfie and have never successfully selfie-fied myself), I am a bit over the constant stream of Selfie-attacks in the media. They would have you believe that narcissism was invented by Generation Y and, as stated by practically every generation ever, that the world is going to the dogs and we are all more or less doomed, etc. etc.

Well, I think it’s worth pointing out that Selfie-ism was certainly around in the 16th Century. Here’s a painting by Parmigianino, done in the early 1500s:

Source: good old Wikipedia.

 

And then in 1984, well before the invention of the dreaded smart-phone camera or Instagram, we have John Ashbery’s poem Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror, a rumination on Parmigianino’s painting. Here we’re really getting into Selfie-Inception territory. The original painter, his reflection in his convex mirror, the painting of his reflection, the poem of the painting of his reflection, our reading of the poem of the painting of his reflection… (This blog post about our reading of the poem of the painting of his reflection…)

[Laura here. THIS IS NOT THE POST I AGREED TO!!!!!]

And even in 1984, Ashbery begins his poem with a definition of the quintessential selfie: “the right hand / Bigger than the head, thrust at the viewer…”

While not being 100% prescient (there are no references to Duck Face within his poem, for example), Ashbery certainly nailed the nature of human self-reflectivity.

  • “The glass chose to reflect only what he saw
    Which was enough for his purpose: his image
    Glazed, embalmed, projected at a 180-degree angle.”
  • “… The soul establishes itself.
    But how far can it swim out through the eyes
    And still return safely to its nest?”
  • “And just as there are no words for the surface, that is,
    No words to say what it really is, that it is not
    Superficial but a visible core, then there is
    No way out of the problem of pathos vs. experience.
    You will stay on, restive, serene in
    Your gesture which is neither embrace nor warning
    But which holds something of both in pure
    Affirmation that doesn’t affirm anything.”

John Ashbery was one of my favourite post-modernist writers that I studied at uni, and everyone should read the poem in its beautiful entirety – it can be found here.

~

 

Making an attempt...(I think I still need some more practice.)

 

Previous Older Entries