A memoir – growing up in Victoria, with the move to NSW at the age of six. The trials and tribulations of an ordinary life. The move to writing, eventually. The why of it all. What is going to be the strangeness treated honestly? My relentless pursuit of Jennifer Byrne, formerly of 60 minutes fame. There will be no resolution to that: instead, revealed within the memoir will be an explanation of how most of the events in Jennifer’s life can be explained by actions I have taken, even down to her split & then re-union with husband Andrew Denton.
Patricia scores a job at a company after years of study and countless lower-management type positions. It is a time for reflection: is this really where she wants to be? And if it is not, has she wasted most of her life, all those millions of little decisions and actions that led her to this point? She is feeling very uncertain in general (a place she hasn’t been before) and is quite surprised to find out that her new boss seems to be some sort of vampire-creature. She begins to investigate her boss, seeking to discover his secrets (perhaps a whole society of vampire-creatures) and thereby begins to find out about herself, her true passions. Of course – as the reader no doubt guesses – Patricia is never to find out any secrets. She eventually does discover a petrol station in a small town, a friend, and an unusual sex-life. We leave her here, happy that life’s twists are not all boring.
Domestic violence: two siblings (a brother and a sister) grow up in some non-descript setting (let’s call it Melbourne) witnesses to violence. The father beats the mother. The mother is no victim though: she beats the father. Both have repeated affairs and problems with substances. The siblings are close, but when both parents die (in a fishing accident) they are raised separately. They come together again after many years. Both have narratives we’ll gloss over. Both look for similarities in the other, things that will mean a transformation into their parents. It’s interesting. But far more interesting is the fact that each of them now has a daughter named Isabelle, of the same age. They marvel at it. Was Isabelle some kind of imaginary mother, invented in their early years, to provide the love that their real mother never gave them? This occupies their respective lives as you might expect. The two Isabelles meet. They dislike each other from the start, and begin a violent relationship.
A not-very-nice lead-character that is shown, eventually, to come to no good. A series of minor-characters are heroes here. Nevertheless, we still are privy to much more of this not-very-nice character’s life than that of anyone else. In the end he has lost the following: wife & family, home, job, any sense of self-worth. In fact you end up feeling like it might not be quite right to be happy about this man’s downfall. After all you do know him so well. And do people that are not-very-nice deserve to lose everything in such a way? The twist: along the way there is a narrator who seems not to be in control. The narrator is trying constantly to let you see things, perhaps aspects of the minor character’s lives, but just can’t. This seems to make no sense, but then paradoxically, it also does.
Anger at uncontrollable shifts in time (rendered fictively) leads Eric to seek the help of psychic. He questions her (her): will this continue forever? Will my life be one long, & frustrating story of leaps between the present and stylised memory? I daydream all the time. And yet I know these memories are qualitatively skewed. The psychic suggest Eric is in the wrong place – perhaps he needs a psychologist? But she is welcoming. And the lush rainforest setting (where her hut is located) challenges his senses. He stays on, hoping to destroy the past with a rigorous course of drinking at a local rainforest pub. He invents an imaginary friend, an eventual rival for the psychic’s romantic attentions. The end is tragic & unexpected: ie: a dip into the past, an incident long known assumes magnitude, blah blah blah.
A young boy builds a miniature community (buildings, roads, stories) in the dirt out the backyard, round a quiet corner, near the compost heap and various secretive trees. He spends all his time there cultivating the romance of the place. Naturally the place develops its own life. Monsters dwell in the compost. People scurry between dirt-mounds when no-one is looking. Rituals are born. Flash-forwards in the narrative reveal the boy will become an addict (of most varieties) in later life. He will die early. Is the magical city to blame? Or society? The answer is in the compost. As a present-day narrator (emerging in the second half of the narrative – let’s say he is lost relative of the young boy) will find out.
An English teacher in a semi-urban / semi-rural high-school teaches middle-class kids of un-diverse ethnic backgrounds, teaches them English. He dreams of writing a great novel (of winning the Vogel) but awakens one day to find he is 35. Sunlight starts to play a large part in his moods. He hatches a mad plot to start a school-farm and fill it with diverse animals. The principal is naturally opposed to this idea (and he becomes the antagonist in the story, as if by chance but not really). People keep saying ‘What’s going on?’ in ever-increasing numbers. It makes the English teacher wonder why nothing is going on in his life.