Monday, July 19, 2010

Our holiday (in the manner of Bret Easton Ellis)

(stormy Sunday at Robe)

We crossed the border into South Australia just after midday and outside our car the paddocks of wide grey gums and black cows became a shrubby national park of grass trees, where there was no traffic on the road except a red Subaru which overtook us and sped off and I was still reading my work emails and sending texts until 3G ran out of range and we arrived at the house as the sun was setting: it sat up on the crest of the hill looking over the ocean and behind back down to the harbour crowded with little fishing boats and for the first four days it rained and hailed and blew and felt a little bit as if the roof might tear off although the windows didn't really rattle much at all and in the evenings every night at 5.15 pm the unmanned lighthouse light came on and pivoted around at 180 degrees over the sea and every few minutes shone a bright unforgiving light through my daughter's bedroom and the living area but we lit the fire and that abated some of the harsh blue shining through and when I looked out of the window I was certain I could see the red Subaru parked over the road just momentarily but when I looked again it drove away and when I went into the village to buy groceries the eggs were from Kangaroo Island and looked incredibly fresh so I went on an Egg Run, making meringue, mayonnaise, aioli, baked eggs with spinach, omelettes, scrambled eggs and Bearnaise and I found it a little hard to stop once I started and on the fifth night we bought two lobsters from the fish co-op which was run by a one armed bearded man, presumably some kind of fisherman, and we ate them with lemon and parsley butter and a bottle of Chablis and they were so succulent that we went back for more the next night and most days the children played Bionicle v Barbie, which is an invented game with intricate rules which cannot be explained to outsiders like parents and in the morning and night we walked along the beach and the sandcastle we built with a cuttlefish tower remained in place for a full week because no one else ever visited that beach and when I could drag myself out of my holiday book reading egg induced coma I ran around the town, up hills past flashy new holiday homes and then down into the little dips where the weatherboard and fibro cottages sat and I didn't feel empty inside, not at all, I felt as if I had learned something and I felt as if time had stood still just for a few days.

(obelisk and remains of colonial prison, Robe)

You can get more of the same, namely one sentence paragraphs and some other stuff, like drugs, sex and violence in Bret Easton Ellis' Imperial Bedrooms.

This is a sequel of sorts to Less Than Zero, which I read with great delight and empathy as a nihilistic teenager in 1985. I am no longer a nihilistic teenager, but the drifting amoral protagonist of Imperial Bedrooms still seems to be.

In fact not much has changed at all since 1985.

The only difference now is that the players all text, email and cell phone each other relentlessly, and the huge houses in which the parties are held are not those of the parents but the children, all grown up now but barely matured since they were 17.  

And this made me feel bad, and a bit superior, for having changed since I was that age, and then a bit angry because personally I would have liked to have seen a bit more character development than there is.   Read it and decide for yourself.

(fishing boats at Robe harbour)

An antidote to Bret Easton Ellis (or BEE) is definitely called for.  Something solid and life affirming.   A little speck of humanity.    

(sunset, Robe, 17 July 2010)

I figure that those characters would be no match for Thomas Wolsey or Thomas More.   Life was cheap in 1529, and you either dragged yourself up by your fingernails or were passed by, splashed with mud from the Cardinal's procession of horses, carriages and a precious cargo of gold and reliquaries.   Issues with your parents such as those which crop up in all BEE books would be irrelevant, because everyone had them in the 16th century.   In those days parents were beating their children, putting them to work or indeed, if you were royal, it might just be that your parent or some other relative would be plotting to have you killed.    

So, my BEE antidote is these three thrilling books:

Everyone has probably read the Booker prize winning Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, which is not a simple Tudor romp by any means, rather an absorbing and penetrating look at the amazing Thomas Cromwell and all he achieved.

I have always loved Antonia Fraser's history books.  They are all great, and this one is a wonderful and sympathetic dissection of the man and his loves. 

I have not read the Leanda De Lisle but it is on order - it tells the story of Henry's great nieces, including Lady Jane Grey, who reigned for 9 days after Henry's son, Edward VI.  A scintillating review can be found here

And I just know that those in the Tudor times would have brooked no complaints from whiny, over privileged, aimless childlike grownups, whether from Los Angeles, or otherwise.  


Josephine Tale Peddler said...

I've never read Mr BEE but you have made me curious. What a tranquil and lovely spot for a holiday. I was a bit worried that something dreadful was about to happen as I kept reading. For some reason I become a wee uneasy in small towns. I always think there's less people to hear you scream. xx

brismod said...

Welcome back Jane. Loved your holiday description - I will never underestimate a full-stop ever again! How funny, Wolf Hall is on my reading list. Good to hear that it is an absorbing read. x

Amanda (Small Acorns) said...

Lovely to have you home again Jane. Your BEE-esque, dark and moody holiday tale had me totally absorbed. Thank goodness for the lightness of eggs and Bionicle vs Barbie. And as always I love your book recommendations. xx

Laura said...

What absolutely stunning landscapes! You've got me all excited about eggs now, although sadly I have none from Kangaroo Island so perhaps it would not be such an inspiring experience. It's been a while for me and BEE...I may have to initiated a reunion after reading this.

Mise said...

Welcome back, Jane! May I tell you about all the Issues I had while you were away? Only joking, I never have Issues. I've just bought a big fat book on the lives of recent American presidents, so will have no room for Tudors for a few weeks, but then I'll gladly join you with a martini and these same tomes.

Jacqueline @ HOME said...

Hi there Jane,
What a wonderful one sentence piece of writing. I really like that style of writing. It builds and builds and leaves one quite out of breath !!
I live very near Hatfield House and many of the Tudors would have ridden across the fields around here. I always find that thought so exciting.
.... and, thanks for the recommendations. We are off to Italy next month, so I will be needing some suggestions for books to read. XXXX

Millie said...

I held my breath subconsciously as I read this post Jane - gosh I'm suggestable! Robe is one of our very favourite long w/end destinations & yes, picking up a fresh cray from the shed on the wharf is one of life's absolute pleasures. We always stay at the wonderful Pelican Shed beach house close to Long Beach & can thoroughly recommend it. Sonia the Owner is a gem & her design style is fabulous.
Millie ^_^

Jen said...

So glad you have discovered Robe....should we be keeping it a secret??? The few days we had there in the holidays visiting my parents who live there were superb, almost t-shirt weather, so I felt quite cheated as Robe in winter is meant to be horizontal rain/wind/board games/movies! It was blissfully quiet, as having grown up holidaying there I find summer has become almost overwhelmingly busy. Still, there is always a quiet spot somewhere, which is the beauty of Robe.
I, too, held my breath reading the BEE paragraph and suspect he might be too exhausting for me....I think Wolf Hall is next on the list.

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