Thursday, May 21, 2009

Janette Turner Hospital

Janette Turner Hospital is one of my favorite Aussie writers. I don't know much about her, except that, like the Waifs and Peter Carey, she migrated to the United States.

The first Hospital book I read was Oyster. I loved it. It's about a cult in rural Australia. I usually love stories about cults and cult leaders. What can be more fascinating than that?

When we went to Portland last October, I found a bunch of Hospital books at Powells. I bought a few.

My favorite was Orpheus Lost. I highly recommend that book. It's one of the most beautiful and haunting books I've ever read. It's about torturing suspected terrorists. I read it coincidentally around the same time I researched David Hicks.

Due Preparations for the Plague is also about terrorism. It's very disturbing, but also beautiful. It's definitely a page-turner.

Do you notice I'm horrible at writing book reviews? You guys will have to excuse all my cliches.

The one Hospital book I didn't really get into was The Last Magician. I can't say it was the book's fault. I might have just been distracted. I think I daydreamed too much while reading it. Then it started getting good at the end; but I was so confused because I didn't pay enough attention in the beginning. I definitely need to read it again someday. When will I have time? I don't know. I have so many books on my bookshelf right now. I really need to spend more time reading and less time on the computer! I say that and I'm planning to buy Sims 3 soon.....

The last Hospital book I read was an older one. I forgot the name. I'm sure I'll find it during my research. The title had a tiger in it. It was a really good book; different from the other Hospital ones I've read though. The other books are more political....more about society. This one was more of a family drama.

Do any of you read Hospital's books? Any fans out there? I don't see her often mentioned in blogs I read, or anything. I'm wondering if her books are one of those Australian things that are more popular Foster's beer.

I don't think the books are that popular here though. It's not like I'm an expert. I really am not tuned in to what books are selling well and all that. And who knows. I could be totally wrong. Maybe Janette Turner Hospital IS popular in Australia.

Well, I guess it's time to talk to Lord Wiki.

Hospital's birthday is 12 November 1942. She's close in age with Peter Carey.

Birthday website

She's a Scorpio.

In numerology she's a 3. That's the social and expressive one. I see it as a sort of contradiction to the Scorpio, because I picture the Scorpio being more closed off and mysterious.

Maybe this type of person would have a happy social persona, but at the same time have a dark mysterious side.

I feel like a contradiction myself because I'm on the cusp for Scorpio and Sagittarius. I picture the Sagittarius as being fun and silly...happy and light. There's a part of me that's like that; but there's also a part of me that's kind of dark and depressing.

I think though that most people have different sides like this.

Hospital was born in Melbourne. Her parents were Pentecostal Christians. It seems they were pretty religious. When little Janette was around eight, the family moved to Queensland.

She went to the University of Queensland and Kelvin Grove Teacher's College. I can't find much on the latter school so I'm guessing maybe it's not around anymore.

Hospital taught in North Queensland and Brisbane. I guess back then she was just Janette Turner. Then she married Mr. Hospital, and became Janette Turner Hospital. Mr. Hospital was a Theologian. There's that religion creeping up on us again. I wonder how Hospital views religion. Does she see it as a negative part of her childhood? Was she okay with it? I'm guessing she didn't completely turn away from it since she ended up marrying a theologian.

in 1967, Mr. and Mrs. Hospital moved to Boston so Mr. Hospital could do Harvard. Hospital would have been about twenty-five then when she left Australia.

The lovely couple spent some time in Canada. There Hospital obtained a Masters Degree in medieval literature.

In the late 1970's they lived in India.

Lord Wiki then jumps to 1999. This is when Hospital became professor of English at the University of South Carolina. South Carolina always reminds me of Pat Conroy. I think he lives there. I wonder if Hospital knows him. They're both writers. Maybe they hang out together. They might have some kind of writing clique.

Lord Wiki says Hospital splits her time between Canada, The United States, and Queensland. She's so lucky. I would really love to be a splits-her-time kind of person. I think I'd do December through March in Australia. August through November I'd do Texas. Then maybe April through July I'd just travel around the world, including around Australia. I'd probably keep trying to sneak more and more of Australia into the whole thing. Well, see the summer is good for Southern Australia. But I'd want to do Northern Australia in the winter.

What about you guys? Would you want to be a split-your-time person? If so, where would you want to split your time?

Lord Wiki says her first piece of fiction was published in 1978. It was called Waiting. I hate when something is said like this because you know it can't be true. It can't be her very first piece of fiction she ever wrote. Don't all children write a story at some point in their life? Didn't she ever write something for school at least?

I mean I do have my very first I-want-to-be-a-writer short story. That was written when I was in seventh grade. I can't remember the title, but it was about a haunted house. But I know I wrote stories before that.

All right. That's it for Lord Wiki. It's time for the official website.

There's a picture of Hospital.

She's beautiful in a teacher like way. She reminds me of an actress. I can't think of who though.

No, wait it's coming to me.... Swoosie Kurts. Oh. You know, she was on Lost. I forgot about that. She played Lock's mom.

Okay. Back to Hospital.

I think the website has a description of each book. I might quote from them since my own reviews are so awful.

For Orpheus Lost the website says, In search of her lover, Leela travels into an underworld of kidnapping, torture and despair, in this compelling re-imagining of the Orpheus story. I just confused Orpheus with Oedipus and was thinking I don't remember any incest in the story.

Who is Orpheus. I don't know my ancient literature very much. Is it ancient? Medieval? Maybe Hospital learned about Orpheus when she got her Masters Degree. Is Orpheus related to Homer? What is the one that Homer wrote?

I better go talk to Lord Wiki.

Okay. He's a Greek hero. Does that mean he hung out with Hercules?

Orpheus' mom was Calliope....a muse. When I think of Calliope I think of Days of our Lives. There was a woman named Calliope who was dating (or married to) Eugene. One of Days of our Lives most popular characters is named after Eugene....Samantha Gene. Am I embarrassing myself by revealing I know more about a soap opera than I do about famous old Greek folks?

I'm trying to wade through all of Lord Wiki's information on Orpheus. I really don't want to read all this. I think though the connection to Hospital's book is in the fact that Orpheus is good with music. One of the main characters in Orpheus Lost is a musician.

As for the book, the website says it's an examination of what happens to individuals when terrible mistakes are made in the name of 'national security.

That describes in quite well.

For me the book was about judgments. Sometimes we suspect someone of doing something wrong. We may have evidence against them. We might have only gut feelings and suspicions. It's frustrating to know they might be getting away with something bad. But on the other hand, it's horrible to be in a situation where you're accused of something you didn't do. It's especially bad if you're not just accused of something but tortured as well.

Here's a book I haven't read yet. North of Nowhere, South of Loss. It's a collection of short stories. I prefer novels to short stories usually. But I love Hospital's work so much, I'll probably buy this if I run into it. It seems the general connecting theme of the story is loss. That's something that every single human being can relate to. Poor Jack just experienced it a few minutes ago. He created a Sims family and built them a house. He pressed the wrong button and didn't save it. He lost the whole house. I gave him some sympathy, but reminded him that he usually likes creating houses and people rather than playing them. It's doubtful he'd return to that family anyway. He recovered fairly quickly. Now he's decorating the neighborhood.

Here's the websites description of Oyster.

Outer Maroo. Population 87. Here two opposing cultures - the rough-diamond, boozing, fiercely individualistic bush folk and the teetotaller, church-going fundamentalists - used to coexist peaceably. Until the arrival of the cult messiah Oyster.
I wish I could write book descriptions like that! I'm horrible at it. And it's kind of a skill you need if you want to be a successful published writer. I was horrible at trying to sell my fiction stuff.
I'm getting kind of bored here. I'm not going to go through all the books. But I did find the tiger one I read. It's The Tiger in the Tiger Pit.
Now I'm going to read the biography on the official website.
Her first novel is set in India. I guess her time there inspired her to write it.
There's really not anything that interesting or insightful here. It just lists her awards and honors. This page has the full list of them.
The last time the news on the website was updated was 2007. They're a bit behind on things.

Here's her page at the University of South Carolina website.

She teaches three classes: Caught in the Creative Act, Reading and Writing the Novel, and Reading and Writing the Short Story. They sound interesting. The creative act class is free and open to the public.

I found something that I find to be a bit offensive on their website. One of the visiting authors for the class is a guy named Lev Grossman. One of his books is called The Magicians. The website says it's a riveting thriller that is a sort of Harry Potter for intellectuals. What are they trying to say? People who read Harry Potter aren't intellectual? Although maybe they're right since I don't really know much about Orpheus. Maybe The Magician is for people who know all about Orpheus and all that.

Here's an interview with Hospital.

She talks about moving to America. She had been teaching in Queensland;  but she didn't have the right qualifications to teach in Boston. She says to teach she would have had to start from scratch again. That's a bit crazy. I wonder if it would be the same today. I would hope not...with all the teacher shortages. At least I think we have teacher shortages. I know we have nurse shortages.

Instead of teaching she became a librarian at Harvard. I think working at the library would be one of the best jobs ever. I would love to see what books people are checking out. I'm so nosy like that. Are all people who work in bookstores and libraries? Or do they stop caring and paying attention? Is it unethical to comment on the books people are getting? Like what if I was working in the library and saw someone getting a bunch of books about Australia. Would it be okay if I said Oh! I'm really interested in Australia too. I'm trying to think whether the librarians and bookstore people say things to me when I buy/check out something. I don't think they say much. I think sometimes they might say something like Oh, that looks interesting. I can't remember them ever asking too much or giving me too much information.

After the librarian thing, they moved to Canada. This is where Hospital got the degree in Medieval Literature.

They went to India because her husband was doing research on a temple. Interesting.....

Her first short story was published in The Atlantic. It seems she sent it all the way from India.

She really lucked out. She sent the story completely ignorant about how competitive the publishing/writing world is. She had no ideas how low her odds were. Wow. I used to be very jealous of those writers who have that first-time luck. Maybe my problem was though that I started sending stuff out when I was about twelve. Maybe if I had sent things out at the age of thirty, I would have had more of a chance. By the time I got to my thirties, I was pretty sick of trying.

Here's an interesting quote. I always felt that moving from Harvard Square in the '60s to Kingston, Ontario was a bigger culture shock than moving from there to a village in Southern India where you expected difference. In a way culture shock has a more disorienting impact when you are not expecting a new place to be different and when no else is expecting you to be having adjustment problems.

I wonder if the Aussie and American expats can relate to that. I always look at the expats and think Geez, what's the big deal? Australia and America are SO much alike. It's not like there's much cultural shock there. But maybe this attitude of mine is what makes it harder for them. I don't know. We (or at least I) give them less sympathy than I would if they were off living in Thailand or Papa New Guinea.

I don't know. Sometimes just moving to a new city in the same country is hard. Sometimes just changing neighborhoods can be a challenge.

I think sometimes having a little bit of a problem can be hard because you don't get the sympathy and understanding you might get if you had a bigger problem. I'd still probably rather have the smaller problem/challenge.

It's like me with eating disorders; something I've been obsessing over lately. I never lost my period. I remember actually TRYING to get to that point. Isn't that crazy? I mean there was a big part of me that thought I was healthy and fine; WANTED to be healthy and fine. But then another part of me would look at the criteria of Anorexia and see loss of menstruation as a kind of goal. I did have the weight to qualify me, but I started turning my life (or at least my diet) around before I could lose my period.

It's good I got better. My body feels healthier now. I don't think I caused any permanent damage. My metabolism was screwed up for awhile, but I think it's back on track. That's just my body though. Emotionally I'm still messed up. I almost had a relapse. Well, I DID have a relapse but I pulled myself out of it.

The problem is that because I never got PHYSICALLY sick enough, there are people who don't understand what happened to me. I tried telling and explaining, but it didn't work. To them I was always fine. My weight was at an unhealthy number. I was suffering from a mental illness. But who cares? I had skinny legs and a flat tummy.

There's this horrible part of me that thinks...if I had JUST done it a little longer. If I had gotten thin enough to need hospitalization, then maybe I'd have that support I need.

But I don't like hospitals and I like all my organs working properly so......

Well, I don't like being in medical hospitals. I DO like the hospital I'm writing about today.

She says that South Carolina reminded her a lot of Queensland. I can see that. Well, I guess that's dumb of me to say because I've never been to Queensland. And the only part of South Carolina I've been to is Hilton Head. That's really touristy. I'm not sure if it truly counts. I mean I guess it does. Maybe? Sort of?

Hospital says there are two ways that people deal with something bad in their life: repression and obsession. This is dealt with in Due Preparations for the Plague. Both of the principle characters have experienced great loss. One tries to forget and the other spends her life obsessing over it. I think I'm definitely the latter. When I have a problem, I obsess over it. I'm doing that with eating disorders right now. I keep reading about them. And in a way that's dangerous because I think when you have this problem it's so easy to be triggered. I read about them and think How awful! But there's still a part of me that's attracted to the whole thing. It's almost kind of like being possessed.

I don't know if obsessing over a problem is healthy. I go back and forth on the subject. Sometimes I feel thinking and reading about things makes me feel worse. But as much as I try, I keep returning to wanting to learn more about it. I keep doing Internet searches. And maybe that's for the best. Maybe it's best that I obsess now and get it out of my system. Then eventually I'll be ready to move on, and the subject of eating disorders won't keep creeping into my blog entries. I actually thought of doing a whole eating disorder blog. There's so much I want to say. But I already have two blogs to keep up with. Since I'm so compulsive about writing in each one each day, I'd never have time to do anything else. So you guys will just have to bare with me here.....

Hospital talks a lot about the south in this interview. I'm not really interested in that subject so I'm kind of skimming through it.

I like this quote from Hospital. It's an awareness that anger is going to destroy them, not that they don't have the right to feel it. I don't know if I could do that. It's an incredibly mature place to be able to get to. You can assent to that intellectually, but it's not so easy to make anger disappear.

I agree. I have a hard time letting go of anger. It's hard for me to move on. I have a hard time forgiving...both myself and others. I think instead of forgiving I use distraction. I think of other things--HAPPY things. And then I'm okay. Well, at least temporarily. And that's repression I suppose. So maybe I use both ways of dealing with things. I obsess and I repress.

Oh! This is awesome. Hospital talks about the title Due Preparations for the Plague. It's really not about the plague (which would be an awesome book subject by the way). It's about terrorism. Hospital says, As was the case with the Black Death, one cannot ultimately protect oneself from attack. No matter what precautions you take, extra airport security, extra visa requirements for people, not letting travelers leave transit lounges, ultimately there is not any way to protect yourself. A determined terrorist or suicide bomber will get around all those things. As with the plague, too, for different reasons. In medieval times people didn't know what caused the plague or how to protect themselves.

That is brilliant....scary and depressing though. I think this is an example of where repression is the healthy choice. If you obsess with something like that, you're going to ruin your life. At least I think so. It's better to just not think about it too much. You kind of have to accept you don't have control over these things, and just enjoy your life.

When the Swine Flu happened, I was a little scared but for the most part I just joked about it. My parents were in Asia at the times and the headlines scared them. My dad said later he couldn't figure out why my sisters and I weren't talking about it and freaking out. I think the main reason was we all guessed it was likely not to turn into something completely disastrous. But for me at least.... although I know there's a chance this thing could explode into massive deaths; I feel what's the point of worrying about it?

There's a few things we can do to protect ourselves, but in the end we're vulnerable.

Here's another brilliant analogy. Hospital is good with these things. Maybe that's why I like her work so much. I love analogies.

The other cause was the Jews poisoning the wells. So a few Jewish pogroms would make people feel they were getting a handle on the plague. The fact that there was not the slightest evidence that a pogrom against the Jews lessened the spread of the plague didn't matter. Blaming the Jews made people feel safer. There are inescapable parallels with the current administration linking Iraq to 9/11. There's been no evidence of that, but blaming Iraq made people feel safer, made them feel as though something was being done to control terrorism.

Having a scapegoat seems to make people feel better. But if you're the scapegoat, it kind of sucks a bit.

Here's another brilliant quote: The statistics for car deaths are pretty big, but we all get into our cars everyday and believe that accidents happen to other people, not to us. And unless we have that state of magic denial we couldn't function.

So damn true!

Maybe in some ways it's denial that makes us sane. Once we lose that denial, we go a bit crazy. We become fanatics. But too much denial is bad too. I think we need a good balance of the two.

Hospital says she doesn't read her books after they're published. That's interesting. She said it bothers her to see her writing because she sees things she doesn't like and wishes she can change them.

All right. I'm done with the interview.

Here's another interview. This one focuses on Orpheus Lost.

Hospital says her novels begin with a burning question. The question hits her and she wonders about it. She says, I know the question isn't going to let me go until I've explored it for a few hundred pages. So for me a novel is a means of searching for answers.

I love that.

Ah good. She tells the story of Orpheus, and it's better writing than Lord Wiki's version. For those of you who might be as ignorant as me, here it is:

Wait, maybe I shouldn't quote that much. I don't know if that's copyright Kosher. I'll summarize. My summary will probably be awful so you're probably better off just following the link. I'll try though.

Orpheus was a musician. He loved this girl named Eurydice. Eurydice died. Orpheus went to the underworld to try to retrieve her. He used his music to butter up the mean wild beasts. They agreed to let Eurydice live, but there was one condition. He was not allowed to look back to make sure she was behind him. Curiosity got the best of him and he looked back to see her. Then he lost her forever.

Wow. That's a pretty good tale--probably not when I tell it though.

What's the moral there? Have faith? Don't second guess someone?

The book involves a lot of music and math. Hospital says she's not brilliant in any of these areas and had to do research.


There was a blog recently where writers said they preferred fiction over nonfiction because they didn't like doing the research. See, but I disagree with that. I think fiction needs to be researched. I mean some books don't need a lot of it. You can probably do a romantic comedy type thing without straining yourself with the research. But for other stuff? I like the fiction I read to be well-researched. It bothers me if there's a huge mistake. I guess the thing is I like learning from fiction. Sometimes I'll read something and there will be a mistake. It ends up being a subject I know about so I can SEE the mistake. Then it makes me question everything else the writer has written.

It's kind of the same with a compulsive liar. You trust what they say until they make a mistake. If you're ignorant, you have no idea. But once they touch on a subject you know....Then you think wait. I know they're making that up. So could they be making everything else up as well.

On the other hand even with research you're going to make a mistake. I did a lot of research for my novel Thirty Cats. But later someone involved with Neurofibromatosis pointed out a possible mistake. In the novel, the main character has a mild case of the disorder while her father has a very severe case. The person who read my novel was very critical and said that doesn't usually happen. It usually works out that the parent has a mild case and the child ends up with the more severe case. I didn't come across that in my research. I missed it. I didn't tear up my novel and start again. I figured maybe it USUALLY happens the way my critic said, but sometimes maybe it happens like my novel. No one else has mentioned anything, but probably less than fifty people have read it. I'm sure if the book was more widely read, there'd be more people pointing out that issue.

Anyway, I guess what I'm trying to say is I believe fiction writers should do thorough research but we should accept the fact that sometimes they'll miss something.

The interview is helping me remember more of the book. It's making me remember how absolutely fantastic it is.

Hospital talks about that line that's hard to draw. How do you protect one kind of right without infringing on another right? How do we protect people's safety without infringing on their right to make their own choices? How do we protect impressionable minds from racism without infringing on the right to free speech?

I think it also goes with parenting. Where do you draw the line between being apathetic and permissive and invading your child's privacy?

What if you truly suspect your child is involved with dangerous behaviors. Let's say you think they're on drugs and they deny it. Do you search their room? Do you read their diaries?

I better figure things out because Jack's going to be a teenager in a few years.

I mean there's two sides of the coin here. You have the parent who sticks their head in the sand. Hey. It's their business. It's their choice. I'm not getting involved. Then you have the paranoid parent who raids their teenager's bedroom with no probable cause.

Hospital has very insightful ideas about being an outsider. They're at risk for being judged because they're different. Because they're different they often pull away from society and act secretive. This makes them seen even more suspicious. I think I talked about this in a past post... sort of. In our world there are some crazy sick dangerous bad people. Once they're caught by the police, their neighbors tell us they were quiet and weird.  They kept to themselves. So now quiet weird people have a bad reputation. Yet how many quiet and weird people out there are innocent and good?

I think after we overcome homophobia in our society, we need to start fighting against shyweirdophobia.

Hospital talks about her parents. They are very religious Fundamentalist Christian. She loves them, but feels better being far away from them.

Sometimes it is easier to love people from a distance. And sometimes it's harder.

Speaking of love.

I think I'm now totally in love with Janette Turner Hospital. I think she was awesome before today, but now she is super duper awesome.

Orpheus Lost is really a brilliant book. I think it should be much more popular than it is.

How popular is it?

It's sales rank is only 705, 822. Is that just American readers?

I think the book should be in the top ten...EVERYWHERE.

I wish I was Oprah because then I could make the book popular.

I bet it's better than most of the Oprah books.

Am I being too dogmatic here?

All right. I need to end soon.

Let's go look at Twitter.

No wait. Let me look at Google News first. I want to see if there's any exciting new information.

No, there's not much.

Let's go to Twitter. Speaking of Twitter, I don't really Twitter much anymore. I've become one of those who get into it for a month and then lose the love.

Yesterday I put myself back on Facebook. Well, I've been on Facebook for several months, but I had my settings set to full privacy. That way I could play the games (which I rarely do), but didn't have to do the social stuff.

I changed all the settings back yesterday. I removed the privacy settings. I put a photo up. I updated my profile. I was all back on Facebook. Then about ten minutes later I took it all back down. I think I have a Facebook phobia or something. I don't know. I think I went back on because so many people I know are on it. I felt a bit left out. But then once I was there again, I realized that with that particular thing....I WANT to be left out.

Anyway. Oh yeah.

Janette Turner Hospital and Twitter.

Crap. Only one person has said something. What the hell? Why is Janette Turner Hospital not more appreciated?

ElementalGrace agrees with me at least. Although she mentions the one book I didn't love as much. She says, Fav book clearly The Last Magician by Janette Turner Hospital. Awesomely fabulous.

I like that phrase awesomely fabulous. I gotta steal that one. Don't be surprised to see it peppered in my blog every so often.

Elemental Grace likes ABBA it seems.

I like this woman. She has a blog. Maybe I'll read it.

Okay, I just read some of it.

She has a beautiful post about friendship.


  1. An Australian (for real)May 21, 2009 at 7:51 AM

    Hey Dina, I've been reading your blog for a bit and I think it is time you write about something truly Australian. A few examples of what your average aussie actually cares about:

    Interest Rates
    Muslims/Lebs/Aboriginals in the neighbourhood
    Footy (NRL specifically, AFL is for wimps)
    Schappele Corby (not really care about, but have an opinion on anyway)
    Pedophiles (how much we hate them)
    The Chaser's War On Everything

    This is not a comprehensive list, but it should be enough to go on with. I'm not trying to be offensive, but this is definitely an honest snapshot.


  2. Real Australian:

    Hi! Thanks for your ideas. However, I only take suggested topics if they're in the form of people. I do biographies for the most part.

    Since I'm NOT a real Australian, my blog is more about wannabe-Australian subjects. Here's an idea for you: How about starting your own Australian blog? Then you can write about the real true Aussie stuff. If you give me the link, I'll be happy to visit and give my wannabe Australian viewpoint.

    I'd be happy though to write about any people you long as I haven't written about them already.

    I did write about Corby in the past. If you're interested, you can search the blog by her name and you'll find it.

    I also talk about her briefly again in an upcoming post.

  3. Hi Dina! I think you've found the one other American who is a complete JTH fan! Coincidentally, Orpheus Lost is the only JTH title I haven't yet read. I do own it, of course, and plan to read it.

    There's so much in your post I want to respond to, but I'll have to come back as I'm in the middle of something. But 1) I love JTH's work. You're right, she's not widely known in the U.S. but she is very critically acclaimed even here. 2) I spent a semester at the Univ. of Sydney WHILE she was writer-in-residence and I missed her lecture and I will never forgive myself. 3) I'm a librarian, and I think it's OK to make a casual comment about a book/author that you're also interested in, but you have to be careful of anything controversial or possibly private. It's pretty easy to read the situation, though.

    Back later for more discussion! By the way, I wrote an encyclopedia article on JTH some years ago; if I can dig up a copy, would you like me to send it to you? (This was before electronic resources, so I would have to snail mail it.)

  4. Amy,

    Hi! I clicked on a few links and see you've moved around a lot. I have too, but unfortunately have not yet lived outside of America. I hope one day to get that chance.

    How long were you in Sydney? Did you enjoy living there?

    That's sad you missed the Hospital lecture!

    I would love to see what you wrote. I'll email you my snail mail address if you find it.

    I would love to hear some of your librarian adventures, and I'd love to talk more about JTH.

    Which is your favorite book?

  5. I found the article I wrote. It's only 2 pages; I just need to photocopy it. It was written after The Last Magician but before the rest.

    I think my favorite is Charades. We had read Borderline in one of my Australian literature classes at Univ of Sydney, and then while taking a bus from Sydney to Perth (Qantas was on strike the whole time I was there!), I read Charades and it really blew me away.

    I do highly recommend her short fiction. The confusing thing is, some of her story collections incorporate earlier story collections so it's hard to know what you already have in terms of individual stories. I need to just make a list.....

    Oh, if you don't mind my saying so, I wonder if you might enjoy a short story I had published in an online magazine. The story is called "Fella Down a Hole" and is about a girl in Coober Pedy. It was heavily influenced by JTH. You can find it here:

    (Please don't feel obligated to read it if you're not interested!)

    Due Preparations for the Plague bothered me in that I didn't think the main character's method of "digging" (the stripping stand-up comedy routine?) made any sense whatsoever, and I found the climax, when the video of the victims is uncovered, to be bizarre and unrealistic. These unrelated people all take their hazmat suit helmets off and make very similar dramatic speeches -- it felt contrived to me.

    But I do love JTH's work, so don't take my gripe about Due Preparations too seriously!

    To answer your question, I was in Sydney for about five months (July through December). I lived in the students' international house at the University of Sydney. I often took the bus down to the quay, and once or twice even walked all that way although it took forever. I also traveled to Alice Springs and Darwin and Perth. I would love to go back! I can't believe it's been so long (20 years!) since I've been there.

    My e-mail is amy.a.sisson at gmail dot com.

  6. Amy,

    I'm impressed with your story. I'm so bad at writing short things. You did such a great time telling a story with so little words. It was well researched too. I liked that.

    It did remind me of JTH, but also of the movie Opal Dream. Have you seen that? It takes place in Cooper Pedy. It was based on children's book, but I forget the name.

    Thank you SO much for letting me read it.

    The only thing I worry about, in terms of your article, is will it have spoilers for novels I haven't read yet??

    I agree that the ending of Plague was a bit contrived and over the top, but I still liked it. Maybe I was okay with it because I liked the rest of the book. I think I tried seeing it as somewhat theatrical.

    What did you think of Perth and Darwin? I like to go to those places someday. I'd also love to go to Cooper Pedy although that may be a foolish wish. I hate the heat.

  7. Thanks for the kind words on my story!

    I don't think the article will have spoilers for you, but I'll read through it to make sure. The article was intended to be more autobiographical, and tied in slightly to her work. So for instance, I talk about her semester at Univ of Sydney and how it influenced The Last Magician (homeless, the Quarry, etc.) The article is short so there is not much detail about any one book at all.

    Until soon --


  8. Amy,


    I shall email you my address.

  9. I loved the book and actually read it after cj told me you had written about it

    Now I am worried that I spent the last day reading it instead of reading your whole post.

    Especially with the eating thing...please do not obsess about the eating disorder....and do not repress it have the power to get the help you need.

    Please do something about is not healthy to be at either extreme of obsession or avoidance know it you are intelligent...even if you have not read the Greeks...neither have I!!!LOL!!

    Please email if you want to talk...I have missed you on Twitter

  10. Magikquilter,

    Thank you.

    I'm glad I'm not the only one who didn't do the Greek stuff. I've never done that well with any kind of mythology. At least for the most part.

    I started a therapy blog. I'm hoping that helps me and I won't keep leaking eating disorders into the Australia blog.

  11. Hey,

    Thanks for your lovely comments. I've just started on Charades and love it. So glad to meet other JTH fans!

    Hope to see you soon.

  12. Elemental Grace,

    Hi! Thanks for visiting! I thought your friendship post really was beautiful. I need to go check out your blog again.