Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Thomas Keneally

Early this morning I woke up and thought about how Thomas Keneally was my Australian of the day. I thought about how I've read three of his books; one of them very recently. I couldn't remember anything about the last book of his that I had read. And I think I read it less than a month ago. I knew the title had something to do with a river, but I couldn't remember one thing about the storyline.

When I woke up though, I went to the bookshelf and looked at the book. I refreshed my memory. I remember the book. I feel much better.

That book was A River Town. It was pretty good. It had some eerie memorable scenes. Oh! And it had the plague. Any book with a plague has to be at least a LITTLE bit good.

Way back in my college days, when I was obsessed with Judaism, I read Schindler's Ark. I didn't like it much. I found it was a bit dry...boring. I saw the movie version later and loved that. I think it was one of those cases where the movie is better than the book.

I've actually seen Keneally in person. He came and did a lecture for the Jewish community. I guess that was in Texas? Or maybe my parents lived in Nashville back then. I forget.

I forgot the name of the other Keneally book I read. I'm sure I'll find it while researching. All I remember was it was about a priest. I read the book when my Australia obsession first began.

I don't know much about Keneally except that he's an ex-priest. Or he studied to be a priest?

Anyway, I shall go find out more stuff now.

He was born on 7 October 1935.

Birthday website time!

Well, I know he's a Libra because his birthday is close to my sister's, and she's a Libra.

He's a 8 in numerology. The 8 is about money and material success.

I guess an 8 Libra would be a romantic rich business person.

Does that fit Keneally?

Probably not.

Baby Thomas was born in Sydney.

He attended school at St. Patrick's College Strathfield.

Stathfield....I thought that sounded familiar. Now I remember. We visited a friend in NORTH Strathfield. I'm looking at Google Maps now. Regular Strathfield is below North Strathfield. It's also near Croydon where we hung out with another friend.

Keneally went to St. Patrick's seminary in Manly to become a priest. I guess that didn't work out for him for some reason. Lord Wiki says he left before his ordination.

The seminary closed in 1995.

The building is sometimes used for weddings. Lord Wiki says that Nicole Kidman and her man were married there.

Like Stephen King, Keneally did the teaching thing before his writing career blossomed.

Before he became a writer, Keneally went by his nickname which was Mick. But his publisher suggested he use his real name instead. I guess it sounds more distinguished.

Keneally has other talents besides writing. It seems he has done a little bit of acting as well. He had a small role in the film version of his novel The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith. I guess that would be a cameo appearance? He was also in a 1976 movie called The Devil's Playground. That's about priests, and Keneally played a priest in the movie. That's pretty damn fitting.

Lord Wiki says he's a strong advocate for the republic. I'll probably read more about that later.

There's a list of his awards. Kenneally won the Man Booker prize for Schindler's Ark in 1982. He won the Miles Franklin award in 1967 and 1968. In this decade, he's been short listed and long listed for that award.

Lord Wiki talks about how Keneally got involved with Schindler's List. Keneally went into a man's shop. The man ended up being Poldek Pfefferberg, a Holocaust survivor. He told Keneally about Oskar Schidler. Keneally decided to write a book about the story, and Pfefferberg became his advisor.

I was thinking that Pfeferberg might have been the guy that Ben Kingley played, but he's not. His character was in the movie though...just not the Kingsley character.

Lord Wiki has a list of Keneally's books.

I'm going to look at them a little bit.

The first book he got published was The Place at Whitton. That was in 1964. Keneally would have been about twenty-nine.

The book cover looks pretty creepy.

You can buy a bloody rare signed copy of it for $315.

The book that won the Miles Franklin award in 1967 was Bring Larks and Heroes. It's about a remote British penal colony. But I guess it's not Australia? Is it supposed to represent Australia?

The novel that won the next year's Miles Franklin award was Three Cheers for the Paraclete. It's a comedic novel about a doubting priest. I might like it. I like some religious books.

Lord Wiki says Keneally's personal favorite book is A Dutiful Daughter which was published in 1971. I'm not sure I understand the description of the book, but it sounds delightfully disturbing.

Shocked at the onset of puberty and the catastrophe she believes it brought on her parents, Barbara has since been a most dutiful daughter. Bound in dominance over them, she tends her afflicted parents, managing the beasts and the land single-handed on the isolated marshlands of Campbell's Reach. "It is her brother Damian who reveals the secrets that the family has shared for the past thirteen years. As the destructive forces within each of them move towards a climax, Barbara is impelled to make the ultimate sacrifice.
I've heard of The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith....I mean even before I began writing this entry. Lord Wiki says it's done in the voice of an Aboriginal and that Keneally regrets trying that. Keneally has said if he was to write the book again, he would write through the eyes of a white person who witnessed the event.

That brings up an interesting topic. Is it okay to write in the voice of person from a group in which you don't belong? I think it is. But I will admit I prefer READING a book that is written by a person of that group. For example, I prefer to read Australian books written by Australians. I feel myself looking down at Australian books that are written by Americans, British, etc. In a way though, that's silly. What am I presuming when I read a book written by an Australian? I'm presuming they speak for ALL Australians. And that can't be true.

I wrote a novel about Neurofibromatosis. I don't have NF. Is it wrong of me to write a novel about something that is not truly a part of my life? How can I speak for people who have NF if I don't have NF? But then how can one person with NF speak for all others who have it? Every individual is different.

I think part of writing is putting yourself in shoes that don't belong to you. Sometimes it works out, and sometimes it doesn't.

I'm looking through the list of other books. I'm not going to examine all of them; just looking for ones that seem interesting.

This one seems intriguing. Flying Hero Class. It's about Palestinians hijacking a plane carrying an Aboriginal Dance Troupe. This is one I'd probably like to read.

All right. I think this is the book I read. Office of Innocence. From what I remember, it was pretty good.

Oh! I forgot. He wrote A Commonwealth of Thieves: the improbable birth of Australia. I read that too!

All right. I'm done with Lord Wiki. I shall look elsewhere now.

Oh crap. He's on that overwhelming biography website. I guess I shall start reading. I really do love these things. It's just.....Well, my eyes get tired. I'll read as much as I can. We might buy Sims 3 later today. If that happens, I'll probably get even more lazy with my posts.

You guys might be seeing posts that say: Kevin Rudd. He's the Prime Minister. Lord Wiki has a lot to say about him. Go read it for yourself. Bye!
Okay. Let's start reading. You know, maybe this time I'll be better about reporting which page I'm on in the interview. I don't think I've done that previously. I'm not sure if it's worth it because from what I see in my Statcounter, not many people click on my links. But in case someone does, I'll try to make it easier for them to see what I'm reading.

Let's start on page one of the interview.

Keneally was born during the depression. He was a premature baby. He knows the name of the obstetrician who delivered him. Dr. John Honour. I don't know the name of the doctor who delivered me. I wonder if my mom remembers. I do know the name of the doctor who helped me pop out Jack.

It seems Keneally spent most of his childhood in northern New South Wales. They lived in Kempsey, Taree, and Wauchope. None of those really sound familiar to me. I'll find them on Google Maps.

They all seem to be somewhat near Port Macquarie.

He read a lot as a child. I did too. And I still do.

I wish Jack liked books more. He did for awhile. I finally got him to like a chapter book and then for awhile we were having a great time reading books together. But he hasn't read a chapter book in awhile.

I'm sure he'll get back into it someday.

Keneally talks about seeing Aboriginal children when he was a child. He said there was a cultural divide. There also seemed to be a fear of infection because a lot of the Aboriginal children were sick.

He was an only child for awhile. I guess this means at some point he got siblings.

Keneally says his father was affectionate and a great storyteller. That sounds a lot like my dad.

Keneally and his father both have what Keneally calls melancholy. I guess maybe that's like depression? He says they're both charming on the exterior, but at home the sadness is more likely to show itself.

Keneally was sick a lot. He had asthma.

All right. I'm moving onto page two now. I'm skimming a lot of stuff.....

He got a brother when he was eight. His father was off fighting the war at the time.

I don't know if it's my imagination, but Keneally doesn't seem to really answer the questions that are asked of him. He seems very friendly; not abrasive like Fraser sounded in his interview. It's more like he goes off on tangents.

For example, he's asked about how his life changed with a new baby brother and he talks about fighting with friends. The interviewer has to repeat the question.

It seems he moved to Sydney when he was fairly young...I guess before his brother was born.

He had a constantly runny nose.

It sounds like Keneally had a nice set of friends. He said he mixed with both the jocks and the intellectuals.

All right. Now I'm on page three.

His aspirations in youth were writing and playing Rugby. I guess we can assume he was more successful at the former.

Oh yeah. And he also wanted to be a priest. He said he was attracted to the mystery and theatrical aspects of the mass. He also didn't seem to mind the celibacy part since he hadn't had much luck with women.

Now onto page four.

I have to wade through a lot of stuff to find anything that's interesting to me.

Here's some of the negative feelings he developed regarding Catholicism.

Well over time I began to resent this absolute authority which did seem to an extent to corrupt them. I don't mean that they were vicious men, but some of them were narrow men who did inhuman things. You see I always thought that priests were full of charity. Well one of the indications they weren't was their capacity to send to hell anyone who wasn't a Catholic. And half the Catholics anyhow who happened not to go to mass or looked at someone's breasts. They went to hell too.

Disillusionment. I feel that way about doctors and nurses. Like most of my family, I used to see them as God-like, all-knowing, self-sacrificing, and compassionate.

And some of them ARE like that. Well, they might not completely fit my ideal image, but they're good people. For example, there are the surgeons who helped save my sister's life. Jack's former pediatrician was awesome....lovely, caring, easy-to-talk-to, etc.

But I've encountered ignorant doctors.

I've encountered callous arrogant doctors.

I've heard of dangerous psychopathic doctors.

I now know that not all doctors and nurses enter the profession because they care and want to help people. Some people go to medical school because they have the intelligence; they like blood; and they like diseases. Some people are doctors because they like the power and prestige that comes with that profession.

People in my family have a lot of respect and trust in doctors. I don't share those feelings at all.

I think sometimes it's the people in the professions that are most admired that end up being the most dangerous. Clergyman, doctors, police officers, teachers, nurses...... Many of us automatically give them our trust and respect. And yes, some of them DO deserve that trust and respect. My sister is a nurse practitioner. My brother-in-law is a pediatric emergency doctor. As far as I know, they're very good people. I don't think they have any dead bodies hiding under the bed or anything. I should probably check the next time I'm at their house.

Now I'm reading about why Keneally left the priesthood. Or...well, why he didn't get ordained.

So I was very close to ordination. I was delighted to be ordained a deacon, which is the last step between, before becoming a priest. But then it all fell apart. By early in the year I was supposed to be ordained I couldn't move. I couldn't go to mass, I couldn't get to the chapel, I couldn't study. Classic signs of a kind of crack-up, you know other people have described these symptoms to me as happening to them.

That's kind of how I felt the day I went on hiatus for this blog. I sat there staying at Ernie Dingo's name and knew I couldn't do anything. The work seemed absolutely impossible.

But unlike Keneally I came back.

Oh! Wait. He came back too. He felt obligated to be a priest.

And I went back and I was very severely unhappy and by then sexuality was really kicking in. Was less suppressed than it had been earlier. I suppose the experience of being out in Hay and other places. And so um, I knew that I really didn't want to be a priest and didn't want to be a celibate, though I could probably manage it. Um, and um, ultimately I left.

But that's not like me at all. I'm glad to be back. I'm greatly enjoying my research. I almost regret the days of my hiatus.

Okay. I need a break. Actually, it's Jack that needs a break. Well, he needs me to take a break. He wants to play Sorry. So I'll do that and then read page five.

All right. We're back.

And for those who care....

I won!

On this page, Keneally talks about having severe depression. He says the Catholic Church didn't really approve of psychiatric help. I didn't know that. I thought that was more of a Scientology thing.

But Keneally DID go to a Catholic psychiatrist. That makes sense though, because that psychiatrist would probably be able to better relate to what Keneally was dealing with. And in fact, Keneally says And I had a few sessions with him. And he, he was a bloke who'd been through all the conflicts that I'd been through, so he gave me a little booklet....
I think if I ever went to a psychologist, I'd want someone who shared most of the same spiritual and philosophical beliefs as I do. I think it would be easier for them to relate to me, and I think with that they'd be able to better help me.

Okay....onto page six.

He studied law. I guess this was a back up for writing?

He says getting his first novel published gave him social confidence. It was something he could use to impress people.

Keneally admits that he likes praise. Writers never say these things. They never say I wrote it because I wanted to be praised. But it's one of the chief motivations. I'm writing it because I was the kid who was marginalized in the playground and now I'm going to get even with all those dumb kids who haven't written a book.

I like Keneally's honesty. And I can totally relate to it.

I need a lot of external validation. I think a lot of creative people do. And I do think one of my biggest motivations in wanting to be published was so I could prove myself to those who didn't like me.

I'm not sure what I'd want those people to feel if I got published. Jealousy? Maybe. I'd probably prefer regret. Oh, I should have been nicer to her, and/or maybe she's not as pathetic as I always thought.

Then I'd become super famous and write my autobiography. My ex-enemy would read the book and then say Wow. She's MORE pathetic than I originally thought.
Now it's time for page seven.

He got married in 1965. He was thirty and a newly published author.

He talks about being obsessive.

This guy really reminds me of myself.

Keneally says The more I am amongst men, to certain limits, men and women, the more sane I become. And various habits of paranoia, despair etcetera, which are common to writers are accentuated by the process of writing, so you've got to be careful.

I can relate to that. I am an introvert to some extent, but not fully. I sometimes strongly need interaction with people. These past weeks it has been especially true. I had a lot of despair, but I actually felt better when I was with people doing normal fun things. Then I felt relatively okay. It was when I was alone that I felt tormented.

Page eight......

This is about the time I want to scream and give up.

I'm kind of skipping a lot of stuff.

Page nine......

He played a cook in the movie version of The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith.

At one point, he lived in America with his family. The kids did a year of American school.

Later, he stopped in America on the way home...probably from Europe? He stopped at a luggage store because his briefcase was broken. And that luggage store happened to be owned by Pfefferberg the Holocaust survivor. What a great example of a simple incident having a huge influence on one's life. Of course I believe it's fate...because I'm that type of person. I believe in destiny.

He talks about how Schindler is a fascinating character because he was morally ambiguous. He wasn't a saint. He had his definite flaws. I think those characters can be easier for us to relate to....I mean compared to someone like Mother Theresa.

Time for page ten!

He was accused of plagiarism at one point.

I'm trying to understand what happened. I think he read a book and then relied heavily on that book in writing his own book. It got him into trouble, so with Schindler's Ark, he did a more thorough job of acknowledging his sources.

Page eleven.....

He says he usually starts his novels with a story or situation. I think that's what Stephen King does.

Keneally says the theme comes later.

Page twelve.....

His spiritual beliefs sound a little like mine. He doesn't believe in a personal intervening God. I don't either. But I do believe there are spiritual beings who might intervene a little bit. They might break your briefcase so you have to go into a certain store.

He still goes to Catholic services though.

Last page!

All right. Honestly, I didn't read any of that page. I just glanced over it quickly.

I'm too exhausted. There's just way too much information in those interviews. I think if I was totally obsessed with a particular person, I'd enjoy reading every little word. Otherwise.....

I'm going to look at his IMDb page now. He's been with his wife since 1965. That's pretty good!

He's a big fan of a rugby team....Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles.

Well, that's about it from that website.

I'm looking at Google News now.

This article is about a recent book written by Keneally. Searching for Schindler. The reviewer says.....

Well, never mind. The damn website refuses to let me quote from their page. Well, I CAN quote. They just won't let me cut and paste. Copyright issues. I agree that plagiarism is a problem, but I think these people are a bit too paranoid and vigilant.

Anyway, they say Keneally's new book is a bit self-indulgent and autobiographical. I am guessing some people might say that about my blog. I'd probably not disagree with them.

I'm going to end soon. We need to eat lunch.

Let me look at Twitter though......

AlexDHaxton says I am reading an excellent and interesting book called 'Searching for Schindler' by Thomas Keneally.
Maybe I'll read it too.

Wait. Before I go, I'm going to try to read this other interview. Hopefully, Jack won't yell at me and accuse me of being a horrible parent who starves her children. I DID feed him breakfast, and that was only a few hours ago.

I do have to say something. Keneally is one of the most adorable looking human beings I've ever seen. He looks a bit like Santa Claus--but even cuter.

I like this quote from Keneally.
I think that's why writers, although they're not always the best people on earth, get into much trouble with governments in various parts of the world. Because, they are used to spending all their energy imagining being someone else. Imagining being the member of a hated minority. Imagine being a young woman who's in love with a man who lies on the other side of absolute chasms of culture and warfare and clan and religion. Writers do that to such an extent that they're generally sensitive to the persecution of minorities.

I don't think it's only the persecuted that writers feel empathy for, but also the persecutors.

I know I have a lot of empathy. I think that's part of being a writer. Almost all human beings (excluding the psychopathic) have empathy. But I think some of us have empathy that extends to people who others see as completely not deserving it. I can hate someone like everyone else does. Yet, I STILL feel empathy for them. I still feel bad for them. I feel bad for George W. Bush. I feel sorry for Hitler sometimes. I felt sorry for Jeffrey Dahmer.

It's hard to explain and justify.

I'm not sure having empathy makes me a better person or a nicer person. I can be mean at times. But afterwards I usually feel horrible, and I usually worry that I hurt someone's feelings too much. I know a lot of people don't understand this. But on the same token, I can't understand people who are incredibly cruel and feel no remorse or regret. Yet, I STILL feel some empathy for them. Well, no. Empathy is totally the wrong word. How can I have empathy if I don't understand? Maybe it's pity I feel for them? Sympathy....maybe.

I love this quote too:

I don't think that what defeats writers is lack of ideas. I think a lot of us are defeated ultimately by a lack of response from public and publishers.
If I'm honest with myself....I think it's so true in my case. I say I stopped writing because I lost my love for it. But I probably lost my love for it because I wasn't successful. It's not just about the money, but also about having people read and praise my book. Writing takes a lot of time and work. With validation, it becomes rewarding. I think when you lack validation, there's that feeling of Is it really worth it anymore? At least that's how I feel. But some writers might be different. Some writers might need less external validation.

I really don't know though. If I started getting hundreds of people reading my novel, would it make me want to write fiction again? Maybe. There could truly be other things standing in my way. One of the thing is writing fiction scares me. I end up revealing things that I'm not ready to reveal. This blog kind of does it too though.....

I could be wrong about the validation thing. For me, it might BE a loss of ideas. I feel I do have less ideas for fiction these days. I don't do as much What if this happened or You know what would be a GREAT novel?!
But that being said, when I do have these ideas I quickly push them out of my head. Or I'll say/think something like It would be so cool if someone wrote a novel about..... But I don't want to do the work myself. I don't have enough motivation anymore. And Keneally has made me realize that this lack of motivation could come from a lack of validation.

All right. While we're on the subject, I'll tell you this story idea I had. I don't want to write it myself, but maybe someone else out there will do it. My idea is about a serial killer who monkeys around with the car navigation systems. His victims are driving in their car, and he manipulates the directions to send them straight to his evil lair. Wouldn't that be freaky? I think so.

It might have already been done before. I mean not in real life (I HOPE NOT!) but in a movie or book. I'm kind of out of the loop in current horror fiction.

Okay. I'm going to exit this post and go feed my child some lunch.