Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Julia Leigh

Today I'm going to learn about a writer—Julia Leigh. I have two of her books: Disquiet and The Hunter.  I don't remember reading The Hunter, but I think I did read it. I know what it's about. It's about searching for the Tasmanian Tiger. But I might remember that, not from reading the book, but from hearing about the movie based on the book.

I do remember reading Disquiet.  I had insomnia one night, and I think maybe I read the book in one sitting. It's pretty short—120 pages. I thought it was very sad, but beautiful. Maybe haunting. It's about a mother being unable to say good-bye to her stillborn child.

I don't know anything about Julia Leigh. I'd like to know more. I'd especially like to know if she has any more novels published.

I'm going to start with Lord Wiki.

He says Julia Leigh was born in 1970.  That's the same year my older sister Dawn was born. And like Dawn, Leigh is the eldest of three girls.

Leigh's father was a physician and her mother was a math teacher. Does Lord Wiki use the word "was" because they're no longer alive. Or did they retire?

For her university studies, Leigh majored in philosophy. Then she worked for the Supreme Court as a legal practitioner. Does that mean she was a lawyer?

Leigh was a legal advisor for The Australian Society of Authors, and then she became interested in becoming a writer herself. I wonder if she had interest though before that. Was it something that just came out of the blue from doing work for other authors? Or had she previously had the idea in the back of her mind?

According to Lord Wiki, Leigh has published only the novels I mentioned above. She has also written a film,though, and directed it. This was Sleeping Beauty.

Here's a trailer for the movie.

It doesn't look like the Sleeping Beauty I know. From what Lord Wiki said, I got the idea that yes, it was a modern retelling. But it doesn't even look like that. Maybe it shares the title with the fairytale, and not much else.

Okay. I just read more from Lord Wiki about the film. It's not an Aurora and Maleficient kind of thing.  The movie is based on a novel called The House of the Sleeping Beauties.

Lord Wiki says that in 2009, Leigh received a degree in English from the University of Adelaide. So I guess she decided to further her education.

Another thing to add to her resume: She spent some time as a professor in NYC at Barnard College. My younger sister's friend went to Barnard, and she studied English. I wonder if she ever had Julia Leigh as a professor.  My sister's friend was in New York a pretty long time ago. It was when Tim and I were there....so it was the late 1990's. She might have stayed a bit longer than us.  She might have been there in the early 2000's.  Maybe at some point, in my research, I'll find out whether Leigh was there at the same time.

Here's an interview with Leigh about Sleeping Beauty.

So...the basic plot is a girl gets a sex job, but she doesn't have actual sex. She's drugged and lies there looking almost dead as men lie next to her and touch her.  Penetration is not allowed.

I was wondering. Okay, so where's the plot in all this? I was about one sentence behind the answer. The girl starts becoming obsessed about what's going on during her missing hours.

It is a weird feeling. I was put under for a colonoscopy in November.  One minute I'm there before the procedure, and the next thing I knew, it was all over. It really felt like it never happened. At times I have been paranoid enough to wonder, what if they never did anything? What if it's all a hoax? I pay all this money. They put me to sleep. Then I wake up, and they tell me I'm fine. I did get souvenir photos of the whole thing. But what if those were just photos taken from someone else's innards? I think what added to my silly paranoid idea is I had absolutely none of the post-symptoms I was warned about. I felt totally normal.

Back to the interview....

Leigh says the idea for Sleeping Beauty came from a dream.  That's very cool. My writing has sometimes been inspired by dreams. And it's neat that I'm reading about Leigh's dream, because I dreamed about HER last night.

Leigh's dream was that she was being filmed in her sleep.

Leigh says her story was inspired by the novel I mentioned above, but she was also inspired by the fairytale Sleeping Beauty. I think I misunderstood before. I thought she adapted another person's novel for the screen, but now I'm getting the idea it was simply a piece of work that inspired her own work.

I'm kind of at a loss of where to go next.

I think I'm going to read some reviews of The Hunter on Amazon.

Maybe I'll do a bunch of excerpts.

Here's one from a 5 star review: This is a vivid, compelling narrative whose significance does not just reside in its own details. It clearly is an allegory of `globalization', where M is the metropolitan outsider seeking to exploit the environment, and the nature and people of Tasmania represent a local particularity in danger of being absorbed into the global. I don't know what that means exactly, but it sounds good.

Another 5 star reviewer says, The real highpoint of the book is how it only slightly gives hints and clues on the man and his background, yet beautifully describes his inner thoughts, reflections, feelings, and detachment from the human world and the people in it. I understand that better than the paragraph above. It's interesting. I wonder if presenting the character that way makes them more of an enigma.

This 4 star review annoys me. While development goes from fascinating to creepy, the reader can't help but read, read, read...and you just can't escape. It's like a train wreck--you just can't look away.

Why does this reviewer feel the need to speak for all readers? Maybe she couldn't stop reading, but I bet other readers were happy to do so.

I'm thinking maybe people talk this way because they've been taught not to overuse the word "I". They feel if they talk about themselves too much, they'll look self-centered. And I don't like self-centered people who talk to much about themselves, so I would get where they're coming from. But there IS a time to put yourself in the sentence rather forcing your viewpoint on everyone else. There's no fault in saying something like I couldn't help but read, read, read, and I couldn't escape. It's like a train wreck. I just couldn't look away.

A 3 star review says,  Though the prose is brutally compelling and the sense of drama very high, the message here feels like a message, and it is very grim.

In other words, the book was probably too depressing for her. I wish I remembered the book enough to know if I'd agree or not. Based on what I DO remember of Leigh's other novel, I can imagine it was depressing. I'd personally rather read an uplifting novel than a depressing one. I think what makes me okay with Leigh's novels are the length. I'm okay being in a depressing world for a short period of time. I wouldn't want to be there for over 300 pages. That would be too much.

A 2 star review says "The Hunter" is a book that is annoying in that it is written in present tense.  entirely. I'm actually relieved to read that. I wrote my novel in present tense, feeling it was a bit different, but not something completely innovative. I liked the idea of doing it, and I was reassured by the fact that present-tense novels are more commonplace these days. But then after I published my novel, I started getting the idea that my novel IS very different. Because it seemed the other present-tense novels out there were all first person. Mine is third person. So it kind of reads like a screenplay at time.

I guess it wouldn't be the end of the world to have a novel with an extremely unique style. But it's probably better that you don't...especially if you're a new writer desperate for readers.

And it's not all good news for me. The writer of the 2 star review isn't the only one who doesn't like present tense. I've seen the prejudice elsewhere. A part of me thinks maybe I should regret using present tense. Or maybe I should even rewrite the novel. But then I tell myself, there are people who are okay with it. And I don't know if hating present tense is a very common opinion.

Taste in books varies widely.

Now I'm looking at a 1-star review.  A guy didn't like the book because it was too much about the hunter, and there wasn't enough about the Tasmanian Tigers. That makes sense to me.  Sometimes we want a story to be about one thing, and it ends up being more about something else. I feel this has happened to me at some point, but I can't think of a specific example.

I had fun looking at the reviews, but I'm already burned out. So I'll skip doing the same for Disquiet.

Never mind.

Well, I was going to look at one professional review for Disquiet, but I think reader reviews interest me more. What I'll do though is reduce. Instead of reading several reviews, I'll read one 4 star and one 2 star. And this time I'll look at Goodreads instead of Amazon.

Here's a review by a guy named Nicholas During. He says, I think I have a new definition of the word "creepy," it would be: read this book, which is pretty much the creepiest book I think I may have ever read. It reminds me a bit of Daphne du Maurier and Shirley Jackson, though it straddles the line of the "horror" or "suspense" genre to good effect.

Since I'm providing the names of the reviewers on Goodreads, I'm feeling maybe I should have done the same for the Amazon reviewers. I'm so inconsistent. Oh well. I'm too lazy to go back and find their names.

I'm now reading Michelle's 2 star review. She's not very sympathetic towards the mother of the stillborn child. She says, Yes, I felt sorry for her loss, but I also wanted to snatch the bundle away when she wasn’t looking and bury it in the grave they had dug in the family plot. I mean Michelle DOES say she's sorry for her loss. But you can be sorry for a loss in a formal way rather than a truly empathetic way. I think you have to have a lot of mothering-empathy in order for the book to work for you. Yes, I think most readers will be grossed out by this woman carrying around her dead baby, but I think some of us can also deeply feel her loss. And from what I remember of reading the book, I think I probably had empathy for her actions.

I'm going to watch the trailer for The Hunter.

I think one of the guys in the movie is on Rush.

Yep! I'm right. The actor's name is Callan Mulvey.

While I'm here on YouTube, maybe I'll see if there are any other videos about Julia Leigh stuff.

There's a lot of Sleeping Beauty stuff, but to be honest I'm less interested in that. I'd rather know more about her novels.

There's another Julia Leigh out there. She sings songs with her sister. Here they sing "I Won't Give Up" by Jason Mraz. I think it's quite lovely.

And here's another Julia Leigh. In this video, she works with a drum.

I've been trying to find Julia Leigh on Twitter. And I've found a few, but none are the one I was hoping to find.

I HAVE found a website about Leigh's time in NYC. It probably wasn't when my sister's friend was studying there. Leigh went for the first time in 2003, and then returned in 2007.

Leigh was part of a mentoring program in which Toni Morrison was her mentor.

The website actually belongs to the mentoring program. It's sponsored by Rolex. They have mentor relationships for architecture, dance, film, literature, music, theater, and visual arts. It looks very prestigious.

This page explains how they find their protégés. They have a panel for each discipline. Then those panels find artists they want in the program, and ask them to submit applications. But how do they find them in the first place?  It sounds so mysterious, and kind of like a basis for some kind of thriller.

In the story, something would go wrong with the relationship. One of the parties would become obsessed with the other. Would it be the protégé becoming obsessed with the mentor. Or the opposite?

I once wrote a novel in which a girl is a big fan of an actress. She takes care of the actress's official website. Then it switches around and the actress ends up being obsessed with her fan. The fan was in a coma. I don't remember why now. Oh! I think I remember something, though. The actress becomes involved with the fan's treatment, and this leads to her falling in love with her. I think she was a lesbian, but the fan was not.

Anyway, I totally think something like that would work for a story based on this program. You have the well-respected famous mentor. The protégé is eager and honored to work with her. The feelings slowly become mutual, and then are turned upside down. Maybe the mentor has some dark secret that repulses the protégé. Well, maybe she's really jealous and possessive. Something like that....

Here's a page about Leigh's relationship to Morrison. It's interesting, but I think my thriller idea is much more interesting.