There must be some way out of here,” said the joker to the thief,
There’s too much confusion, I can’t get no relief.
No reason to get excited,” the thief, he kindly spoke,
There are many here among us who feel that life is but a joke.
But you and I, we’ve been through that, and this is not our fate,
So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late.
From: All Along the Watch Tower (Bob Dylan)
It’s a sunny spring day, and time to update news of the book, the life, in which Elusive Language dances tantalizingly before me, behind me, within me. And thinking of all the selves that nestle within us, and in particular, my own ‘writing self’ versus my ‘public speaking self’. And how, in comparison, the writing self is the one that comfortably wears the old slippers and favourite jersey. And the public speaking self is an uncertain venture onto a tight-rope, wearing the straight jacket, requiring practice and applied self control. Not daring to look down.
A couple of weeks ago, I was a participant at the Women’s Book Shop Litera-Tea – a feast of twelve writers giving carefully timed readings and discourses to pitch their wares. It was a fantastic opportunity to meet other writers and share our nervousness in the corridors, to admire each other’s shoes, brooches and colour schemes, before marching together onto the stage to strut our precious stuff. At half time, cakes and sales. Cakes. I love cakes but couldn’t eat one mouthful. All those crumbs. All that delectable stuff to get caught in a trembling throat. Multi-tasking is not my thing. Sometimes the body just can’t eat and socialize at the same time.
And now the sun is swinging its inevitable course towards the Going West Festival, to be held next weekend.
I’ll be on stage with my daughter, Xanthe, and we’ll be talking about all those things that are dear to us. Hmmmm … no, not topics like, when I’m available to baby-sit, and whether there will be lamb shanks for dinner and when are you going to return my salad bowl and that big soup pot. But other, deeper, as yet indefinable unfathomable elusive things which are yet to come to us.
After Going West, it’s south, on our tour of New Zealand to Whanganui, to the Literary Festival there, run by the indefatigably enthusiastic Joan Rosier-Jones.
By then we will be old hands at the professional speaking lark, we’ll have it off pat, we’ll be a laugh and a half, we’ll be the duo of the denum. And Gayelene Holly will help facilitate our session, just to make sure. Xanthe continues the next day, to do her own gig. By then, I’ll have allowed myself a drink, and will be able to gurgle relaxedly at everything every other speaker says. Unless I’m sitting in a corner hunched over the post mortem of what I said, should have said, shouldn’t have said, could have said, might have said. But no. It’ll be great. And there, at the festival, my collection of short stories – Visiting Ghosts – first published all those years ago by Hodder and Stoughton, will be reissued by Tangerine Press, the first in their Timeless Classics series. I saw the proofs the other day. It was a thrill to hold the stories again in a new cover. It will also be available online.
After that we return to Auckland so that Xanthe can bounce off to Japan where she will present another wonderful landscape design at the Nagasaki World Cup of Gardening. (Last year, at the same event, she won a gold medal and the Award for Best Design in Show. Just boasting. As only a mother can.)
And that’s the end of the world tour of New Zealand for me, until the Words on a Small Island Book Festival.
That’s on Waiheke Island, in November, where Xanthe and I will perform our, by now, polished and practised gig together. Where we will be discussing the afore-mentioned unfathomably indefinable mysteries of life. Unless she hasn’t yet returned my salad bowl and soup pot.
And meanwhile, the book, The Elusive Language of Ducks is still hopping on and off the Nielsen New Zealand fiction best sellers list.