a capital review

For reading, as this book demonstrates, is a journey of myriad possibilities ... in its profuse network of associations - some fleeting, some enduring - Luca Antara maps not merely the maze ... that reading can become, but the formation of our deeper selves. For as the hero of the Portuguese expedition to Luca Antara, Antonio da Nova, comes to realise, every journey is, inevitably, a search for our own souls. Edmond may not have the mastery of Sebald with this hybrid form, but this is nevertheless a book rich in ideas, at once erudite and eclectic, and full of beautifully unexpected and evocative descriptions ...

Fact or fiction, a remarkable journey; Diane Stubbings, The Canberra Times, 11.11.06

PS Was reading yesterday Randolph Stow, in the preface to To The Islands, complaining that some people thought his book was influenced by Patrick White's Voss, when it had in fact been written before Voss was even published. I feel a bit the same way about the (inevitable) W. G. Sebald comparison. It's an affinity, not an influence - I discovered my 'style', such as it is, before I'd read a word of Sebald.


from: A TRUE TALE OF LOVE IN TONGA (told in 23 engravings on wood and 333 words) by Robert Gibbings, London, Faber & Faber, MCMXXXV

ex libris Trevor Charles Edmond


Caught the train at about 4.30 from Summer Hill Station. There was a guy on the platform wearing a top hat & tails, a purple shirt & a gold bow tie. He was going up The Rocks to do some spruiking. Another bloke complimented him on his get-up & then started ear-bashing a pregnant Englishwoman, with child asleep in pram. It was about the tragedy of growing up in this world. She humoured him for a while and then lost it: I'm not going to go home & kill myself because some stranger on a train tells me his troubles! she snapped. He barely missed a beat but later, walking down the platform at Central, admitted to me that She got me there. I was early, I dawdled down Broadway, past where Antiquarian Books used to be, thinking I might stop in at the Broadway Hotel for a glass canoe ... but it's now a boutique cafe serving only bottled, boutique beer, so I turned off into Shepherd Street and walked up past where Pergamon Press used to be to the pub on the corner & had a beer there instead, among the scruffy, pre-rock 'n' roll crowd, with the dusty sunlight slanting down through the windows & the traffic roaring outside. Although I've been in there often before - once even to hear The Drifters play - I couldn't remember the name of the pub until I was leaving it. The Lansdowne. The great cloudy glass balls on the Grace Bros. Buildings are held in place by griffins, I realised, for the first time, & regretted not including that detail in the book. Ah, well. Past the shop where I bought this computer, noticing a screen / monitor almost twice the size of my one & wishing I could buy it. I'm dreamy & vague now because of the beer so I nearly don't recognize Jane Macduff sitting with Lesley McFadyean at a small table outside Badde Manors. I go with Jane to look at the venue & also to drop off the 2 cds I've brought along, Mariza's Transparente & Tinariwen's Radio Tisdas Sessions. Fado before & Tuareg desert music after seems like a good idea. Then we go back to join Lesley for a coffee before returning to Gleebooks where we stand around outside as the first few people start to arrive. By half past six the room upstairs is filling up nicely, the fado sounds great, the Turkish pizzas & the wine & the beer are going down but I don't want to start because my kids haven't arrived yet ... just then they show up at the top of the stairs, Liamh without one of his front teeth, which fell out this morning. I ask Jesse if he wants me to say anything about The Evil Chicken, his book, but he says no. They dim the lights, turn the music off, close the bar. Jane gets up & introduces Roger, with praises. We're sitting either side of the podium on the stage. I haven't seen Roger for a few years, he looks both more handsome and more gaunt than he used to. His launch speech is nicely meandering, he wanders happily here and there through the book, which he extols in almost embarrassingly fulsome terms. I see Jesse signing to me from the very front row, he means that I can say something about The Evil Chicken after all. I've tuned out momentarily during our dumb show & when I tune back in, Roger is talking about something he found on the Net, how he didn't realise I'd been living in a town in Queensland where he has relatives & visits often, which is a pity, because we could have caught up ... what on earth is he saying, I wonder, I've never lived in Queensland, I've only been there twice, once to the airport on the way back from Fiji - we didn't even get off the plane - and the other time to a National Park, a bat cave just over the NSW border? Then comes the punchline, he's been reading the Q & A I did with Mark Young as if I were Mark ... not realising I was the one asking the questions. This is quite funny although also a bit disconcerting. Then it's my turn, I say a few things & then read the bit about seeing the convict ghosts in the street outside the old Darlinghurst jail that time. My last remark is about Katherine spilling wine over her copy ... & as soon as I sit down at the signing table, that's what I do, spill my wine, all over the table. Fortunately there are no books on it at that point, but the cloth is soaked & they whip it away, leaving behind a surface that reminds me of an old school desk from the 1950s. The kids all crowd around while I'm signing, Liamh jigging my elbow & grinning like a pirate with his gat tooth, Jesse taking e-orders for The Evil Chicken, which I've described as both shorter & funnier than my book. That it is. His mate Monty is there too. It gets a bit blurred then, people saying goodbye & leaving with their books, some crashing bore who was at my last launch telling me Luca Antara is really Antarctica & then we're all being shooed out. Last person I see is my ex who calls across the street & comes running over, to say what I can't remember, but she hadn't bought a book & it was a great pleasure to give her one from my stash, though whether it will be a pleasure for her to read is another question, since she's in it, albeit under another name. Fran, Jane, Morgan & I go up to the Toxteth where I remember I sent, in all innocence, Anthony off to the Friend in Hand, since that's where I thought we were going then. I call them up, hear his name being shouted through the bar, but no answer. We drink 2 bottles of Oomoo & eat meaty dishes with many toasts & lots of laughs. Later still, the cabbie who takes me home is a negro Buddhist from Sri Lanka who says, when he's not working, he plays with his five year old son. I love my son, he says. And, of his religion, that acts have consequences. You do something bad, it will come back on you. Even so, we can't be good all the time. After I pay him, we shake hands, which is nice. Then I come back up here feeling ... beached or launched, I can't decide which. Perhaps I'm beached while the book is launched? If so, it must be time to do some more beachcombing ... happy days.


Luca X London

Heard this morning from my sister, who's been honeymooning in Europe, that she acquired a copy of Luca Antara in London last week ... ! Felt obscurely envious of the alleged author of such a far-travelled work. She, Katherine, has a friend, Belinda, who runs the NZ Bookshop in Lundinium, & Belinda had ordered in a few copies. This one, over what ocean I do not know, was accidently annointed with a few drops of (red?) wine on the trip back. Surely a good sign ...

Especially since the looming launch is causing me slight anxiety, if only because the invite did not include an RSVP address, so the Events Manager at Gleebooks (thank you, Morgan) does not know how many to cater for. She wanted me to re-call all those on my launch list to suggest that, if they're coming, they confirm, but I just can't do that. Figure that, you send out the invites & people come or not as they see fit. Turkish pide / pizza for 40 should do it, surely? And enough wine to spill over a few more copies.


Fernando Pessoa speaks ...

I’m nothing .
I’ll always be nothing.
I can’t even wish to be something.
Aside from that, I’ve got all the world’s dreams inside me.

in the person of Alvaro de Campos, The Tobacco Shop, opening lines



The first town we passed through was called Alas. It was the night of 1 November in that part of the world, the night before the US election. Everyone was awake; all the lights were on—greeny-blue low-wattage bulbs which give hardly any illumination. Every house had a TV set on too, brighter than the lights in the room, showing soap operas, dreamy laid-back music videos, advertisements for things the people watching would never be able to buy, interspersed with Muslim hymns, sermons, prayers and rants.

The people were awake because it was Ramadan and they had spent the day fasting, and were now spending the night eating and talking. All the young men with nowhere to go and nothing to do sat outside watching the traffic, playing guitars or chess, talking and not talking, waiting. For what? Alas, like every other town we passed through on that strange hot night under the gibbous yellow moon, was a town of hovels with, every now and then, a resplendent mosque in which the light was bright white, a tiled, clean, well-lighted place where white-robed men and women sat and talked or sang or prayed. The hovels explained the mosques or the mosques explained the hovels, I couldn't decide which, but in Indonesia it is the case that a mosque will be made available if there are ten believers who want one and some towns, the larger ones, really do seem to have a mosque for every ten hovels.

But not Alas. Alas was just a small town, a few hovels, one mosque, and still that crowd of young men sitting outside on the stoops in the hot night with or without guitars, waiting. Small children dressed in rags ran after the bus as we passed down the dusty single main street, yelling out in shrill high voices, dropping behind as we turned the corner and changed down and headed further east, where the road ran out of town and along a low shore with palms and the shadows of islands further out, behind which the swollen yellow moon rose higher in the brown sky.

from: Luca Antara