Friday, September 4, 2009

Lately I've been thinking about Bob Ellis

I hope you will forgive the digression. Bob, as far as I know, is not a travel writer. But I am 'in conversation' with him on Thursday, as part of the Brisbane Writers Festival, and so he has begun to occupy my thoughts rather more than I think he should. I am some way through his And So It Went, a diary account of 2008.

I have a lot of questions I want to ask Bob about the diary as a literary form: its modally mixed nature; the blending of personal and public, domestic and national concerns; its immediacy, the closeness to the events it describes; its capacity to evaluate and critique a year through close observation; its irreverence and hostility; the melancholy evoked by the passing of time.

All literary questions, really: questions about the diary and its devices. And justifiably, what, 5 minutes of an hour-long conversation? Especially given an audience that will surely have come to hear him talk life & death, love & politics.

I must give way before more urgent matters, and here are some of them:
  • "Al Gore never bowled googlies for Tenessee." (p. 46)
  • "No wonder I snarl at waiters. I see each day on the street hundreds, thousands of dumb-bums who will outlive me." (p. 92)
  • "Three kids with microphones then sang 'Advance Australia Fair' and I truly wondered if any nation with such an anthem could long endure." (p. 170)
  • "Oh shut up, Ellis." (p. 184)
  • "We are all immigrants now; discuss." (p. 267) And, "Global capitalism depends on immigration; discuss. And happiness depends on staying home." (p. 269)
  • On the Olympic Opening Ceremony in Beijing: "Many, many young fools who have wasted their youth outswimming or outrunning a clock to show they are in some way better beings, better samples of evolution, than their equally drugged and masochistic rivals march under flags around the ring asserting all this has meaning. (p. 332)

And have a look at pp. 169-172 for what is surely the only synopsis of Hamlet ever given on a walking machine.

"All happiness depends on staying home." I wonder.

The book: Ellis, Bob. And So It Went: Night Thoughts in a Year of Change. Viking, 2009.