Madura Sunrise

Journal: 058

Yesterday morning I woke up way out in the desert at Madura, 600 km after the last town, Penong SA, 525 km to the next, Norseman WA, and another 725 km after Norseman to Perth (map). I made it home around 8.00pm but couldn’t face another 3 or 4 hours getting my last trailer in, so that cost me most of this morning. Now, after lunch and a glass of wine, I can finally attend to my bloggerly duties.

The good news is that while I was on the road Victoria announced that it had got on top of its second wave Covid outbreak and was coming out of lockdown. The next good news was that the WA’s hard border was down and that visitors would be allowed in from states without ongoing infections. The bad news was that this doesn’t yet include Victoria and that, unlike the citizens of both Vic and WA, truck drivers who travel between the two must continue to self-isolate. Still, I have my fingers crossed for Christmas.

[Just then, I wrote something, deleted it and somehow deleted the previous paragraph with it. Luckily, Undo worked just fine. Did we always have Undo?]

Otherwise, I had an unremarkable trip. It rained. It’s rained every trip for as far back as I can remember. At least with the coming of spring the rain seems a bit warmer. And I saw two Mallee Fowl. In the Mallee (north western Victoria). I’ve seen them a few times over here in the west, going into mines in mallee scrub country, but despite all the years I lived there, this was the first time I’d seen them in Victoria. Which leads me to where are the great flocks of cockatoos, galahs and rosellas that we used to see as kids? I still see some of course, but nothing like we used to, nor magpies. Every other bird these days is a crow. I blame glysophate.

That’s the reading/listening for three trips or six weeks down there, representing maybe half a dozen half-considered and abandoned posts, mostly because by the time I sit down at my computer I’ve forgotten all the arguments with which I was going to dazzle you. But two American books to which I listened on the way home made me think some more about ‘the Independent Woman’.

The Independent Woman in Australian Literature was, I’m sure you all know by now, the title of my M.Litt dissertation. Its thesis is that Australian women writers developed an archetypal heroine who eschews marriage in favour of career, that this is an alternative to the male archetype – mates in the bush/brave, larrikin Anzacs beloved of politicians; and that this archetype seems peculiarly Australian though with possible antecedents in early English Lit.

What started me thinking was Robert Heinlein’s Beyond this Horizon (1942). The principal theme of the work, as was so often the case with Heinlien, is supermen – in the Nietzschean sense – but here the hero meets a woman who might be his equal, including in the wearing of guns. His response is, “You’re not one of those independent women, are you?” before wrestling her to the floor, taking away her gun, and forcing her to accept a kiss. At which she falls in love with him and becomes the mother of his (super) children.

Next up was a Danielle Steel, Power Play (2014), which was less formulaic than I had feared. We follow two CEOs of major corporations who have very contrasting years. One, a woman, long divorced is both competent and moral; the other a guy with a wife who gave up being a lawyer to be his perfect helpmeet, who sleeps with his young women employees, and who has a second family in another city. Interestingly, the guy has a woman chairman of the board who forces him to resolve the two wives thing (Spoiler: they both leave him).

It is my opinion, though without going to the trouble of collecting actual evidence, that US writers shy away from allowing their women too much independence and almost invariably have them, in the end, deferring to men. Prime example: Marge Simpson. Possible exception: Willa Cather.

In my next post, later this week (touch wood), I’ll address Brona’s #AusReadingMonth2020 and also my coming Australian Women Writers, Gen 3 Part II Week (second or third week of Jan. 2021).

Recent audiobooks 

Gene Wolfe (M, USA), The Land Across (2013) – SF (sort of)
Kevin Wignall (M, Eng), The Traitor’s Story (2016)
John Grisham (M, USA), Sycamore Row (2013) – Crime
Jacqueline Winspear (F, Eng), In This Grave Hour (2017) – Crime
Jenny Siller (F, USA), Iced (2000) – Crime
Mark Twain (M, USA), The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884)
Nick Spalding (M, Eng), Love and Sleepless Nights (2012) – Comedy?
Neil White (M, Eng), Next to Die (2013) – Crime
JD Robb (F, USA), Born in Death (2006) – SF/Crime
Edith Wharton (F, USA), A Son at the Front (1923)
Lee Child (M, Eng), A Wanted Man (2012) – Crime
Ben Lieberman (M, USA), Odd Jobs (2013)– Crime. DNF
Petra Durst-Benning (F, Ger), The Glassblower (2014) – Hist.Fic
Gaston Leroux (M, Fra), The Mystery of the Yellow Room (1908) – Crime
Bradford Morrow (M, USA), The Forgers (2013)– Crime. DNF. Boring
F Herbert, B Ransom (M, USA), The Ascension Factor (1988) – SF
Unknown (M, Eng), Beowulf (700?)
Danielle Steel (F, USA), Power Play (2014)
L Ziepe (F, Eng), The Morning After the Wedding Before (2019) – Comedy
Bruce Porter (M, USA), Snatched (2016)– NonFic.
Mickey Spillane, M Collins (M, USA), King of the Weeds (2014) – Crime
Robert Heinlein (M, USA), Beyond this Horizon (1942)– SF

Currently reading

KS Prichard (F, Aust/Vic), The Pioneers
Melina Marchetta (F, Aust/NSW), Saving Francesca
Melina Marchetta (F, Aust/NSW), The Place on Dalhousie
Georgette Heyer (F, Eng), The Grand Sophy

Recent Purchases

Zorah Neale Hurston (F, USA), Jonah’s Gourd Vine
Elena Ferrante (F, Ita), The Lying Life of Adults
Sally Rooney (F, Eng), Conversations with Friends
Haruki Murakmi (M, Jap), The Wind-up Bird Chronicle
Thomas Pynchon (M, USA), V
Ursula Le Guin (F, USA) The Unreal and the Real Vol.s 1,2

23 thoughts on “Madura Sunrise

  1. Enjoyed this of course Bill. Surely by Christmas WA will accept travel from Victoria the way the figures are going. We are hoping our family can visit here.

    Birds. We saw a little v-formation of ducks the other day, and commented that we rarely see those sorts of v-formation flocks anymore. Magpies though are another thing. Today (and recently) we did have our local magpie family. Baby (same size as Mum) was following her around squawking squawking squawking. Poor mum was so harried. No sooner did she pop something in bub’s mouth than the squawking started up again. We love our magpies. We haven’t “tamed” them, but they are used to us and aren’t too bothered by being near us out in the front garden. We have wattle birds in our garden regularly, and what we call up here crimson rosellas. Sulphur cresteds and Black cockatoos visit at certain times of year. We used to have wrens, but our changed landscaping has seen them go. I hope they might be back.

    Interested in your comment about American independent women. Will need to think about that. There is of course Jo March (who has to remind us a little of Sybylla?) I think there are other independent women in American literature – in Edith Wharton and Kate Chopin for example – but their trajectory is different.

    Anyhow, enjoy your isolation!

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    • During the state budget last month it was assumed that the hard border would remain until April. My 70th and my daughter’s wedding are in the last weeks of March and some interstate guests have already had to cancel their accommodation rather than get stuck with the cost. But at least the two kids in the NT are free to come and go. Mum in Melbourne not so much.

      I hardly see or hear magpies at all. Perhaps it’s just WA. And crimson rosellas – how lucky are you.

      Jo is interesting and not un-independent, but Little Women is a primer on different ways to marry. Jo only has a career because it is compatible with husband and children

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      • Oh, maybe he’ll change his mind by then If things continue as they are. I can certainly understand interstate guests being anxious about costs. Fingers crossed for you and your daughter.

        Birds. Canberra is described as the “bush capital” which means I think that we tend to have a lot of birds, except I suppose in newly establishing suburbs where trees are few. But trees tend to be planted and the birds (I presume) come!

        Hmm, true re Jo. I think I understand independent woman a little more broadly as being independent of mind and spirit, not as not being allowed marriage at all. If like Jo they can work to have their cake and eat it too, why refuse them the chance to have a significant other? Independent men are allowed to, why not women?

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      • I’m a reporter not an advocate (I’m a romance fan after all). There was a significant anti marriage movement in Australian women’s writing whereas Americans seem to be afraid of women not marrying.

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  2. LOL Bill, you should come to my part of Melbourne: we regularly get flocks of galahs and corellas right here in our suburban streets. Goodness knows what they eat…
    When I was doing the daily commute, I used to see huge flocks of pelicans in the early morning (7-ish). They were following the chain of wetlands across Melbourne, I suppose, because I passed by Braeside Park which is a good spot for seeing pelicans.
    These days, the alarm goes off at 8.30…

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    • No wetlands where I drive, not even many trees, so I guess that explains it. I had to look up Corellas, pardon my ignorance. I guess I see them and think white cockatoos. I still don’t think there are the huge flocks that might once have taken out a whole paddock of wheat. My alarm – in my head – goes off at 5.00, hence the photo.

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      • We get masses of Corellas and Sulphur crested cockatoos on our median strips near where I live. You have to look a little close to distintinguish them when the crests are down which they usually are when feeding, but the Little Corella, though a biggish bird, is a little smaller (35-45cm) than the Sulphurs (45-50 or so cm), and the Corella has a pinkish tinge around the beak and eyes. Its eyes are more distinctive too – that is what I usually look for. Both are raucous!

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  3. I love that Danielle Steele made it into your reading – she’s regularly dismissed as writing ‘fluff’ but you have to admire her work ethic (and, as simple as her books may be, I don’t believe it is that easy to write in such straightforward way).

    I hope for your sake the borders open up again. And also for my sake – we had bookings in place for Ningaloo this year, which we’ve shifted to 2021, so very much hoping we get to go.

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    • I’ve no been to Ningaloo, which is remiss of me. I’ve barely been a tourist in WA at all. Your Dan has done such a good job that I suspect we’ll be letting Victorians in before xmas.
      Danielle Steele seemed to be quite well written. I enjoyed it anyway. I was thinking of taking a step further down and reading/reviewing Nora Roberts. I enjoy the books she writes as JD Robb and would be interested to see if the values she displays in the ‘in Death’ series carry over to her romances.

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  4. We have a proper flock of parakeets in one of our local parks now, if it helps. There has been a small colony for a good decade and a half but there are 20 or more now! Sounds so complicated over there, although we had different Tiers of lockdown for different areas for a bit (total lockdown coming on Thursday). Sister in law’s sister is still trying to get back to Melbourne …

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    • My understanding is that Victoria is now able to accept international returnees into hotel quarantine, though I’m pretty sure there’ll be a quota. Sounds like if Boris gets his Bill through in the next day or so you’ll be taking photo of the day out the upstairs windows. I’d be surprised if four weeks is enough, but I hope it is. My problem is I live on the river (Swan) but rarely take advantage of the opportunity to walk/ride along it and see what birds I’m neighbours with.

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      • Well although I did take a photo out of the window this morning, we are going to be allowed out and for more than an hour at a time and even with one other person if they’re not from our household. So all sort of vaguely good still. I did do an emergency trip to the charity book shop on Monday as I’m in two booky secret santas and although I don’t know who my recipients are yet, I could get good appealing books to put in their parcels!

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  5. Your audio list is impressive indeed Bill. I love how diverse it is. Looks like you’re almost caught up with the Maisie Dobbs series too. When I pass a truck on the highway these days, I now wonder what audiobook is being listened to 🙂

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    • Maisie Dobbs is ok, but I think our Phryne Fisher is better. For some reason the library system seems very slow to add new Phryne titles. I wonder if Bolinda preferences direct sales – they’re in all the roadhouses – over libraries. It’s a long time since I questioned other drivers about their listening habits, but I imagine the short answer is Matthew Reilly and Robert Barrett.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Oooooh, I also have Jonah’s Gourd Vine on my TBR. I own a collection of Hurston’s novels in one book. Okay, let’s be honest: I own all of Hurston’s books.

    When I read the nonfiction book about birds earlier this year, I was surprised that there was so much focus on Australian birds. Then I learned that most of the birds that are studied are found in North America and the U.K.; however, those birds are common only to those areas and are not common around the globe. You’d enjoy this book on audio, if you can get it: https://grabthelapels.com/2020/06/25/the-bird-way/

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    • I feel so guilty about the books you recommend that I don’t read that I just had to buy Hurston when I saw her. I’m probably tied up reading wise until into the new year but I’ll try and get it read then.
      I like looking at the bush and the wildlife around me, but am very poor at putting names to what I see.

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  7. Dang. That seems like one heck of a long drive. 38 hours according to the map you linked. Wowza. I mean, I know this is what you DO for a living but it still boggles my mind sometimes. I couldn’t do what you do – it’s amazing.

    Have you listened to all these books during this last trip? I like the idea of listing all the books you’ve read and just leaving it at that. I really need to let go a bit of my own book review writing.

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    • I’m probably used to the driving after 50 years at it. I like the process of driving, stopping to sleep, driving another day, stopping to sleep, and driving again. Sunrise, sunset, sunrise, sunset, across an almost interminable continent. The books I listed covered three trips – I listen to maybe 8 books each trip, it’s just that I hadn’t written a journal for a while. A lot of it of course is dross, not worth reviewing, but I’m sorry sometimes for the literary fiction I listen to that for one reason or another I don’t write up. For instance I didn’t enjoy Huck Finn as much this time round and I think Twain wimped out a bit on taking a fully abolitionist stance.

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      • As long as you’re happy, Bill, who cares? This is one of the reasons human civilization works – different strokes for different folks!

        Yeah, a lot of what I read is not worth reviewing either. But sometimes it’s more than I’m not in the right mindset to write a good review. I need a lot of down time to feel like I can get a solid review written.

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  8. I was going to ask how you felt about Huck if this was a reread for you; I’ve not reread it yet. (You’ve answered this in a comment above, but feel free to elaborate if you like.) Danielle Steele’s romances were some of the first adult books I read when I was in my early teens. I didn’t mind that they were all the same. A reading friend recently shared this article with me, regarding work ethic. It’s fascinating. https://www.glamour.com/story/danielle-steel-books-interview On the matter of your upcoming reads, I’ve got the Ferrante in my stack as well, for soonish, and I’ve had those LeGuin collections in mind for YEARS. But I suppose you’d be reading them much more quickly than I’d be game to try. I think I could only handle one of her stories a week…some of them are so long and thoughtful. Which is a good thing, but…SO many books, right?

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    • Yes, so many books. When I look back, perhaps the only author I will buy and read as soon as I hear he has another book out is William Gibson, and before him, Ian M Banks. But Vol I of the Le Guins is travelling around with me and may well be read soon. Though my duty lies in the direction of Gen 3 Week. Actually, if I came across a Heyer I hadn’t read that would also be up there with Gibson, and hang duty.
      I was surprised to find I liked my first Danielle Steele, I’d better give her another go.
      I’m sorry, if I don’t write a review immediately, then it all slips away. I had forgotten that Jim doesn’t escape in the end but is set free by his owner – after he and Huck miss the river junction (the Ohio?) to head north. Twain this time round felt a bit timid in his abolitionism. I also felt Twain’s ‘story telling’ was a bit forced. Give me a couple of years and I’ll read it again and write a review.

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