Dragan’s Back

Journal: 078

There are still wildflowers out in the desert, the last remnants of Spring in amongst the usual grey green scrub and red dirt. But as I never stop to take photos (of flowers, trucks are another matter) you must make do with the kangaroo paw on my balcony which is doing well for a change.

And I’ve been seeing lots of desert. After a blue with the last company I worked for – they booked me for a three day job then ‘forgot’ to tell me it was cancelled – I had a few weeks at home, and in desperation called … Dragan. Sam and Dragan and I spent a pleasant afternoon in the lunchroom swapping war stories and the upshot is Dragan will keep me going with work within WA (and yes, he’s already pressuring me to cross the border to do changeovers. But no way, Jose).

Last weekend I went up to Wiluna, 600 km north of Kalgoorlie and literally the last town on the edge of the dead centre – the Little Sandy Desert or the Gibson Desert – and then 50 km past the end of the bitumen. That was a warm up. As soon as I got home I was off to a mine 100 km past the end of the wheatbelt, past Wave Rock, and then follow the dirt road towards Norseman 80 km, turn north maybe 30 km, and locate the turnoff to a new mine – and if you miss it you’ll be back in phone range in only two or three hours.

This weekend, for a different carrier, I’m going 450 km on a corrugated dirt track out from Kalgoorlie. If I miss that mine … well, I’ll be carrying a satellite phone so hopefully someone will come and find me. (The view from my office window is a bit different from your facebook pic of footprints in the snow in suburban Birmingham. Hey Liz.)

Not driving put a damper on my audio reading, so once I was back on the road I was listening to books without a break in between. There’s some in the list below that I really should have reviewed. Margaret Atwood’s On Writers and Writing was of course for MARM, but I couldn’t get anything from it without notes. She’s a lovely speaker but spent a chapter on ‘my childhood’, then six chapters, from a series of talks she gave somewhere, seemingly on the relationship of writing to religion. Lost me!

I re-listened to Anne Tyler’s Clock Dance so I could comment at least a little bit knowledgeably on Liz Dexter’s review (here) and thoroughly enjoyed it. BIP recommended Cory Doctorow to me some time during MARM. Little Brother is a YA novel of 17 year olds in San Francisco fighting back against the surveillance state and the ridiculous powers awarded in panic to Homeland Security. We have done and continue to do the same thing here (award obscene powers to the security apparatus, that is. No one’s fighting back that I can see). Worth reading. But the best was from the late master, Peter Temple. White Dog is a murder mystery, a tragedy, a tour through Melbourne and Victoria, and a romp around country racecourses.

Of the ‘Currently readings’, ie. books made the old fashioned way with words on paper, These Old Shades was a just a few hours with an old friend. The Young Fur Traders, a very old friend, I have already reviewed; and the other three will be written up sooner rather than later.

My North American Project

I admit I did not use that three weeks off the road to advance this project as far as I should. But, I own Their Eyes Were Watching God, so that will be my January read. I’ll put up a review after AWW Gen 4 Week, probably on Mon 31 Jan. My February read is The Autobiography of Malcolm X. There’ll be a review (from me) and also a guest post from Melanie (Grab the Lapels), at the end of the month, of her experience reading and teaching it.

For March and April I had better see what Canadians I can obtain, through the library system, or from Audible. See the list of books I’m working from (here). I’ve just been re-reading your comments, we might have to make it a two year project!

Let’s say I go with Nalo Hopkinson – BIP, Naomi – help! – which one? Midnight Robber, The Salt Roads, Falling in Love with Hominids. And then perhaps both of Richard Wagamese, Indian Horse and Eden Robinson, Son of a Trickster. One of them later in the year.

Back in the US I have on my shelves Octavia Butler’s Kindred, so that’s in, but for the sake of balance I can probably only squeeze in one of Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, The Color Purple and Maya Angelou, before we get Louise Erdrich and US First Nations. That gets us to 8 reads, so four to go. Maybe Esi Edugyan (Can), but I’m struggling – I’d really like both an older and a leading edge US First Nations. There is more to do. And more arm-twisting from you, probably.


Recent audiobooks 

Louis de Bernieres (M, Eng), So Much Life Left Over (2018)
Kate Atkinson (F, Eng), Transcription (2018) – Hist.Fic (WWII)
Anne Tyler (F, USA), Clock Dance (2018)
Margaret Atwood (F, Can), On Writers and Writing (2015) – NF
Peter Temple (M, Aust/Vic), White Dog (2003) – Crime
Cory Doctorow (M, Can), Little Brother (2008) – SF
Janet Evanovich (F, USA), Curious Minds (2016) – Crime
Richard Flanagan (M, Aust/Tas), Death of a River Guide (1994)
JM Coetzee (M, Aust/SA), Elizabeth Costello (2003)

Currently reading

Georgette Heyer (F, Eng), These Old Shades
RM Ballantyne (M, Scot), The Young Fur Traders
Simone de Beauvoir (F, Fra), The Inseparables
Tsitsi Dangarembga (F, Zim), This Mournable Body
John Kinsella (M, Aust/WA), Pushing Back (short stories)

43 thoughts on “Dragan’s Back

  1. Dragan’s resisted giving me local/north west work in the past, but perhaps he’s got more flexible as he’s aged. He was pretty anxious to get me to go to Pt Augusta today though, which would have put me straight back in to isolation.


    • I love that when I see “Dragan” I always think he’s an old “Dragon,” of course. I’m not sure I fully understand your relationship with this person. He gives you work, but…you don’t really want to work for him in particular? Anyway, it does feel a bit like a plot in a novel or movie, where the hero is down on his luck and must turn to the last person he wants to. I assume you’re refusing to cross borders due to COVID, isolating, the brain test, etc?

      I’m not sure how truckers keep their schedules straight. Maybe just practice and experience? Next semester I’m taking a course called Introduction to Interpreting, and I know part of it is about how to manage the paperwork, bill people, etc. The business of interpreting.

      I didn’t realize that Atwood had a book about writing. Usually, I’m up on such things, but not with her. Then again, if she’s spending six chapters comparing writing to religion, I’m not sure that’s a book for me. As much as I love Anne Lamott’s fiction, her non-fiction trends into pseudo-Christianity woo-woo turf, and I’m not here for that.


      • Yes, I’m not crossing borders because of the requirement to go into iso on return, AND testing is every 3 days which is really hard to organise. I’m enjoying the paperwork side of my business, probably because I keep it up to date. My experience years ago was that small businesses only invoice about 90% of what they should, mostly because they don’t document their work as they go.

        I’ve almost certainly mischaracterised Atwood’s On Writers & Writing – and I wouldn’t be surprised if it had a different name in the US – because I wasn’t paying enough attention. But she did for some reason keep comparing writing to the Roman Catholic church.

        Liked by 1 person

      • ROTFL: “It does feel a bit like a plot in a novel or movie, where the hero is down on his luck and must turn to the last person he wants to.”


      • I can see that. And it is indicative of how much I dislike cold calling that I turned to him. On the other hand, I’ve know Dragan and Sam for twenty years and we get on well when we’re not getting on each other’s nerves.


      • Mateship is how Australians define themselves and the fact that it excludes women is deliberate. The reason I wrote The Independent Woman is that Australian feminists spend all their time whingeing about mateship. The nearest they have come to an alternative is terms like ‘pioneers’ and farmers which are now meant to be inclusive.

        But no feminist has ever bothered to posit a pro-female alternative narrative to mates and mateship. Except me, and I’m not a feminist, and it shouldn’t have been my job. I live in hope that one day a young woman will steal The Independent Woman, and its publication will be career defining (for her) in the way that Damned Whores and God’s Police was for Anne Summers.


      • I’m not sure I’m reading this comment correctly? All the work you do seems pro-feminist but you say you’re not a feminist? Also, is The Independent Woman your thesis from school, or are you referring to your blog?


      • I’m always inclined to side with the oppressed against the oppressor, which as an old white guy in a wealthy western country puts me in the difficult position of being both a beneficiary and an opponent of oppression. But, I don’t think women need me to be a feminist, and I am a critic of modern Australian feminists who fail to acknowledge that early Australian women writers were at the leading edge of first wave feminism.
        And yes, I meant my dissertation, which I use my blog (sometimes) to expand on.


      • I see what you mean. The hard thing about calling oneself a feminist is the varied definitions of it. If you go by the most basic, that men and women deserve equal and equitable treatment and opportunities, then I would argue most people are feminists. However, the more into the weeds we get, the harder it becomes to say proudly, “I am a feminist.” Here’s an example: back when I was on Facebook I joined a group called Binders Full of Women Writers. It was supposed to be a support group for women writers. However, they spent most of their time arguing about whether it’s appropriate to begin a post with “Hi, ladies!” or if transwomen are women or if using female pronouns should be assumed, etc. I very shortly thereafter abandoned that group. It was so lost in the weeds that the group didn’t DO anything. This example reminds me of the time I was at an English Department meeting where one professor argued over one word in a course description so vehemently that we used up the whole hour on just that.

        Back to your comment: I think that because you are an “old white guy in a wealthy western country” women absolutely need you to be a feminist. You are in a place of power because of your gender, skin color, and age, so you can use those things to the advantage of women.


      • Atwood’s book on writing was originally published as Negotiating with the Dead and, with that edition, it was clear that she was presenting separate ideas in essays, even though there are threads that continue of course. Now you’ve got me curious about how different this reissue might be!


      • I didn’t do a very good job on MARM this year, though I think The Young Fur Traders was roughly on topic. Listening to Atwood on writing was sometimes interesting – the first two chapters on her childhood were really generic I did this and I did that (nowhere near as interesting as her novels on the same stuff), then somehow the Catholic church kept getting involved. If I’d read it, pencil in hand, I might have been able to engage with her arguments.


  2. Just looking at that dirt road makes me dizzy, it looks like it’s moving. That’s great you can listen to so many audio books while you travel. You have some interesting reads coming up. I just watched the Malcolm X documentary and found him to be an interesting character and the dedication of the man who at the centre of its creation, was inspiring.

    Bonne route and happy listening!


    • Malcolm X was a big name by the time I got to uni, but I never knew a lot about him. Melanie on the other hand, who is a generation younger than I, is full bottle, having studied and then taught him in her own College years. So it was an ideal book to choose.

      I’m not looking forward to hundreds of km of dirt. I just hope my truck and trailers aren’t, literally, shaken to bits.


  3. Ha, yes, slightly different! I’m glad you enjoyed Clock Dance. And I have the first Tsitsi Dangarembga so I’ll be interested to read about that one but then will have to keep your review for years and years till I get to it!


    • I was reading comments on your site yesterday. It was the first time I was aware that This Mournable Body was third or fourth in a series. It doesn’t seem to matter – the author doesn’t assume you know what happened in those earlier years, but of course you’ll know it in much more detail.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Their Eyes Were Watching God is on my Classics Club list and I’ve got a copy waiting to be read, so I might dig it out for January as well. Though I am already nervous about all the dialect!


  5. Enjoyed being filled in on the return of Dragan! Love the desert pictures – am a desert gal at heart.

    You are “reading” This mournable body. What a story. I wonder how it goes in audio form? (Whenever I write “mournable” autocorrect changes it to “mountable” which is extremely worrying!) I want to read the previous two books. And, what did you think of Elizabeth Costello. An intriguing book in a very different way.


    • Sue, I was writing you a reply and the guy turned up to unload me, so I sent off the first part of my answer rather than lose it. I’m home now. The trip out into the desert to Tropicana Mine fell through.

      Because I had a few weeks off, I’ve been reading an actual physical, on paper copy of This Mournable Body. I just hope I get time to finish it. I am finding Tambudzai a difficult character to like though I gather she is meant to be a metaphor for the new nation of Zimbabwe.

      The great novelists are always interesting to read, because there is generally more going on than you can pick up in one reading. In my last post I wrote a little more about EC, with reference to Nicholas Jose’s piece on it in Reading Like an Australian Writer.


      • Did I miss that post re EC? I was just thinking I might do another Read like an Australian writer post next week, though I have a review to write. Have you read his Diary of a bad year? That is “difficult” in many ways but oh so interesting to read and ponder.

        Yes, I know what you mean about Tambudzai, but I think you (as in “one”) warm to her more as the book wears on. I suspect, though don’t know, that we might feel differently if we’d read the previous two novels about her. At least, I haven’t read them, so I came to her cold.


      • ‘Fraid you did.
        I reviewed Diary of a Bad Year. Loved it (and referenced yours and Kim’s reviews).
        I’m about 2/3 through TMB – so she’s in the environment job – I hope I warm to her, But I don’t find either the writing or the character interesting enough to attempt the earlier two. Liz Dexter is planning on reading all three in order, though warns it’s going to take a while.


      • Well, I’ve made up for it now with a flurry of comments … so don’t beat me up too much.

        I should have checked Diary of a bad year before asking. So hard to remember who’s read what, but I apologise.

        As for Tambudzai. In my review, I didn’t exactly call her a metaphor for Zimbabwe but I said that her challenges and conflicts personified Zimbabwe. Hmm, same thing by a different name? Maybe “warming” to her is the wrong word, but I found her path and the writing engrossing.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Your insides must have been stirred and shaken by the time you got over all those corrugations on the road!! Dead bugs on the windscreen also scream roadtrip to me.

    The return of Dragan was a surprise, but you strike me as a practical man, and when you need to make a buck or two…(insert shrug).

    And it always makes me happy to see a Heyer on your current list 🙂


    • I’ve spent a bit of time on the dirt since I got back to driving in WA. Speeding trucks pretty quickly put corrugations in a newly graded road. My rule is max speed 60 kph, 40 or less with oncoming traffic. The trip out to Tropicana fell through, but the road out is notoriously bad, so I may have dodged a bullet.

      I had fun making Dragan the villain – and he really can be infuriating – but if he has work and doesn’t muck me around then we will probably do ok. And I do have another source of semi-regular work. The funny thing is that when I told Sam who that was he said that he had recently sold him a car.

      Sometimes when I am fed up with blogging and reading ‘for a purpose’ I grab an easy book and veg out for a few hours, especially when I have been home for a while. Georgette Heyer is ideal for this and I have a shelf of them to hand (and my youngest daughter has another).

      Liked by 1 person

  7. A very popular American book I read a couple of yrs ago was Hillbilly Elegy. I have always heard Malcoln X book is really good but have never had the energy to read it. Will be interested in what you think if you do read it. The book Educated by Tara Westover is a prettyrearkable story. If you haven’t read it I can recommend it. I enjoy hearing about your travels. ☕🐧🌴


    • Thanks for the recommendations Pam. My 2022 project is to read books from African-American and Indigenous writers from North America. The Australian Indig.Lit scene is so vibrant that I am hoping to find the same over there.

      It is always a pleasure to write about my travels (and travails) the more so as unlike reviewing it requires no research.


  8. Phew! So this is the post that I knew I missed, because you asked about Nalo Hopkinson on BIP, but I can see, now, that whatever went wrong with my notifications stretched back further. You must have thought I was being very off and on, even more than usual! Now I’ll wait and see what you’ve decided about the Indigenous reading, from south of the current US/Canada border, that you have planned for later in the year. Doctorow? Did I recommend him? I might have. He’s a storyteller so I think he’d be good on audio. Little Brother was chosen for a Canada Reads title last year or the year before and I think Naomi really liked it. (If you DID get us confused, I am just fine with it. But maybe I did suggest him on audio.)


    • I posted today (Monkey Grip) that I have decided on Midnight Robber for March 2022 (and Kindred for Jan.). I must say I was a bit worried that today would come and I’d be overwhelmed with comments – for other readers down here, Marcie has made 20 comments overnight on a dozen posts. I’m enjoying myself re-reading old posts and comments to regain context for my answers.
      I didn’t write the Doctorow in the ‘recommended’ page of my diary, so I must have seen it and the library and vaguely remembered one of you mentioning it, but more likely you. I have a few against your name, eg. Brown Girl in the Ring (Nov) and Oritz’s African American & LatinX history of the US (Jan) which I probably should chase up.


      • I feel like we spent the whole “afternoon” (for me) together! Heheh Even though I should have had about 16 days to catch up on, online, with your posts I was back to November somehow?! Oh, those two for sure, Nalo we chatted about and the other I clearly rec’d at some point, either in our convo about Roots or simply on BIP. I’d gladly reread that one, but I don’t think I’ll be able to do that this year.


      • Morning for me, I’m just starting to think about lunch. My stats page is showing Canada bright red with all the activity. I’m glad you’re back – and I hope you are being notified again. Don’t you find writing posts that you often have a particular reader in mind for the point you’re trying to make? And on that note, as a writer for magazines do you find you have to remind yourself to make each article stand alone, that you can’t rely on them being familiar with your work? I write so breezily that I find it’s an effort to cut that back for the AWW site.


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