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Chris and I went into the city today on a (fruitless) shopping expedition to procure good shoes/boots for our trip, and afterwards we swung past to visit his girlfriend. She lives in St. George’s College, studying at the University of Western Australia. I’ve been to UWA a few times before, to pick my drunken sister up or to attend the Lotterywest Film Festival, and I’ve always been jealous of how much more attractive it is than my own alma mater, Curtin University. Most of Curtin’s campus is relatively modern and therefore hideous, showcasing contemporary architecture’s profane love affair with unnatural colours and sharp angles (for an example, check out the first photo in Curtin’s Wikipedia article.)
UWA, on the other hand, is nearly a hundred years old and therefore gorgeous, even with smashed windowpanes all over the place from the cataclysmic hailstorm Perth experienced last week. Chris’ girlfriend lives in a tiny room with shared bathrooms and considerable rent, but I think that would be worth it just to live in that awesome old college with heaps of other students. When I was at uni I was still living at home in the northern suburbs, driving down the freeway a few days a week to doodle in the margins of my notebook during a tutorial, and then driving home again. Sure, it was better than my current existence, where I drive ten minutes up the road every day to my unstimulating dead-end job at a supermarket, but I always felt quite disconnected from uni life.
The reason I’m thinking about all this is because, with our trip now less than one month away, I’m wondering what I want to do with my life. Going backpacking has been my only goal for about five years. Until recently I’ve dedicated very little thought to what comes next.
I do want to live abroad again. Aside from my nightmarish job, I enjoyed living on my own in Korea quite a bit, and I certainly didn’t jump through all those hoops to get Irish citizenship and then not use it. I’d love to live in Dublin or London. I get discouraged by searching for writing/copyediting/publishing positions on British and Irish jobhunting websites and instead receiving ten thousand results for SALES AND MARKETING EXECUTIVE, which seems to happen on any jobhunting site anywhere in the world.
So I’ve given thought to doing another uni course. My current degree is as useless as a priest in a brothel, and I’m only 21. The problem is I can’t think of anything I’d like to study that actually would be useful; literature and history are really the only things I have an interest in. The only other industries I’d actually want to work in are travel/tourism and government intelligence, neither of which you really go to university for. Also, both Ireland and the U.K. require foreign-born citizens to reside in the country for three years before you get a sweet government student loan that you never really have to pay back.
Maybe I overthink stuff. I have like ten years to tomfool around the world doing whatever the fuck I want. I just have a nesting instinct somewhere inside me that will eventually click in and force me to settle down… anywhere but here. If my obituary reads “Born: Perth, Western Australia” and then “Died: Perth, Western Australia,” I am going to be very upset.
Now that I’ve learned to use Windows Moviemaker EDIT, NEVER MIND, MUSIC COMPANIES ARE FUCKHEADS, THIS IS WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS
(Removed for publication)
David Mitchell, my favourite author, releases his next novel in June. It is titled The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, and American residents can win an advance copy simply by filling out a form at the Random House website. They can then mail it to me, in Australia, and I will be happy to cover postage costs! Maybe a little more too! Come on, I gave you guys many years of a high-quality online novel which I TOTALLY STILL UPDATE EVERY DAY
TIGER AIRWAYS FLIGHT 2717
DEPART PERTH INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT (PER) 9.35 PM TUESDAY APRIL 27
ARRIVE SINGAPORE CHANGI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT (SIN) 2.50 AM WEDNESDAY APRIL 28
After many many many weeks of constantly checking http://www.skyscanner.net in the hope of finding a cheap fare to Asia, Chris and I finally bit the bullet and booked a flight last night. Obviously 3.00 AM isn’t the ideal time to be rocking up in a foreign city, but unless we wanted to shell out six or seven hundred dollars for a non-budget flight, they were all at shit times. As it stands we paid $201 each, airline taxes and bagagge checking and all, which is pretty good for Perth to Singapore.
Now, in the six weeks until we leave, we need to sort out stuff like visas and proper shoes and travel insurance and first aid kits. To discuss boring crap like that, which is only of interest to people planning similar trips, I’m going to crack out the other blog I registered ages and ages ago, and which I named after an unremarkable but titularly appropriate novel: Gentlemen of the Road. Feel free to ignore it until later in the year, when it will be full of delightful adventures about breaking out in hives from antimalarial medication or getting the shit kicked out of us by Russian border guards.
43 days to go!
A Model World by Michael Chabon (1991) 207 p.
I’ve mentioned before that Michael Chabon is a writer I greatly respect, not just for penning one of my favourite novels of all time, but also for being a literary heavyweight determined to restore the good name of genre fiction: someone decrying “the contemporary, quotidian, plotless, moment-of-truth revelatory story.” I fucking hate those stories.
A Model World is a collection of precisely those kinds of stories, drawn from the very early years of Chabon’s career, before he was… cleansed. They are, of course, brimming with beautiful prose and perfect turns of phrase, because he is Michael Chabon. Yet they’re also pointless. Forgettable. Unremarkable. They may inspire emotions, but like emotions themselves, they quickly fade away. They are, to use another of his quotes I delight in, “sparkling with epiphanic dew.” Which evaporates.
If you’re going to read that kind of story you could probably do worse, mind you. There are a couple of good ones in here. The final five all follow the same character, Nathan Shapiro, through a predictable bildungsroman; sort of like Hemingway’s Nick Adams but with less manliness and more existential melancholy (or did Nick do that a lot too?) It’s quite banal, but because it’s done by Chabon it’s not a complete waste of your time. Sort of like how Shutter Island was a typical psychological thriller, but much better than usual because it was directed by Martin Scorsese. Except Shutter Island was much better than A Model World, but you get what I mean.
In any case, I only have to muck about in the fetid slop of Chabon’s early career long enough to read The Mysteries of Pittsburgh and Werewolves In Their Youth. Then it’s rocketing back into his awesome post-2000 work, with epic World War II adventures and Sherlock Holmes and alternate dimension homicide detectives and all that jazz. That’s gonna be awesome.
Having said that, Mike, I GET THAT YOU ARE JEWISH! I REALLY, REALLY DO! NOW WILL YOU PLEASE STOP WRITING ABOUT IT OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN!
“Come with me,” she said after a minute or two. She stood and led me down the hallway and into her bedroom. Her gait was too brisk to be seductive; she had some business to attend to. I had been in her bedroom many times before, had felt the thrill of seeing her white bedclothes and rows of empty shoes, but never with this acute a sense of being suffered, like a smelly old dog on a miserable night, just this once being allowed to sleep indoors, on the still warm hearth – of being such a lucky dog.
– From “Millionaires,” by Michael Chabon