September 8, 2011

A Relieved Post

A couple of years ago, I went to hear the writer Mark Dapin give a talk. I'd admired his work for years, and was terribly excited to meet him. I can't recall exactly what I said when I accosted him after his speech, but I do recall showing him my tattoos, which probably indicates that my introduction was not the most sophisticated. Or subtle. Then again, I do tend to show complete strangers my tattoos, so it wasn't particularly unusual either.

Still, I couldn't have made too bad an impression. Mark and I fell into regular email contact (by which I mean I relentlessly emailed him until he emailed back) and eventually became friends (by which I mean I relentlessly email him until he emails back). We've even been out to dinner with our respective spouses, a fun, if rather humiliating occasion which I discussed at length here.

Observant readers of this blog will note that I only really talk about three men, each of whom have their own categories. In the lead is my husband (who has scored 19 tags), following closely behind is Simon Baker (who has scored 13), and bringing up the rear is Mark (5 and counting). A friend of mine who noticed this suggested that perhaps I want to sleep with Mark, given that I certainly want to sleep with Simon, and already sleep with my husband*. The reality, however, is that I already have a short, balding Jewish man (except this week, when he is in China) and that I purely want Mark for his emails.

Last week one of Mark's emails mentioned that he'd recently written a novel, 'Spirit House', a fact I was vaguely aware of, as he mentions it in every single email he sends me. The book, he said, had actually hit the shelves, so I could read it if I liked.

Well, I wasn't sure. To be perfectly honest, I get nervous reading novels by my favourite columnists. They often turn out to be really crap, as writing columns is a very different skill to writing fiction. But I couldn't exactly say no, because that's rude, and I pride myself on my manners**. So I started reading.

'Spirit House' is a beautiful, funny, moving, evocative book. Thirteen year old David has been shipped off to his grandparents' house in Bondi so his mum can spend time with her much younger lover. His Jewish grandfather, Jimmy, a veteran of POW camps on the Thailand-Burma railway, is having flashbacks to the war, and eventually shares his stories with David. Jimmy's recounts of his war experiences are painfully evocative and insightful, but the Greek Jewish chorus of his old friends and drinking buddies Solly, Katz and Meyer, and Jimmy's long-suffering wife Frida, balance the narrative with levity, wit and genuine laugh-out-loud humour.

I am loving 'Spirit House', to my intense relief, because it would have been incredibly awkward to tell Mark it sucked. Buy it.

*Well, on occasion
**Except when flashing my tattoos at complete strangers


  1. There is NOTHING more frightening than reading the new book of an author who also happens to be one of your closest friends. Or having your new book read by one of your closest author friends. Or any friend. Or anyone, really. In fact, in future it would make me very happy if people would just buy my books but not actually read them. I'm sure Mark would be down with that too.

    PS. Has he managed to work roundabouts into the novel? Surely he has.

  2. Ooooh! I'm always looking for something lovely to read, and this book sounds perfect! I'll add it to my wishlist!

  3. I haven't finished yet but none that I can see. Then again, no men called Chris either....

  4. I was the person who took you to that talk. I therefore take credit for the friendship and his writing of the book. Oh and also for the discovery of penicillin

  5. You had me thinking with this and late last night I posted about my fears of writing when someone you know is going to read it. Love Mark Dapin too, he's the one of two columnists I read on Sundays.

  6. I approve of the way you make new friends.  

  7. I do like to read a book with some "local" scenery & a laugh. bSo I shall give it a go...
    Quite frankly I am thrilled if anyone even reads a word I write  - whether or not they enjoy it...well that is another matter entirely.x 

  8. Versatile Blogger Award - You've Been Nominated!

  9. Spirit House is my bookclub's book of the month and I loved it.  One tiny quibble, what on earth does the last page mean? Why is it there?


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