Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Sunday snippet


This rather wonderful photo from Gordon Smith of the Flinders Ranges in South Australia captures one element of the Australian outback. The simple fence stretching into the distance across a gibber strewed plain.

In considering this photo you have to remember that this is not my country. New England is not like this. I can respect this type of scene  and recognise it as Australian, but it is still alien.

New England is less stark, far more nuanced. That is my country. 

This morning in the normal round I again took youngest to Hockey. The game did not grab me in the same way that I recorded in Hockey and the Armidale poets. It was a good fast flowing game, but the energy simply wasn't there.

I took my books and a pad and wrote much of my column for this week's Armidale Express while watching. I have still to finish the column. I am not happy with it. I have put it aside to finish it in the morning before I go to work.

Instead, I have started adding notes to my piece on New England's Aboriginal languages. Again I feel dissatisfied.

There are two levels to my dissatisfaction. One is simply one of standards, ensuring that the piece meets both academic and literary standards. The second is the continuing fact that we can never know just what the real position was. We have lost our chance.

I am writing a general history. It is absolutely impossible to go into depth on every topic. The New England language piece has reached 20,000 words, the length of my BA honours thesis. I cannot spend 20% of a book on this one topic. I have to shrink the whole thing to several thousands words.

In our family we used to push my father to publish. He used to reply that there was too much rubbish written. I thought then and I think now that he was wrong. Dad's material was actually very good. It would have filled so many gaps. Yet now I understand his position in a way that I did not then. 

Still. I am conscious of an ego issue in all this. I cannot guarantee that what I write is correct. I can only do the best I can.          


Kanani said...

Just write it out, then put it aside and go on. It's just your first draft, and right now you're very much just getting the ideas down on the page. You'll have a clearer picture of what the book should look like and convey in its final form when you are done. Push to the end, Jim. It's the only way.

I agree 20k words on one section is far too much. But perhaps later, you'll know what to break up or leave out.

Jim Belshaw said...

That's sensible advice, Kanani. In the period since I wrote this post I have continued to dig into the details.

I am writing the 20,000 words now as a very long essay. Once finished, I am going to send it to a few experts on the different issues involved and then modify it in light of their comments. Then I am going to have it bound, send it to a few people and lodge it in some libaries. That way the work is available like an honours thesis.

Then I will reduce it to the size required for the book. That way I get to use it but the deeper work is still accessible.