Saturday, 26 February 2011

Dirt Music and Solitude - Dianne Hofmeyr


Here at the sea I’m searching for a new story that I can’t quite yet grasp, with Tim Winton’s Dirt Music ringing in my head.

In the epigraph to his book he quotes Emily Dickinson’s lines…
There is solitude of space
A solitude of sea
A solitude of death, but these
Society shall be
Compared with that
profounder site
That polar privacy
A soul admitted to itself –
Finite infinity.

In Dirt Music, across mind-numbing landscapes, Winton manages to capture the essence of solitude. Stark, terse dialogue lopes into wide vistas of creeping anxiety… where ‘the only trees are rare huddles of coastal morts whose bark hangs like torn bandages.’ This man can write… his words are music that picks up, falls, weaves, lurks, strides, crescendos. It’s a ‘Heart of Darkness’ story like so many of his others - In the Winter Dark. Breath. Cloudstreet. (I’m such a numbskull I didn’t realize when I sat mesmerized by the production of Cloudstreet in the Riverside Studios in London a few years ago, that he was the author.)

I’m searching for the nuances of my own story. I know the title. The characters speak and gesture as I pace along the beach trying to capture the story’s essence. But it’s all drowned out by space and the incessant ebb and flow of the tides and the hulk of the wild peninsula with its tangle of virgin trees and deep caves.
If I stare long enough, the beach produces its own events. A group of surfers in dark wetsuits out on their boards like a clutch of floating kelp... or circling sharks? A jellyfish of astounding beauty. And two weeks ago on a day of heavy mist, a small plane that went down into the sea with nine people on board just a mile off the peninsula.

My story is set in the 16th century on this same beach but will I ever turn the space and solitude into words that will begin to capture such inchoate thoughts? Soon I need to put pen to paper… finger to keyboard… don’t writers have to write?
I need words that rise, fall, weave, stride, crescendo but most of all I need a plot!

11 comments:

catdownunder said...

I find Winton depressing...not sure if I will read any more of his work.

Sarah Taylor-Fergusson said...

Dirt Music is one of my favourite books! About a year after finishing it, I started reading it again, something I rarely do. I like the way he has Fox disappear into the landscape, as if absorbed by it, and wondered if there were any Aboriginal people's influences here.

And I love your huge jellyfish photos, too! Is the other picture of Plettenburg Beach by any chance? I have been there if it is.

Stroppy Author said...

You have lots of evocative words here, Diane - when the plot comes, there are words ready and waiting to run with it. Lovely photos - especially the jellyfish1

Leila said...

Beautiful jellyfish photos!

Michele Helene (Verilion) said...

You have already beautifully evoked this beach and those jellyfish pics are AMAZING!

Dianne Hofmeyr said...

Cat... interesting. Maybe its to do with reading about one's own landscape. I find J.M.Coetzee incredibly depressing. With Winton, there's an element of hope that totally escapes me in Coetzee's writing. I needed to know whether Fox was going to survive (no spoilers here)I cared about him. I never seem to care much about Coetzee's characters.

And yes, Sarah, this is Robberg Beach in Plettenberg Bay... I left it yesterday afternoon and am back in London today.

The jellyfish is upside down. That's the underneath looking like a Victorian party jelly. The pics are to delude myself that I'm doing something creative by taking photographs!

Rosalie Warren said...

Lovely photos, beautiful words. You make me long for the sea!

adele said...

Superb photos and gosh, I do empathise about the needing a plot thing! I often have everything in place but no ACTUAL STORY!! Let's hope both of us scrabbling about in our respective brains will eventually produce something...we must live in hope!

Penny Dolan said...

Beautiful pictures as ever, though not sure if the huge jellyfish (ugh! panicky shiver!)is there as a symbol of the wobbly mind trying to create the missing plot?

Dianne Hofmeyr said...

love that one Penny! Its actually a symbol of the wobbly body that sadly needs a more disciplined lifestyle! This one is pretty innocuous... nothing like the deadly Box Jellyfish of Australia. And comforting to know someone as adept as you, searches for plot too Adele!!!

Pauline Fisk said...

I'm with you, Dianne, about the hope and, Adele, about the plot thing. Riders [The Riders?] is the one Winton book I really couldn't get on with, but the rest I find gritty and elevating in equal measure. I love some of his short stories and Cloudstreet's simply wonderful, especially if read out loud and savoured word by word.

Strangely, when I read the start of Cloudstreet, I knew exactly how it was going to end because I'd done a similar thing in my novel 'Telling the Sea'. I'd been writing for a different age group and out of a different culture, but trying to do the same thing. It's weird, isn't it, when writing works like that? Does that ever happen to you?