‘Christmas is a barbie on the beach’

I was diving today, so can’t brain… The count-down to Christmas is getting to us too, even though we have no kids home for it, this year, and I’ve volunteered for Ambulance call – as I have no large family meal to be inevitably called away from. It’s an odd feeling as we’ve spent most of our lives at some kind of ‘clan’ gathering, with, usually a lot of people (we’ve a few invitations, but – for obvious reasons, I’ve given up accepting invites when I am on call). It’s a wonderful time of year for families and friends and especially children, but hard on those who have them absent or have lost loved ones they’d have spent it with.

(The picture is the view from Barb’s work Christmas beach barbecue, very Australian.)

Which is why it is good time for a read – if you’re me, anyway. I’ve been so tired with working on the house that I have struggled with my writing (was that if the weather was just impossible, I’d put in the time writing – but the work is now mostly indoors. This is good for me – working in Tasmanian winter weather was tough – but bad the flow of words.)

I’ve been slowly making my way through a friend’s collection of Australian books.  Mostly the novels that end up in a holiday house… This now my home, my country (or I am her citizen, rather) and only the very stupid expect the place and people to change to fit them (seriously, that’s the way to weeping cross if you’re a migrant. You will isolate yourself in a group of your fellow ‘ex-pats’ – and probably perpetuate the very problems that made you have to, or want to, migrate. Fit in and learn the new country’s ways. That way you end up happy and getting the best out of your new country, and giving it your best, willingly, indeed eagerly, because you want to.  If these ways are too alien to you: go to where they are not.  Trying to remain in your little bubble and demanding the place and people change to accommodate you… that’s going to make them hate you, eventually, even in the most tolerant of societies (Australia is one. As is the US. The facts speak for themselves – when you have to fake hate-crimes to make an issue of them, a la Jussie and many other examples… ).

Logic says that can –and has – in many historical examples, end up hurting not just the people who demand to have it all their way, but the people who have done their utmost to fit in. At least the latter, on a personal level, it can ameliorate it. So… well, I know logic is the enemy (like math) of the dim and easily led, but the best I can do is to work on the subject: ergo, read local books by the locals, especially the older, foundational books that many people living here will have read and been influenced (as well as shaped by being what they were), that I have not – and poetry (we disregard poetry and song lyrics – but poetry (and some lyrics are poetry, really) condenses things to their essence, and lyrics reach so many people, because they’re popular.)

I was reading a series of anthologies, from the late 50’s to fairly recently, so I have an ‘outsider’s’  opinion formed by it. (I suspect that much of this could be applied to the US too, just earlier in that country’s history.

Australian writing, by virtue of its geographical isolation, the pride born of being a new nation, had a strong clearly Australian flavored literature: POPULAR literature which was widely read by Australians – and not that much by outsiders.  Reading was a major national entertainment, pre-TV – especially in the remote areas. The local industry existed behind a tariff-wall, which allowed local publishers, despite the small scale, to survive. Of course: it was too good to last. The prices of books rose to 4-5 times that of a US novel, and the Dahlings took over publishing – making it at once more pretentiously literary, and far less crassly ‘provincially’ Australia, but more like NY or LA lite. The one-time common heroes (outback people and the common man) got replaced by whatever the Left wing Dahlings urban upper-middle class flavor de jour is. The egalitarianism and uniqueness were hugely diluted, the national flavor virtually vanished. So, it appears, did sales. I learned little about my new country from the newer works, but a lot from the older ones.

Which kind of brings me to today’s thought about being a successful writer:  Writing is mostly downstream of culture. This is something a lot of writers – and trad publishers just don’t get. The old Australian novels (very ordinary, probably not world-shaking on an international stage, but popular and successful here) were popular because they reflected the mores and values of the vast majority of the potential readers. I deal with enough patients in that age-group to recognize the character types and traits and attitudes written about. What confuses the modern dahlings is they assume these traits came from the literature of the time – rather than the literature coming from the people of time (that’s why you get ‘so and so was a racist/misogynist etc etc, we must rename the award’ silliness. The context of the time they lived in and how much they deviated from the thinking of that time –and changed culture and attitudes is never even considered.)  Look, the books and poems did shape and form the people too. But it was a molding board changing the direction of the flowing current – a little here, a little there — rather than generating the current – especially when the water is not running that way.

Go with the flow, and you can shape it a little. That’s the flow of your target audience. learn who they are, and about them… and how many people ACTUALLY fit there. (the clue is not even political votes. That can and has been shaped by the MSM (although they’re losing that war). That can change, given the MSM losing influence, or issues big enough to cut across it.  Instead, go to a supermarket in an ordinary place and look and listen. Or go to a country fair. But large city media is mostly actually only informative about large city media and their bubble. And actually, that’s a small audience – which has a lot of people writing for it already.

So I would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a great, productive new year.

11 comments

  1. This. So very much this. There are the classics like The Loaded Dog and Bush Christening (not to mention the Australian flavor of country, like The Pub With No Beer). There are also the “ordinary” books, many of them full of the sort of language that would give the dahlings fits – but despite the language you can see the affection for the characters.

    I have fond memories of those, even if I’d have a hard time remembering the names of the books or the authors.

    1. When I was a teen, my father had (and I read) a few of Arthur Upfield’s mysteries featuring Detective Inspector Napoleon “Bony” Bonaparte.

  2. Hi Dave, Pigmy here. It’s about 35 years since we both climbed at Monteseel – can you believe it was that long ago.

    You made a good point in your article about fitting in wherever you have settled.

    I have spent a bit of time working in Perth, the last stint being around nine months in duration, ten years ago. During that time, I befriended a few locals that I met at my regular eating and drinking holes, but strangely enough I was never invited to visit their homes, nor those of any of the dozen or more people that I worked with. In fact, I only once visited a private home if I can recall and that was the home of a guy I had met whilst sailing at Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club in around 1998 and with whom I resumed the friendship in 2009. Literally on my last day at work on the project in Perth did one or two of the locals suggest we pop across the road for a beer after work. Thinking back, it was quite bizarre that we never went for drinks or a barbie at all.

    During that period I did meet up with some former mates from SA, but we met in bars or restaurants. They did however talk about things like having sourced mundane food items from SA, such as boerewors and Mrs Balls Chutney, etc, in a local “specialist” shop.

    I’m not big on social media and tend to only post stuff about my dogs or perhaps trips away from home, like a few trips to the Dolomites and also local trips away from home. But I have noticed posts or perhaps replies to other posts by people who left SA many moons ago where they are clearly keeping an eye on stuff that’s happening in their former home country. I suppose this is only natural if they still have family here, but it does make me wonder how well they are fitting in with local people in their new homeland. Based on what I said above, and I don’t think it applies only to Aussies, I’m sure that one as a new arrival needs to make a big effort to fit in. One guy I know that lives in the US says he will never fit in there (Tucson). “They’re just different” he says.

    I for one would no longer support sporting teams from my former home country that were visiting my adopted country. I live here and have difficulty continuing to support any of them anyway, but that’s another issue.

    I hope I will be able to move on somewhere in the next few years. I’m done with this place and I’ll certainly be mindful of the FIFO principle.

    Thanks for some interesting posts.

    BTW, I enjoyed your post about the cray fishing expedition. Things can get ugly VERY quickly underwater. Now I’m confused about crayfish vs lobster. What I do know is that you will get locked up in SA if you take those kind of sea creatures while using scuba gear – they may only be harvested while free diving/snorkeling.

    1. Hi Pygmy! Long time… may I invite you to come and visit us here on Flinders Island if you’re in Oz? We’re still working on the house, but we’ll find space for you. The climbing is stunning and the diving is great – I used to dive a lot back in SA and always got my quota, and often the quota of those diving along with me -as we worked in a team – snorkeling of course. Here, you’d have little chance, as the diving really starts at 10 meters, and the crays (they’re a close relly of Cape crays and both are technically ‘spiny lobster, not crayfish) are very big (5kg is my record) and mostly live in caves underwater. You are allowed to use scuba, or hookah. It’s still hard. The typical dive day would be 1 cray every half hour – with two of us searching. I’d heard the ‘never invite you into their homes too – part of that is that a lot of people just don’t do much entertaining at home – too much cleaning up. But it does vary from place to place and community to community. One of the things that sold us on this place was that we hadn’t been here 24 hours before being invited into someone’s home for a cuppa. And at our naturalization ceremony we had more 10% of the entire population there to welcome us.

  3. I read that as “a Merry Christmas and a reproductive new year.” ~:D And a merry reproductive New Years to you too, Dave. 🙂

    I must say that I’m not smart enough to reflect the “mores and values of the majority of readers.” I’m barely able to set down my own, which if I’m honest are a bit non-standard. Not deliberately so, its just that at 63 I’ve seen most of the stuff other people told me was important turn out to be superfluous. Nice, not necessary.

    Therefore the story goes where I want it to, and it turns out the way I think it should. Lots of cultural standards that I don’t like come in for a skewering, because that’s what I want. But other cultural standards, the important ones, they show up strongly.

    Those of course would be all the unfashionable “Patriarchy” ones that the mob screams about. Within the wider framework of Hero’s Journey and Boy Meets Girl, there are some requirements of mine that are not being met in the fashionable literature. For example, Boy doesn’t wimp out and let Girl do the hero-ing just because she’s a fusion powered war machine. Boy steps the hell up to be all the Boy he can be, and fusion-powered Girl appreciates it. Not because she needs him to, but just because he does.

    Because at the end of the day, that’s about all one human can do for another. Step up. Appreciate the effort when another person is stepping up.

  4. My folks brought back a goodly number of local Aussie books from their various visits (four times), ranging from humor to WWII memoirs to novels and poetry to Aboriginal myths. I also encountered A.B. ‘Banjo’ Patterson thanks to an odd PBS special, and managed to find his complete works. Great stuff, funny stuff, he’s up there with Kipling in many ways, and he covered all of the country. (‘Clancy of the Overflow’ is one of my favorites, up there with ‘Brumby’s Run.’)

  5. Project gutenberg Australia has a ton of books specifically about Australia on it… Old of course

  6. I remember moving from Michigan to Texas in 1979. I remember thinking Texas was a lot different than Michigan. Actually, I thought it was strange, rather than different, but decided I would conclude it was different until I discovered the reasons for the differences. The first year I was there I read a lot of books about Texas and Texans by Texans to find out the whys behind the differences.

    I did, and finally concluded different was more appropriate than strange. A lot of it had to do with Texas being the most sovereign of the 50 states while Michigan was the most national. Texas made its own history, while Michigan had it made for it outside Michigan’s borders.

    (To explain fully I would have to write a book about it, and no man but a blockhead wrote except for money. And while I am a blockhead occasionally, I am not that much of a blockhead.)

    My advice to folks since then if you think the place you have moved to is strange, read up on it. There are reasons for the differences.

    1. Indeed. I … having spent the first two decades of life in California-that-was, and then the next two wherever the Air Force sent me (Japan-Greenland-Greece-Spain-Utah-Korea) finished up in Texas. Which I initially was a bit snobbish about – but the place grew on me. And then grew on me even more, although I seriously regret the lack of serious mountains which we had in Utah, and nothing like the coasts in California. But I was driven to research and to write about this place, and to delve into the history and …
      Yes. I was absorbed.
      The tagline to my author website is “The Accidental Texan.” Because it was really accidental. I could have retired in Utah, or in New Mexico – but Texas is where I landed, when the twenty-year active-duty ride was done.

Comments are closed.