I wonder where Cate Kennedy writes? I imagine her writing in some secluded spot – possibly a garret! – with no noise or distraction. Me? I write on my couch, with Mephistopheles Danger Gordon yowling at me to be fed, my husband interrupting every five minutes to talk to me, show me something he’s just discovered, play me a song on the guitar (which I love!). I sometimes write while he’s watching TV (we have no spare room in our house, and no doors!), or listening to music, or cooking. For me, there is no quiet, solitary space. Writing doesn’t even feel solitary to me. It feels communal and noisy, because I do it amongst the bustle of my life.
This is the first time I have done a slightly ranty-style thing. It is not meant to cause offense to anyone, least of all Cate Kennedy. I think she’s super-awesome.
But, see …
There’s bit a bit of a kerfuffle about Cate Kennedy and her comments, in Overland and in the Sydney Morning Herald on the topic of writers and the Internets. Apparently, Miss Kennedy thinks that the Internets are killing our culture (like big, webby zombies, perhaps?). She thinks that they are “toxic” (toxic zombies!). She thinks that fiction is born of “quiet, slow reflection.”
Maybe this is the case for Cate but, as I am writing this, 62% of people on the Internets (or, more specifically, the SMH website), disagree with her.
I’m one of the people who disagree. And it’s not that I’m a technohead. I’m really not. I love my books. I can’t read off a screen. I like Twitter because it’s short and snappy and I don’t have to spend much time on it. I was, this morning, a little bit bewildered when my Husband Bear told me he’d been up until 2am “reading”. It wasn’t the fact that he was up late that I found hard to grasp, or the fact that he was reading. In fact, when he told me that, I asked him if he was reading HP Lovecraft (which we had been reading together last night), and I felt all chuffed and proud that my lovely Husband Bear had been burning the midnight oil reading such classic (non-literary but very VERY awesome) stuff. It made me feel like we were a bohemian couple, possibly in a garret (don’t ask me why).
But it turns out that the Husband Bear was not reading Lovecraft until 2am. He was instead “reading the Internets.”
“It just keeps getting bigger,” he said. “I’m never going to read it all.”
I think he was joking.
But back to Cate.
I am not going to get stuck into her, as many bloggers have. I’m actually full of admiration for Cate, both as a writer and for having the guts to come out and make comments like these. It’s important to take a stand for what you believe in, and she obviously believes this anti-inty (my new phrase!), stuff very strongly.
It’s just that, while the whole peace, solitude and quiet writing serenity stuff may work for Cate, it doesn’t work for everyone.
I was watching The First Tuesday Book Club last night, and was intrigued by a comment Lionel Shriver made about Jane Austen. I’m paraphrasing here (badly), but she basically said, “Nothing happens. Maybe in the time it was written people had the time to read such slow-moving books but I just thought, yeah right, you’re going to have another party?”.
Her comment didn’t strike me because I felt empathy. In fact, I think Austen is brilliant. It was just a good example of how reading – and writing – has changed (for some people).
I love being on Twitter while I’m writing. I love communicating with other writers. I live in a regional area, so Twitter is a brilliant writing community for me. I love the stress – and comic – relief it provides, when I am stuck or despondent. I love my “tweeps”.
And, for me, a blog post can be just as valuable as a great book. I love Penni Russon’s blog, Persnickety Snark, Gabrielle Wang, Sandy Fussell, Simmone Howell, Katrina Germein and so many others. They all give such good blog – rich, warm, witty, constructive. I get as much from reading their writing online as I do reading books.
I am on Twitter and Facebook (though I keep swearing to leave the latter). I use an RSS reader and I have two email accounts.
And yet, I still write 2,000 words a day (I would write more if I didn’t work full-time).
I still read at least two books a week.
And I’m not Cate Kennedy. I’m not anywhere near her sphere of literary greatness. I’m just me – a luddite book reader who happens to think the Internets are pretty darn awesome.
Isn’t it lucky this new-fangled modern world caters for all of us?