BookMark is a regular column focusing on Tasmanian publications, writers and literary events.
Flight, by Rosie Dub (4th Estate), $27.99
If a patient recounted a dream about a snake, Freud might have interpreted the snake as a phallic symbol. If the patient were in Carl Jung’s consulting room, they would have been asked what part snakes had played in their life, or lives.
Jung believed the stories in our dreams were not code for repressed issues but a retelling of dramas in our lives, our past lives and even our ancestors’ lives. Jungian therapy starts with keeping a dream diary and that was also the starting point for Rosie Dub’s new novel, Flight.
Her young character, Fern, is so depressed she hasn’t left her attic bedroom for weeks, except to sneak downstairs for food and ablutions when her housemates are out.
When they move out and her landlord arrives, together with her adoptive mother, Fern flees out her window to the roof, where she encounters a white eagle, which drops a feather for her. Then she scrambles into the upstairs window of the house next door.
Here she meets her madwoman neighbour, Cassie. “You are an old soul. You have the power to make things happen. Remember that – the power to make things happen. But you need to take the time to find out who you are,” Cassie tells her.
Fern is launched on a quest to discover her biological parents and why her father had tried to kill her by dashing her against the wall of the hospital room shortly after her birth.
This is not just a quest across a city—in this case Sydney – or through the wilderness of Tasmania’s North-West Coast, where Fern’s birth father now lives in splendid seclusion, but a pursuit through her dreams of a history of violence, cruelty and domination across hundreds of years.
As an epigraph, Dub quotes Jung: In the end the only events in my life worth telling are those when the imperishable world irrupted into the transitory one.
In one of her dreams Fern finds herself in a medieval hall where she encounters a black bear and a man who calls himself the Bear Handler, who tells her: “The bear is yours now, you must live with her always.”
In a Sydney nightclub called Underworld she meets a man who conceals his eyes behind sunglasses because the light that floods from them is overpowering to those he looks at.
“Who are you,” she asked. “And how do you know my name?”
“I am the barman,” he said, laughing, and his laughter made her want to laugh too, as if this was a great joke, despite the fact that he hadn’t answered her second question.
“What’s your name,” she asked.
“You have called me Shadowman and in your wisdom you were right, for I am that too. But my name is Shamesh.”
Alongside the meta-characters – the Jungian archetypes of wise women and alchemists, there is the troubled Iraq war veteran Adam who puts down the bottle and takes up Fern’s quest as part of his own redemption.
Flight is propelled by passion and sincerity as well as the rapid trajectory of the story line. It’s a novel that will speak particularly to young people who find themselves troubled by a sense of powerlessness over their lives. Fern’s quest is for her own inner strength.
Alone at the Window, Judith E.P. Johnson, Ginninderra Press, $12
Judith E.P. Johnson, in the foreword to her new collection of haiku and senryu, says she personally never reads more than 10 haiku in a sitting. Lacking such self-control, I read the 32 pages of Alone at the Window in one go.
In mitigation, I contend that this says more about the nature of haiku than my own greediness. It’s the tricky transition of a poetry form from a handful of syllables painstakingly inscribed in calligraphy on a scroll to presenting them printed in proprietary font, four to a page,in a book.
The solution to this problem is that I will cherry-pick (cherry-blossom pick?) the haiku of Johnson’s that move me most and write them with my best ballpoint, one to a page, into a Moleskin notebook– my custom-made Alone at the Window.
First in my book will be this haiku:
some of the rain
is the sea
Also I will have:
through apple blossom
of a plane
only the dog
tells me what to do
pushing past me
on the empty street
Johnson leaves home briefly to travel to Kangaroo Island and the Northern Territory in the collection. Open the book like a chocolate box and make your own favourite selection.
Tomorrow, March 23, 5.30pm: Launch by Karen Knight of Fran Graham’s poetry collection, On a Hook Behind the Door, Hobart Bookshop. All welcome.
Tuesday, April 3, 5.30pm: Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award-winning children’s author Sonya Hartnett in conversation with local author Lian Tanner at Fullers Bookshop, Hobart. The conversation will include discussion of Hartnett’s new work, The Children of the King. All welcome to this free event.