Leprosy, anyone?

I like the idea that if you’re gonna be sick, you should go the whole hog. Like, don’t just have a slight cold. That’s boring. Get the Black Death. Fungal Necrosis. Mexican Jumping Fever. (At about this point you’re thinking, how disrespectful! What about all the people who really have those dreadful things?)

Well yeah, you have a point, but allow me some drama. Anyway, for the last two weeks I’ve had this unidentified virus involving chills, sweats, headaches and a face like a spotted balloon, and I can’t say it’s been fun, but it does make you think. For instance, if you had a choice would you rather feel bad or look bad? Is it better to have a fatal but aesthetically pleasing (up to a point) illness like TB (I’m thinking Lady of the Camellias, Keats) or a temporary but disfiguring one (measles, for instance?). Nobody ever seduced anyone while they had an active case of the measles…

Another thought bubble. Do we blog for attention, or because we have something to say? I mean, WordPress Prompts. Like our minds are so empty that we need WP to provide helpful suggestions for something to talk about. My long held view? Got nothing to say? Then don’t say it. Not that it stops me...

Anyway. I have a new novel out. Technically a novella. It’s about death. Specifically, the line between death and life (not so easily defined, I’m inclined to think, as Sesame Street would have us believe in their hit ditty, Some of these things are not like the Others!). It’s also about passion, and loss, and finding something to live for. More about the story below, but I want to share some thoughts about why I wrote it. As many of you know, my son died a few years ago and since then, I’ve been thinking a lot about death, grief and – for want of a better word – the afterlife. Why did it happen? Where have you gone? Can it be really be that I’ll never see you again? Is there some way to tell you, to speak to you…? These are all questions I’ve asked myself. And so does Eurydice, my protagonist, when her husband Orpheus slips into the cold, night-dark water of Sydney Harbour on his thirtieth birthday and drowns, seemingly of his own free will.

Then, as the months follow one another, we who’ve lost someone think, ‘How can I keep on living?’ Losing a lover – someone for whom you feel an overwhelming, even obsessive passion – is different to losing a child, and that’s something I wanted to explore in the book. Orpheus is a tremendous talent, a beautiful, reckless, do-nothing-by-halves kind of guy, and to some extent Eurydice lives in his shadow. For her, then, his death offers a choice – obliteration or some kind of reinstatement of what it is to be herself, as an artist, as an individual, alone. And then there’s the issue of what death is, and what life is. Is it simply a rolling over of organic matter, a matter of neurons ceasing to fire, or are we part of something much larger and less immediately comprehensible? Do we struggle with the concept of mortality because like King Lear we can’t endure the thought, ‘Thou’lt come no more, / Never, never, never, never, never’. Or do we intuitively understand a greater truth about the way things are?

Well, anyway, here’s the blurb. If you’d like a review copy, just leave me a comment with your email address and I’ll send you a link.

In the house of God there are many telephones.

Incoming calls only.

A Portrait Under Water, is a modern take on the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. It’s a story of death, grief, and the unbreakable bonds of passionate love.

Eurydice’s husband Orpheus, a well-known musician, disappears from a party boat in Sydney Harbour on his thirtieth birthday. Three days later police recover his drowned body.

Desperate with grief, Eurydice tries to find a reason for his apparent suicide. The dead provide no answers, and the theories of friends and accusers – depression, obsessive love, a drunken accident – don’t satisfy her.

Fleeing a bitter, blaming mother in law and a morbidly curious press, Eurydice flies to Spain. There she explores the boundaries between the worlds of the living and the dead – but Orpheus is hard to reach. Wherever the dead may be, they don’t speak our language, and the other side is a long way off.

You can find A Portrait Under Water on Amazon here, and at a range of online bookstores.  For an excerpt, click here or use Amazon’s ‘Look Inside’ feature!



    1. Never heard of it. The doc took blood but says the results will be back ‘in a while, I don’t know when ‘. Apparently abnormal liver results indicate a virus but who the f knows! Better now!

  1. I hope you feel better soon! I do a daily prompt only when it inspires me to say something interesting, or at least slightly amusing. Same goes for other prompts. Your book sounds like something I would like 🙂

    1. Well, you always do something interesting with them. To be honest wasn’t ranting about the users of prompts so much as WordPress. And that prevailing idea that eyes on your blog are the priority, rather than having anything pressing or original to communicate.

  2. As you probably remember, we share a common loss. I’ve been down the rabbit holes and followed the same trails and worked with the same grief; no, it’s wrong to say “the same”. It never is. But at least it’s a universe I understand.

    The gray liminal spaces between life and death that I’ve trodden are much complicated by my bone-deep rationalism which makes a fair bid against any afterlife. This is, of course, not the answer I want nor the one I was raised with.

    For me, much of the heavy lifting is done by my general Stoic (philosophical, not common meaning) outlook. I think for some of the rest I have to just take a few minutes to refocus Nietzsche’s main point — that the mistake of nihilism (which I’m subject to on darker days), which correctly evaluates life as being without particular purpose is that it also mistakenly derives from that it is “worthless” and “pointless” and of negative (worse than nothing) value.

    Nietzsche makes the case that even random life with no particular purpose has value and that we should flourish in that life. Nihilism is the wrong answer, the answer given by people who have an inability to engage with life, and become fatigued and hostile to it.

    I mean, what are the odds that we’re here at all for this minuscule flash of time and how could we NOT appreciate it? The references to a deity would make Nietzsche nuts, but one of my favorite summaries of it all (which I’ve quoted before) is from Vonnegut:

    God made mud.
    God got lonesome.
    So God said to some of the mud, “Sit up!”
    And I was some of the mud that got to sit up and look around.
    Lucky me, lucky mud.
    The only way I can feel the least bit important is to think of all the mud that didn’t even get to sit up and look around.
    I got so much, and most mud got so little.
    Now mud lies down again and goes to sleep.
    What memories for mud to have!
    What interesting other kinds of sitting-up mud I met!
    I loved everything I saw!
    (Cat’s Cradle)

    Sort of unrelated: Bought the book. I am intensely interested in where it goes and looking forward to reading it.

    Hope the virus is letting up on you some…

  3. Thanks! Yeah, part of me agrees with the stoic thing. I don’t angst about the purpose of life, we’re here becuz we’re here becuz…let’s just enjoy it. Or whatever. I’m on the fence about some sort of afterlife. Heaven, Reincarnation Waiting Room, all that stuff, no. But one or two experiences I’ve had led to an intuition that being alive and being dead are part of a larger condition of existence that isn’t quite encapsulated by the universe of matter as we currently understand it. Perhaps that the division is not quite so important as it seems from the ‘alive’ perspective, like the line between a river and the sea it flows into, something like that. Anyway, there are funny bits. I’d be interested to know what you think of it – it is, I realise, in parts somewhat confusing. On purpose, actually. Give the reader a hard time, that’s what I say, toughen them up!

  4. I got sick. Not the Black Death. Or Leprosy. But I got sick. A very rare blood disease. No, It’s not leukaemia. It’s rare. I wrote about it on my blog. on Feb 3 called ‘Things I’ve Heard About it’

    1. I’m very sorry to hear that. It does stink to be sick, especially if it’s rare and serious. Diseases are not like diamonds, rarity doesn’t increase their value… although like diamonds it does increase the cost of having them. Are you better?

  5. First, i hope you get well.
    Second, I like your take even on illness. No need to be sick half measurely way. If one is going to be sick, be properly sick as long as you come back to life.
    And I would rather have the looks and be so sick inside, that is if I must be ill. But I prefer not to be ill.

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