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Anne Townsend

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

I was a continent away from my roots

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No Title, May 19th, 2017

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Photo Credit: Anne Townsend, Barrydale

No Title, May 18th, 2017

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Photo Credit: Anne Townsend, Barrydale

 

No Title, May 17th, 2017

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Photo Credit: Anne Townsend, Barrydale

Lust & Wonder, by Augusten Burroughs

How does an attractive, famous, best-selling author remain in a ten year relationship that doesn’t feed his soul? How does somebody who’s been through rehab, therapy, AA, and years of ‘brutal honesty from strangers’ that accompany his book launches, manage to overlook the obvious? He is deeply in love with someone other than the man he lives with. The man he lives with finds him annoying, much of the time. They are not a good match. They don’t complement one another. Neither of them is happy.

If you are like me, and you take a while, (years/decades) to ‘get’ stuff, Lust & Wonder is a heart-warming exploration of magical thinking, wilful blindness, avoidance, cognitive dissonance. We lie to ourselves until we get too sick to lie. Then the chaos of change, the disruption of the status quo, painful as it is, unfurls as we get out of our own way. His dreams knew the truth. His body never lied. It was his mind that went around in circles.

Augusten Burroughs has described the years he spent with his former partner as wasted years. I cannot agree. Those years produced Lust & Wonder. Those years were preparation for his current relationship with his agent and publicist. Those years have produced his best book since Dry. This man is an immense talent. Out of his nine books, Dry and Lust & Wonder are my favourites. A Wolf at the Table I can read only in small doses. I am left lurching after only a few pages. Dry and Lust & Wonder are easier to digest.

Thank you, Augusten, for putting yourself out there. You are indefatigable, relentless and persistent. I wish you well in your marriage with Christopher Schelling. I am counting the days till your next book.AB

AUGUSTEN

Is that ‘your’ book you’re printing out?

TYLH (3)On impulse, I had my manuscript printed out at The Hub in Barrydale. There were a few heart-stopping moments as the man who agreed to perform this task, sat, idly gazing at the screen, and could it be that he was in fact READING THE FIRST PAGE OF EVERY CHAPTER as the printer whirred away? It’s no big deal, Annabel, he’s just staring at the computer, nope, his eyes are sliding along and then down oh my God he’s reading my book, I will have to rush over and pull the computer out of its socket?!

This couldn’t be the same person who’s been planning her packed-house book launch for, let’s see, the past three years, who’s been worrying about who will water her pot plants while she flies abroad to appear on the Ellen Show (Oprah = too phoney) and would Augusten Burroughs perhaps be free to walk his dogs when I’m in New York so we can chew the cud over the logistics of oversharing and legal action? This couldn’t, surely, be the same person who wants EVERYONE to read her book. Except, that is, the quiet guy at The Hub who dared to read a few paragraphs, and then went so far as to ask me afterwards: ‘Is that your book you’re printing out?’TYLH (3)

TYLH (3)TYLH (3)

An Open Letter to my Book

Dear Lara,

I can no longer refer to you as ‘my manuscript’, or ‘the third draft of my book.’ As we both know, that doesn’t describe you. So Lara it is. As soon as Liz, my editor, told me that she’d accept you as her house guest while she licks you into shape, I heard your name and it was/is Lara. You and I have been a team, Lara, but now that we have Liz on board, get this: we’re a threesome.

You and I have been hanging out since 2011. We’ve been to Darling on a road trip (2015), we’ve hung out in Bangkok for a total of five weeks (2015/2016), we’ve had countless (hectic) sessions at Surfer’s Corner and Kalk Bay (2015/2016/2017) and we travelled together to Barrydale on the border of the Overberg and the Klein Karoo (March 2017). We’ve been hosted by PRIMI PIATTI, the Majestic Café in Beach Road, and more recently, at Jam Tarts Café on Route 62. Double espressos, iced lemon water and the occasional Pina Colada have lubricated our sessions, as well as a variety of breakfasts, lunches and side dishes.A3 Colour print

Other people find you ‘electric’, ‘wow’, and ‘exciting.’ No offence, Lara, but I find you none of those things at this stage. Bottom line: I can’t wait to hand you over to Liz, and let me quote from her mail: ‘We would need to agree upfront that you would send me the entire m/s you want edited (without sending extra bits and pieces afterwards in emails) and would stop work on it while I am busy.’ I felt the red hot stickiness of elation at those lines. Worry not, Liz. I won’t be working on, thinking about, or acknowledging the existence of Lara while she’s hanging out at your place.

A well-meaning friend has suggested that I start working on another project to avoid the ‘emptiness’ I’ll feel once you’re out of my life. I was thinking more along the lines of rewarding and nourishing free time unencumbered by the monotony of swinging an elephant around a porthole. That is how it feels when I try and squeeze another drop of blood out of you, you and your 42 325 words and your eight chapters. Don’t take this the wrong way, Lara, but I can’t wait for Liz to get her clutches into you. I’ve been the worst kind of smother, and now I am stepping aside to give you some room.

It’s all happening, Lara. You and Liz, without me.

Love

Anne PHD LAANpots

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You’ll have to try this at home, folks

Those who are silenced scream inside. Their screams freeze and they cannot live fully in the world. But as I wander around Family Ground Zero, I notice that I feel unburdened, elated, and free. I am no longer silencing myself. Not that I wouldn’t welcome the cooperation of relatives, but it’s the insidious self-silencing that has gagged my life force all these years. I was watering my own grave.

I cannot recall all the people who have found ingenious ways to slap a clumsy fist over my mouth when I raise the issue of my past. But what I do know is that each and every time I give myself permission to ask questions, the web of confusion untangles. Every time someone does answer a question, with openness and courage, or extends empathy and kindness even if they don’t have any answers, the web of deceit uncoils, sometimes by a millimetre, sometimes by a mile.Gagged Visual

I never know in advance who will offer a stretcher and who will try and clamp stubby fingers over my halting words. But by now it matters less who listens and who silences because as long as I hear my story, the way opens. The river flows. How I wish I could bottle the exhilaration I feel as I hone my right to ask questions, because nothing comes close to the high of uncorking the silence. I have no words for this, people. You’ll have to try this at home.

No title @ Tuesday, 28 March, 2017

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Photo Credit: Anne Townsend

One Hour – Turtle Steps – Sixty Minutes

3 pm: I’ve got to write for an hour. Sixty minutes. That’s ample.

3:01: Why don’t I just quickly floss my teeth? Flossing will reduce trips to the dentist.

3:07: I only need to write for an hour. I’m setting realistic goals here. Turtle Steps.

3:08: This could be a good time to put out the garbage. They collect on Thursdays and I wouldn’t want to oversleep and miss the collection truck.

3:15: I’ve GOT to write for an hour. This is why I’m living here. JUST DO IT.

3:16: I’m going to rustle up an iced coffee, in a tall glass. It’ll create positive associations with writing at home.

3:20: Just one final retort/one-liner/possible put-down on the chat forum. Who knows who’s posting what?

5:30: Look, woman, you have now GOT to write for sixty minutes. Strike while the fire is hot, FFS.

5:31: Let’s light some incense in the kitchen. It’ll be another way to associate writing with pleasant routines. Where’s that incense I bought from The Happy Store?

5:45: There’s no point, is there, in pretending you ever get a stitch of work done at home. You need to establish yourself in public spaces: library/café/wherever, set a timer, and get down to it.

5:46: Why don’t I write from 6 – 7 pm? If I get that right, I’ll reward myself with a walk at 7pm, once it’s cooler. I can’t spend all day in cafes, which have their own distractions.

6:01: There is a table on the verandah, my very own red table that accompanied me here, and I could drag it indoors, place the fan behind it, and work inside. The kitchen isn’t going to cut it.

6:20: I’m quickly going to write a piece for my blog. That is writing, isn’t it?

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