She raised her head enough to read the red digits; 5:08, before ruefully reflecting on the mistake of her early retirement the night before. She knew, of course, that of fifty seven pages of the current novel she had left to read, twenty would see her off before she’d finished. Like sex, reading in bed is different in the morning. Reaching carefully, she tapped the base of her lamp once before quietly picking up glasses and book: Stoner, A Novel. A slight shift beside her, then her partner’s breathing regulated itself. Good, no intrusion on his rest to suffuse her reading with guilt as, guiltily, she thought of someone else who might now be driving west, the sunrise, if it should show, behind him. Doubtless she’d hear how tired he was if she should bump into him later.
The novel had been troubling her all weekend, as had domestic imperatives, her forthcoming academic supervision and the procrastinatory nature of her decision to conduct one of her biannual wardrobe swops.
Sunday afternoon and the novel had supplied the necessary human drama to keep the story moving: p198 - a pleasant exercise in conscious self-delusion, ‘half believed … possibility’ and dreams of perfect worlds which had power to charm whilst simultaneously depressing its readers. But Stoner had been more than that to her; both troubling and stimulating. Read as a straightforward polemic between positivist traditionalism and new critical approaches to literature, Bill Stoner could easily be heralded against the dual ‘deformity’ of literary relativists’, Lomax/Walker, mangled views. But as a prescient introduction to the nightmare that has become post modernism, she felt the timeliness of the novel’s re-publication and worried about her own project. The more she read, the more she was delighted by the writing but the more she recognised Charles Walker in herself; the winger about to be grounded. Lomax, Stoner and Holland would surely find her out to be so far removed from the academically idyllic Katherine Driscoll that even her own supervisor would wear that familiar look of disappointment. And sigh. What to do?
She mulled the problem over as Williams finished off his character, perfectly pacing the meta-narrative while giving back his readers some hope; that although it’s a one-way street, and mistakes will be repeated, we’ll all find a way to make some sense of it somehow. Even if it’s only the importance of feeling a cool breeze on the face. No-one is all Stoner, all Lomax, all Edith or all Driscoll. The secret, the real secret is not to risk anything at all and be Gordon Finch. As she mused on the benefits and disadvantages of receiving a university bursary, she hoped one didn't get too much of a sore bum from sitting on the fence.
Eliza Gilkyson, not a great recording but she's looking for a place...