BOOKS > FOUR FACES, WOBBLY MIRROR
what it says on the cover:
yet elusive, down to earth yet haunting, Four
Faces, Wobbly Mirror concerns two apparently well-matched
who, at the outset of the story, have little more than a
dinner-party acquaintance with each other. Yet a crossover
of affections takes place between the partners and two
new relationships develop – one inhibited but passionate,
the other more freely sexual though still bound by personal
the book ends it seems that little has changed … but
it is plain that all four characters have passed through
an important stage of their development,
and that all they did was inherent in their lives until the
subdued and half-veiled crises which gave the novel one of
novel is also concerned with the sheer difficulty of comprehending
ourselves. Where do
we look? Inward, to the confusion of our impulses? Or outward,
where the media men and all the other spielers who shape our mental and conceptual
worlds are waiting with their glib word-spinning?
look this latter way, the book suggests, is to look into
a wobbly mirror. Yet a
feature of this novel is that the four main characters
are made clear
despite the confusion of their emotions and their varied social settings.
gradually discerns a consistency in their personalities, and the wobbly
mirror, too, is brought into some degree of focus.
read some extracts from the book click here:
Bob and Anna
Labor won the elections
Everyone back to his own bed
Politics and people
All men lie in greatest need
The last of us to pull through
read about the writing of this book click
the stand was concrete, brick, dark wood, it was something
a railways architect might have built. The man checking passes
at the door said to them, 'Going to be a great day!' There
was no fear of defeat in his voice, perhaps because he was
so close to the bars and dressing rooms crowded with cartoons,
premiership photos, interstate representatives, champions,
Dick Lee's famous mark, flags, banners, silver bowls, honour
boards topped by Victorian pediments and a painting of long-trousered
Edwardians in hats playing in the kick for kick style of
the day. The static figures in the painting contrasted strongly
with the rumble of expectation in the carpeted dressing room,
the overwhelming male monotone of the bar rooms and the hurrying
of supporters to see their men.
were an unforgettable swirl of black and white as the physical
training instructor put them through their warm-up; flailing
their black and white arms, running on the spot, jogging,
bending, pressing their trunks about their abdomens, they
looked appallingly, dangerously fit. It was hard to believe
that somewhere, buried under another stand, were twenty men
just as fit. The warm-up over, the players flicked a football
around, contested knockouts and shot stab passes about the
room with the muscular ease of young tigers playing. Bob
watched them shrewdly, caught the eye of Carcase sprawled
on a rubbing down bench, and smiled at him. Carcase let an
attendant in white overalls and black cap tie up his boots
under close supervision, then came to the supporters held
behind a line on the carpet by another overcoated attendant.
It was like a royal condescension as he eased himself through
the first rows of supporters to shake hands with them. Vic
found himself quite awed by the big man, so much at home
in this scene of power, so obviously strong enough to release
for the full game the energy these men were both dissipating
and husbanding in these pre-game frolics. Then the coach
called his players around him, Carcase left them through
the parted Red Sea of spectators, and a hush fell on the
a tirade of unutterable stupidity: Vic, almost overwhelmed
into believing these men invincible, convinced that the red
and black men under the stand where Frances and Anna were
sitting had no hope at all, suddenly saw that verbally, mentally,
these gods had feet of clay. Bob caught him rolling his eyes,
giving himself away as a non-initiate, and said, in a way
that sized him up as much as it answered his unspoken criticism,
'He gives 'em the tactics in the other room. This is just
for our benefit.'
was going to say, 'Well, he must have a low opinion of us',
but, hemmed in by dark-hatted and overcoated men whose passions
lay with the players around their coach, he dared nothing.
He knew, though, that in some desperate way that he would
have been ashamed to admit, he wanted those red and black
men to beat these terrors in front of him. They were an enclave
army, that was it, and his wish to see them beaten was a
sort of revenge against Frances for her failure to come out
to him when, he had felt, she promised him so much. It was,
too, an expression of hatred for something in his new friend
Bob Banner that he could sense but not articulate. Bob thought
he had something over Vic; this ground, these footballers,
were an expression of it; it would be impossible in this
swamping crowd and in the excitement of the game to separate
out the personal strands of enmity that lay between them
but he knew they were there.
had they come from ? His dislike of the Irishness of many
of the players, priests and supporters? Was it simply his
reaction against men of the footballing type, and would he
feel just as hostile to the red and black men if he were
in their rooms? No, he decided; at the top of the league
they might be, but they were the underdogs in this fierce
milieu; they couldn't possibly have in themselves the bitter
faith these Collingwood men were going to carry onto the
field. From the stands above there were roars, waves of roaring;
something was going on even before the game to stir the mob.
There was a long pause, and then a concentrated hooting pushed
through the concrete roof of the Magpies' rooms. Magpie supporters
lifted their heads as if God's own gates had opened, and
smiled jubilantly at the hostile bedlam pressing down from
above them. Bob almost shouted, 'That'll be for Tuddy!' and
then he called, 'Go on, Carcase!' The big man waved, and
then his team disappeared through the door; their studded
boots could be heard clattering away, There was another pause
while they found the entry to the race, and finally another
roar, this time of approval, such as Vic hoped he would never
hear a second time in his life, for Collingwood's entry to
the arena. Emerging from the rooms, and struggling back to
the stand behind the goals, Vic felt himself to be in enemy
territory, with only a treacherous guide to get him though.
There was something about Bob Banner he wanted to get, and
his anger could only be expressed through the red and black
men who were circling the field in a tight group, occasionally
sprinting and slowing back to a jog. Tuddy himself, number
eight, joined the home captain and ran into the barrage to
get the coin thrown out to them. Collingwood tossed, visitor
called; Collingwood won, and Richardson, the Collingwood
leader, waved to the outer goal. It was like an omen to a
Roman army. The Collingwood stands roared at this sign of
heaven's approval, the umpire blew his whistle and the players
jogged into their places, shaking hands on the move and calling
to their nearest team mates.
rented the top floor of a Fitzroy terrace, a group of teachers
(male) had the bottom floor and they too had a party going
when Anna and Vic arrived, a minute ahead of the Banners.
And it was Bob, reading the situation faster than anyone
else, who observed that the terrace was just around the crescent
from Nell's, and that one of the blokes downstairs was sure
to have got onto her by now and invited her ... with, presumably,
John Moore … and that since Patricia had been at the
Rogers' that morning, they'd invited her, and now she was
bidden for Sandra's: 'What you might call', said Bob to the
other three, before they split and re-paired, 'a pregnant
broke up while they were getting drinks. Vic and Frances
moved to the fire, Anna went away with Bob. In a corner,
in a flood of Shirley Bassey, they sat against each other;
clothing heightened the contact. People Anna knew from work
broke in, one took Bob for the husband. Anna said, 'I wish
she was right,' as they got rid of her; Bob said, 'Well,
can it be done? Let's decide if we want to do it.'
decisions already made by the time they're discussed? If
the couple in the corner were in fact going to break nothing
for a rearrangement; if the affair was to remain an affair
and not a swap, divorce, or whatever, then did they realize
the nature of their trial, the tendency of their pain? Anna
murmured (their foreheads pressing) 'It's not worth it, I
don't think it's worth it'. Bob said, 'Where do we stand
then? Do you want to break it off completely? You can't mean
didn't think she meant that, she said, 'It's as if new leads
keep appearing all the time, and I don't want to take any
of them. I can handle the situation as it is—just—but
I don't think I want it to go anywhere. If that seems to
devalue you, I'm sorry, I don't mean it that way, it's just
that I get scared.'
Stevens was in town, Sandra had to have Tea
for the Tillerman on
the stereo, then Suzi Quatro, then ... The energetic little
machine belted music through the party without pause or the
nagging of live musicians. The room heated up as the briquettes
caught alight, a group perched themselves on and about Sandra's
table, and Anna and Bob were left behind this wall, hidden,
like Gerda and the tape-recorder the night the masseur was
set up, but disappointed. They had no wish to break out,
it was their capsule: if nobody broke in, and dawn never
broke, they would be happy. In facing their decision, and
backing off, their spirits embraced each other more closely
than before, their involvement was closer to a total one,
even as they accepted that the surge in their love would
have to be disowned. Nothing was to change, therefore their
love must change; it was as if they sat near a crumbling
cliff, and moved backwards, always close to the cliff-edge,
but always moving backwards. If Anna had taught boys like
Tiger and Donny Tyler, presumably she saw young Bob Banners
every day; if those raucous northern suburbs threw up the
most important lover of her life and there was no charity
or despair, this time, in her involvement, then something
important was happening to her, something true about herself
was coming out clearly for the first time. She said, 'I think
I live a falsehood, I think we all do. We spend so much of
our time papering over the cracks that we don't properly
enjoy what we have.'
Bob was more practical: 'When's Vic going to be away next?'
of next week, I think, he's got to go up to the Barmah forest
She ...' he called her "she" ...' she's going up
home round about then, her mother's been a bit off with something,
Frances'll want Vic to stay with them, probably put him out
at Tom O'Connell’s, if Mum's still crook.'
can't stay the night. The kids.'
right, all right, I'll go when the milkman comes, how's that
you really wanted to be romantic you'd come on a horse ...'
I'd tie him up in a copse ...'
he'd twitch and snuffle and stamp his feet ...'
you were in your lady's chamber.'
won the elections
won the elections, Bob went north for Frances. The new government,
in a flurry of edicts, seemed, for a few weeks, to be changing
everything; Frances, though she consented to return to Parkville,
did it as a matter of form, there was no commitment in her
return, Bob knew she would go north again to see her mother.
came through the operation well. The doctors told her the
cancer was not as advanced as they'd feared, she still had
years of life. The family rejoiced in this, but for Frances
the cloud over her mother was part and parcel of the shadow
over her pregnancy. She made no resistance to returning,
but her very passivity made the trip to Parkville meaningless,
empty; Bob could have the benefit of her going through the
wife and husband motions, for a while, but at some point
not yet specified he would have to measure up, or quit.
new government quickly brought the old era to an end; and
Frances broke the news to her husband, driving to Melbourne
in the car.
recognized China, put the pill on the National Health list.
They abolished conscription and let the conscientious objectors
out of jail.
was no real surprise to Bob, he'd been apprehensive for many
weeks; now the crisis was on him. Drinking tea with Frances
and her news, at a Golden Fleece roadhouse, he was bitter;
despite the ups and downs of the relationship, he felt he
was on the verge of possessing Anna. Saturday had been a
height of unrestrained intimacy they hadn't reached before.
Prime Minister went to China, met Mao in private session,
Chou En Lai in the Great Hall of the Revolution.
Bob saw any joy in the news at all, before he thought of
it as something for Frances' sake, he wondered when and how
he would tell Anna; Frances saw the hesitant reaction, and
last Australian soldiers came home from Vietnam, Australia
recognized the North Vietnamese government in Hanoi. Recognized
also North Korea, East Germany, and Cambodia. The manager
of Bob's mill made snide remarks about 'palling up with all
the people we used to be fighting' and 'betraying our friends'.
Intemperate remarks by Cabinet Ministers on American bombing
set him speechless; the newspapers left in the office foyer
for people waiting for an appointment were constantly referred
to, after handshakes, 'You see what they're up to now? They
won't last long.'
managerial slogan at the mill was 'Let's get back to sense',
or, 'Everybody doesn't need to go overboard'.
was a time of trial for Bob, strain showed itself in mistakes,
oversights, things not done on time. He had to rush into
the secretary's office one morning and alter a column of
figures, just before a directors' meeting; the secretary
studied him coldly and said, 'Give us time to retype it next
time'; it meant, What's wrong with you these days, you'd
better pull your finger out.
nation turned over slowly. Labor voters were excited with
their new government, rural areas polarized against it. A
hastily prepared abortion bill was brought before parliament
and lost by a huge majority - on a so-called conscience vote.
NO TO ABORTION ON DEMAND
A WOMAN'S RIGHT TO CHOOSE
ABORTION A RIGHT, CONTRACEPTION A RESPONSIBILITY
were fought on the bumpers and back windows of cars. The
urban anonymity livened a little, the countryside slept,
or stirred only to grumble. Anna felt herself wide open,
exposed on all sides, as close to ashamed as she could come.
Bob still rang, but no opportunity to see him presented itself;
she wondered if this was an accident, or the expression of
feared and suspected the latter.
wanted to close it all off, to pass Bob back to Frances,
avoid seeing the Banners for six months, and try to restore
Vic's fallen morale. He seemed to be living by habit. He
moved, thought, and commented—but as if represented
by an actor while something in him was away.
back to his own
passed, then came the time—Vic
away, Frances up north.
Bob agonized, backed
away from going, he
knew he'd have to tell her—if
she hadn't guessed.
arrived at Heidelberg about ten, Anna came
to the door
in a dressing
I hope'; but he sounded
there been a row?'
she's in Kerang.'
seems we're starting
thought you might
Well, I'm glad
fluttered breathing, his fingers
said, ‘Fuck you, what's so funny?'
so they left it. And the nation went on its imperturbable,
phlegmatic way. The government cut out imperial
titles and honours, but the conservative states
still made honours lists for New Year and the Queen's Birthday. The Queen,
disregarded for some years, became a symbol again. Socialites
and returned servicemen wanted the old anthem, the government
expected a new one to spring from the national
brow. The states pleaded to retain access to Her Majesty's Privy Council, the
federal men wanted to chop it out, it was feared they might declare Australia a
whole cluster of social and economic interests had grown
around the notion of Proper Authority; British-derived, it
was yet another example
of the colony
being more royalist than the king. The native tradition—slangy, anti-authority,
broadly vernacular—was obviously unequal to dislodging the figures
at the bottom of the flagpole; it needed a new class of educated, independent
collar wearers to decide that there was a middle way. Bob, Anna, Vic and
were all, in their way, members of this group, unmarked by war service or
depression. And it was Frances who, once she began to think independently,
swiftly than the others; she began in the classic way of fearing what sort
of world her
child would enter. She hated the French for their nuclear tests in the Pacific,
she approved the government taking the ease to the International Court at
The Hague. Of a summer afternoon she lay in the back bedroom, upstairs; she
of abortion, rejected it, but wondered if she'd welcome a miscarriage, or
if that would make things worse. Vic rang one day to offer her a basket and
high chair, he apologized for not being able to offer a pram, they'd given
away. She said, 'You won't be needing them, then?' He said, 'No thanks!'
so emphatically she knew it was more than children he was rejecting, yet
to question him, her own misery might come out, and she preferred to hide
it. Yet when she asked him when he'd bring the things over, she hoped he'd
her unspoken urging to bring them during the day. But Vic, tactful rather
said merely that he'd bring them when he got a moment. Frances wanted to
keep him talking, would have preferred to have his arms around her again,
and she lay down in the back bedroom again. It became her unofficial bed,
the double bed was her duty place, she was glad when she could go north to
her parents. Each time Bob drove up and picked her up, she came back dutifully,
it was always in the air that she was returning as a matter of form; he must
make her want to come back, or their marriage was spoiled for ever.
feared this, feared Anna; yet when Vic delivered the basket and high chair,
the basket contained a bundle of baby clothes, nappies and a sleeping
bag which Anna had dug out of a wardrobe, and Frances was pleased, it was
the beginnings of a reconciliation, she felt. Yet Vic had been unhappy
about taking them. He wanted to say to Anna—This is too ironical,
it's saying bad luck girl, you're carrying the baby, I've got the man.
Yet he didn't,
was not in Vic's way either; he merely said, with aggressive terseness,
'You feel it's all right to give these, do you?' to which she answered,
to know you're not on your own, when you're pregnant. And you like to get
ready.' So she answered Vic on his level of superficiality, and he took
the things as
the terrace, he felt the house as an aura round Frances.
She had been painting walls, moving furniture, making curtains
bought pictures, Vic noticed that they were serious, or formal: there
was a battle scene and a sombre English landscape, the lightest
was a Chagall-like Arthur Rackham of the cat and the fiddle.
She led him down the passage,
and up the staircase,
gripping his hand tightly; at the top of the stairs she let go, but stayed
close. Vic said, 'You're not letting Bob make much of a mark on the house?'
She said, 'He doesn't seem to have much energy for the house. But he
says he's going to
get a new job, or he might start his own business, he's not making enough
money at the mill.'
sort of business?'
implication was that Bob was confused on most things, and
Frances had no means of sorting him out,
did she wish to try unless
was by his negativism that Bob pervaded the house, the fact
that his presence wasn't felt where it should be. She told Vic,
home next weekend.
I'll take these things with me.'
was horrified. 'Are you going to have the baby up there?'
get some support up there, won't I ?'
by this, Vic pleaded with her to abandon this idea, it was
but an expression of dejection,
when the time
came closer ...
might, he might not.'
Frances ... I think ... I think Anna's packed him off. I
can sort of feel it in the way she
I feel she's
you these things, I'm sure she wants to say it's over.'
not sure either, but I think so.'
need more guarantee than that.'
put his hands around her belly, the baby wasn't showing yet.
'I wish I was the father.'
it pleased her, and she stroked his hand, and took him downstairs
for a drink. Standing
she fell silent,
said, 'Even if it's over, the trouble is, I'm changed by
it. We're all changed
by it. I've
lived my life
in a certain
I felt secure
way. Now it's been broken into, I don't
know how I'll ever feel secure again.'
men lie in greatest need
men lie in greatest need, according to a Mahler song; it
was hardly a slogan to win votes, but it was all Frances
could subscribe to as truth, as she stared out the window
awaiting the return of the spare figure who, in not pushing
her over the brink, had made her aware of what love meant.
Watching for him, she wished they were lovers, it was only
a daydream, when he came in view again he was as remote as
the man at the corner shop, carrying a crate of bottles to
his truck. Was the corner shop Italian happy? Frances had
no idea. Her incapacity cloaked her like a shame, she stood
away from the curtains in case Vic looked up, but she followed
his progress by the squeak of his car door, the slam, the
engine starting, the car moving away. Then she went to the
back bedroom, destined to be the nursery, to look on the
basket and high chair, and she lay on the single bed which
was still part of the furnishing. Considering the walls,
which had no pictures yet, she supposed she would go through
the ducks and Mickey Mouse routine, but felt she should do
better by her child. The strength in Frances which could
have coped with tragedy if need be, rose on behalf of her
child; she wondered if baby talk and coddling, which she
knew she would go on with, were more of the mother's need
than the child's; whether the child was born more realistic
than the parents wanted it to be; whether natural protectiveness
of the child was natural protection of the parental half-truths;
whether her working life thus far had anything worthwhile
in it at all. It was so funny to think of a fat little milk-sucking
baby containing the seeds of greatness, evil, pettiness or
ignorant, well-meaning charity, yet Hitler, Mozart, Stalin
and the rest of them had once been babies. Frances lay on
her back bedroom single bed racked by the conceit that the
birth pains she would have to endure would be like a squeezing,
cramming up of human history so it could pass through her
and represent itself in the body of a child.
sat up, bolt upright, shaking, it would have been easy to
cry, but nothing came.
she heard Bob's key in the door, his feet on the stairs.
sat on the end of the single bed, took in the basket, clothes
and high chair.
got a present?'
nodded. She took courage, said it:
nodded, rubbed her ankle.
to think of him sitting up there, yelling out he won't eat
sure it'll be a boy, aren't you.'
No, I mean . . . you say "he", you mean he or she
you don't, you think it'll be a boy, you haven't even got
a name ready if it's a girl.'
said, 'Why, what're we calling him if it's a boy?'
said, 'What do you think?'
said, 'Keep it plain, anyway. No Bretts or Craigs so the
poor little bugger feels dated when he grows up.'
in Frances softened:
said, 'No, a kid doesn't want to be called by his father's
name. John. Plain honest John.'
said, 'John Banner. A bit too plain, isn't it?'
him a second name. John Victor Banner, how about that?'
was unexpectedly generous, and somewhere in it was a plea
for understanding, perhaps one day he would want forgiveness,
a foolish rush of tears came in her eyes. He rubbed her ankles,
then her legs:
are all right so far, anyway.'
don't get fluid retention till much later than this.'
said, 'Causes a lot of trouble, doesn't he?'
said, 'You really are sure it's a boy, aren't you?' But she
smiled, and let Bob lead her into their bedroom. He said,
'I'll get you a vermouth, it'll be nice up here in the sun. Go
out on the balcony.'
said, 'No, I get scared on the balcony now, even the stairs
sometimes. Sorry I'm so silly, Bobby.' He called out as he moved
off for the drinks: 'Don't get too silly now, I need your
business head. I've got a lot of thinking to do.'
called down: 'What about?'
Enterprises, Proprietary Limited.'
do they do?'
yelled up to her, 'Don't know yet!'
he came back, she sat near him:
could make flags, with a name like that.'
bloody old Gough'd change the flag instead of mucking about
with anthems, there might be a bit in it.'
said, 'Banner Enterprises. How many directors will you have?'
your eye on the chairman's job, have you?'
head inclined, she said, 'No'. In it he might have heard
the readiness to
forgive, and some of that world-underlying need she had brooded on.
mind. Drink up. We'll work it out.'
last of us to pull through
burst out again:
as for you and Bob, I don't care about that. It's not a matter
of forgiving, it never was a thing that had to be forgiven.
It was your business, and you know why? Because it bloody
well wasn't MINE!'
walked out to the garage, and she thought she heard him going
down the side of the house and onto the street, she realized
there was a feeling of inferiority in the outburst. She noticed
Vic's assumption, an inexperienced one, that all had gone
smoothly between herself and Bob, and had come smoothly to
an end, like an engine turned off when running at optimum
temperature. She decided Vic was a burden till she could
untangle with him the experience they'd been through in the
last few months; if they were going to sit coolly at table
not discussing these things, it was like travelling in separate
compartments, not free, not properly linked; who wanted that?
the children had made a house out of Lego, with a crane dangling
its hook off the roof, and a ramp for the matchbox car, and:
Mum, it's even got lights in the window! That work! Look,
watch, and I'll turn it on. Now it's off, see?'
she thought, Isolde tried that trick once, it didn't work
too well. She'd just got nicely settled in with her lover,
if the music told you anything, when the hunt returned. And
Tristan spread his mantle to hide her from their eyes. She
loved opera, it was what she called her world of beautiful
lies, she lacked the self-importance to be like these figures,
and took care to puncture or deflate when those near her
tried to aggrandize their emotions; she would say, even of
her favorite operas, 'I have to let my sense of the ridiculous
go if I want to enjoy them, and I can't do it for too long'.
Now Vic was out walking the streets in a temper, or disturbed,
and she knew she had no remedies for him; he'd been blissfully
ignorant and now must find some wisdom for himself, she hoped
he wouldn't withdraw too far.
he came back, she had the children in bed, his footsteps
made her heart thump with apprehension. She said, 'Look,
honey, I think you're the last of us to pull through, but
you will. Don't worry too much, you will.'
said, 'That's all right for you. I don't know how to compromise.
I think it's a disgrace.'
is it you can't swallow?'
like to be springing along, and I'm dragging myself.'
> back to TOP
writing of this book:
1974 I had a second Literature Board grant. Inflation had
struck and my $6000 grant was very tight as an allowance
for a year, but we got through by putting bills aside until
the next monthly instalment came. This novel is very different
in style from its predecessor, mainly, I think, because I
was accepting of the fact that the country had changed. The
counter-culture had swept through everything, and many old
verities had collapsed. People who felt that marriage had
brought stability to their lives discovered that what had
come to be known as ‘relationships’ were everywhere.
Respectability had died a death. Control of our society’s
mental world had moved from churches and traditions enshrined
in custom and literature to the makers of banner headlines.
Sexual desire was no longer treated with apology but had
become natural, and was thought to need fulfilment.
Four faces, wobbly mirror the inner voices of its predecessor
give way to slogans, headlines, ideological grabs:
HOMOSEXUAL SWIMMING – ENJOY THE THRILL YOU’VE
CHRIST CHUNDERS AT CONGRESS
STOP SNEDDEN GO GOUGH
SNEDDEN PM? YOU’VE GOT TO BE JOKING
seemed to be thinking that way and following the thought
with action. It was a heady time and the éclat made
its way into the political world, at least for a time, as
the book tries to show.
Wren wanted the book but he said it was too slow. I took
it to Hilary McPhee, who was still with Heinemann. She told
me she agreed with Dennis, and that the first quarter of
the book needed heavy cutting. I looked closely and decided
she was right. I went through the first seventy pages or
so, cutting words at every opportunity. I tried to make the
pace of the book even throughout; intensity might rise and
fall but the speed of movement should be fairly constant.
I am grateful to Dennis and to Hilary for giving me this
awareness and as far as I know the problem hasn’t recurred.
of my work colleagues read the book when it came out and
I recall something that happened when we were gathered for
a farewell to someone who was leaving. One person was talking
excitedly to a group when I approached. They all looked at
me then turned away, and something said to me later made
me aware that they had been talking about an incident (page
100 in the 1986 book) which I had borrowed from a story told
to us by a former colleague whose life had been very much
in the current of the times. What none of them had realised,
as far as I was aware, was that one of the four ‘faces’ of
the book was based on another of their colleagues. I had
borrowed this man’s personality for my character but
had given him rather different social descriptors, and none
of those who knew the man had ‘recognised’ him.
Nor, perhaps, should they; it is common for people to think
that writers are forever writing romans à clef, when
most writers are not. My colleagues, I felt, thought they
had caught me out but I felt I had found them wanting. It
may be that I am under-estimating them, but nobody ever brought
the matter of characters’ origins into discussion with
me; writers rarely find readers who talk about books on writers’ terms.
I am still undecided as to whether this is a shortcoming,
or whether it is the right of readers to take their books
in the ways they want to, or need to, in which case writers
are mere providers. I link this matter to the way in which
writers are treated with a mixture of reverence and dislike;
there is an unresolved power struggle going on, I feel.
word about Wren Publishing. Four faces, wobbly mirror was
in production when I became aware that Dennis was in trouble.
He’d put a lot of money into a book that he hoped would
be a succés de scandale. His printer, however, was
one of his financial backers, and someone at the printery
was worried about possible libel actions. The printers refused
to release the book but still charged Wren Publishing for
the job. Dennis haggled, but the end was in sight. Would
my book get out in time? Only just. I had the satisfaction
of seeing it in a Katoomba bookshop while I was on holiday
with my wife and children, then the Wren business folded,
and the book disappeared without further trace. I bought
up 200 copies and started my present practice of giving them
to anyone who looked like a possible reader. Vale, Dennis!
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