Ralph at Currajah was very quick off the mark last weekend! picking up the news of Beverley Farmer being awarded the Patrick White prize, and spreading the love, along with her misgivings (see Susan Wyndham's report, here).
(If you cannot read that bio on Austlit because you are not a subscriber, you should be able to join using a public library card, or a State Library one. Or you can read this older bio by Laurie Clancy, with some good notes on her books, which does not include her latest publication, The Bone House.)
One of my favourite books is Farmer's collection of diary extracts and short stories, collected mainly around their writing, A Body Of Water. There is a story about a Buddhist retreat in that volume, complete with a diary account of the retreat, that provides a magnificent study in how to render fiction out of memory.
Farmer is a prose poet in many ways - from her notes from October in that book comes this account of reading at Mietta's, a fine restaurant with literary leanings, at some time in the eighties:
Heat and sun for the first day of daylight saving. I read a story in the "Readings with Readings" program in the Lounge at Mietta's, among the fringed lamps, clustered gold bubbles of light overhead, black statues bearing flowers - heat and smoke drifting. The dappled grey marble of the round tables, bright with the light of wineglasses.
At seven o'clock tall buildings still reached up into the sun.
In the livid night sky - never black in Carlton - a crescent moon lay on its back holding a smaller moon clasped, a dim full one. (On top of a stupa they have an orb in a cusp.)
Further up that page, she writes of a house she had rented by the coast, somewhere near Lorne:
Skirting the full frog pond with a chilly scud across it, over the road and dunes you go down onto the surf beach. The tea-trees up there in the dune-folds are whiskery knuckles, leafless and lichen-splattered, scraping the sand. Though the sea is so near, there's not a whisper of it, as if this really were another time.
I liked living back there, deep in the tea-tree. Glaneuse Road: after the French barque Glaneuse, wrecked off the surf beach in 1886 with her bottles of contraband cognac. (And Glaneuse, gleaner: what I was and am.) For those six months I was suspended out of time in a glass lantern, not swinging - still, somewhere between two seasons. An old life, a new.
From A Body Of Water, UQP: 1990, p.188 (the one with the Matisse painting on the cover, yesss. Iss mine, preciousss.) A volume of Farmer's longer, meditative essays on art and life, The Bone House, is available from Giramondo. I don't know how many of her other books are in print - her Collected Stories have been on school reading lists from time to time. She spoke with Clive Hamilton and Alfred Yuson on Radio National's Book Show on the art of the essay in 2006 and a podcast is still available, here. I have also found an essay in Island from 2005, 'The Dog Of The Work', in my travels...Enjoy.