Good Reading : July 2006
JULY 2006 ı goodreading 17 around the neck for years. Finally I threw her off! I have been obsessed with Fallingwater for a long time, and I wanted to try to write why, what it was. I went there to see the place as part of the research for this book, and then it came down to such a simple thing: because I wrote it through the eyes of a child, it came down to: it’s an inspiring building. It wasn’t until I started researching the book that I came across the story behind Taliesin. It was incredible. I had an interest in Fallingwater and I had this child story that I wanted to tell. I worked away in the dark, and then all of a sudden I found that there was this great common link between these two stories – Fallingwater was a building he had designed after an incredible loss.’ What Deborah is refer ring to is the little-known but appalling tragedy suffered by Lloyd Wright: while he was away from his own house Taliesin in Wisconsin his partner (for whom he’d left his first wife), her children and several staff on the property were hacked to death by a crazed employee. This happened twenty-two years before Fallingwater was built. Deborah’s own creative life has had a long gestation. In the 1970s she undertook a creative writing degree, when there were only two places that taught creative writing in the entire country. (Now, all Australian universities offer creative writing courses.) But when she graduated at twenty-one, she says she emerged ‘knowing a little bit about writing but feeling like I didn’t have anything really to say, and that the last thing the world needed was another person who didn’t have any- thing to say.’ So off she went to England and worked in London as a journalist throughout the ’80s. ‘I put all thought of writing aside,’ she says. ‘I couldn’t imagine how I could possibly support myself, how I could manage the lack of confidence – it just seemed like it was too hard, it had been a dream. And then I had a kind of little epiphany one Saturday morning reading a wonderful book and thinking, this is the only time I feel connected to everything, when I’m writing and reading.’ She returned to Perth and set about teaching herself to write again – and also began teaching creative writing. Slowly, the stories that went into her first book, Proudflesh, came together. This collection of short stories won the 1998 Steele Rudd Award, which, she says, ‘was a lovely thing because it felt like an invitation to the profession, kind of like a plumber being given one of those things you unblock drains with! People say that prizes don’t matter, but I think they can never have lost one or won one to think that.’ The prize was not only an acknowledgement of her writing talent, it also opened doors. And when her fellow graduate from the creative writing degree,Tim Winton, phoned his publisher at Picador, Nikki Christer, to tell her about the manuscript one Deborah Robertson had just finished, Nikki rang Deborah, read the manuscript as soon as it arrived, and signed her up immedi- ately. Careless has also been sold to the prestigious Sceptre list in England, and will come out there early next year. It’s a gratifying response to a book in which, as Deborah explains, she is ‘not concerned with good and evil. I’m con- cerned with much, much smaller moments where we fail each other or aid each other.’ Those moments are captured so well in this thoughtful, insightful novel. Deborah has already begun her second novel, which is set in Albany where she grew up. ‘It’ll be another contemporary novel,’ she says. ‘I couldn’t write historical fiction to save my life. I’m really interested in the here and now, in a small private way but also in larger terms, in how we make a society.’ Careless is published this month by Picador, r rp $32.95.