The Centreway Building was built in 1911-1912 and refurbished in the 1980s. During the latter work, a designer with a keen sense of irony installed a feature wall in the middle of the arcade.
A grid pattern on the wall is affixed with numerous letters (if you climb up to the first floor you can see them more clearly). Although hard to read, the letters spell out the following message:
“We live in a society that sets an inordinate value on consumer goods and services.”
It’s an intriguingly non-consumerist message for a shopping arcade. Nice work from the refurbishment architects, Cocks Carmichael and Whitford! (The original buildings architects, from the 1911-12 construction, were HW + FB Tompkins.)
For the font nerds among us, the message is in uppercase Helvetica.
A few years ago, I created the Melbourne Literary and Melbourne Peculiar apps in celebration of Melbourne’s standing as a UNESCO City of Literature, as well as some of the daggy, weird and downright peculiar things I love about my city. I thought I’d share the occasional entry from the apps. They are still available on both iTunes and Android, though they are no longer updated.
2012 has been an interesting year so far. By interesting I mean, of course, ‘astonishing’, ‘fantabulous’, ‘exhausting’, ‘exhilarating’ and, quite possibly, ‘TOTALLY ACE!”
2012, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
ONE. March 2012: Showtime
I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned how excited I was to have Twelfth Planet Press invite me to submit to their Twelve Planets series. It was nothing compared to how excited I was to have my submission accepted. After months of work with the publisher, Alisa Krasnostein (a World Fantasy Award winner for her work with TPP) and my editor, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Showtime was released on International Women’s Day. It’s had some great reviews, but more importantly, I’m personally very proud of the work that went into those short stories. For fans of The Opposite of Life, there’s a Gary and Lissa story set at the Royal Melbourne Show. The book also contains a zombie story, a ghost story and a more traditional vampire story set in Hungary, inspired by my travels to that country in 2010.
When I’m not writing fiction (or doing the day job) I’ve been known to create apps. My first one, Melbourne Literary, came out a few years ago. Clearly a glutton for punishment, this year I finally finished my second app – Melbourne Peculiar, a guide to everything that’s a little bit strange about this town.
I’m fond of the tagline: Melbourne is stranger than you know. Because it really is.
The app is a fairly personal collection of the things I find odd: things like floral clocks, and hidden anti-consumer messages in shopping malls, and arcane shops and memento mori jewellery. You can even learn about the resting place of the inventor of Vegemite, discover where to get spam, get eggs and truffle oil for breakfast or find a famous composer’s whip collection.
A little while ago, I had the great good fortune to win cover art by the fabulous Les Petersen. Since all my other projects already had covers in the pipeline, I thought it would be the perfect time to release a special omnibus edition of my out of print fantasy novels, Witch Honour and Witch Faith, which had been released in hardback in the US in 2005-2007.
So in between writing and editing books and apps, I set about editing the two novels (doing a bit of an adjective and adverb cull, since I’d become a more concise writer since these were published) and adding several short stories and even song lyrics as extra. The result is The Witches of Tyne. It looks terrific, and I’m proud of the result. Extras will be forthcoming in the shape of an actual song to go with the song lyrics, in due course.
Walking Shadows will be available as an ebook as well as a print edition: stay tuned for links post-launch!
The cover blurb is from Charlaine Harris’s blog about The Opposite of Life:
“A most unusual vampire novel…if you can get this book, do. It’s really a refreshing take on a common theme.”
Which is pretty darned cool.
So thank you, first half of 2012, for being especially fantastic. The latter half may be technically a little quieter, but I’ll be hard at work on the third of the vampire books, so with luck 2013 will contains booky goodness as well.
I like visiting graveyards. Some people think this is morbid of me. They suspect perhaps that I’m scouting for possibe monuments for my own passing, or wishing to dwell on the End of Things, especially since, as an atheist, I really don’t believe I have an afterlife to either look forward to or dread.
Others share my enthusiasm, like my friend Katherine who recently accompanied me on two visits to the Box Hill cemetery in search of a couple of gravestones. Two visits were required because we couldn’t find DJ Dennis or Cyril Callister the first time round. Luckily, on the second visit we bumped into some members of the Friends of the Cemetery who knew just where we could find them.
But seriously, I don’t find graveyards morbid. Sometimes they are very sad, especially the graves of children. Most graves are meaningful only to the families of the deceased. Sometimes, though, a little part of the person’s story is left behind for random strangers like me.
And that’s one of the pleasures of the graveyard for me. These places mark the end of everyone’s story, eventually (or, if you’re a believer, the end of volume one and the beginning of the sequel). From time to time, a little of that story is shared.
In Box Hill, Katherine and I found the grave of a woman from Brighton who had been a keen gardener. We knew this because her epitaph referred to her devotion to her garden and the joy she and her neighbours gained from her gifts with plants. Beneath the headstone, her grave contained a little panorama of plants and a bluebird made of porcelain, shielded under clear perspex. I never knew this woman, but for a moment I shared and understood her love of growing things, and sharing that love with her community.
The purpose for the visit was to take pictures for entries in a new iPhone app project I’m working on, so, see, research, like I said. Dennis and Callister were my destinations.
CJ Dennis’s grave bears a quote from one of his poems, and it was pleasant to spend a moment reflecting on the legacy of The Sentimental Bloke and his other works which I”m yet to read. At Cyril Callister’s grave, I took a moment to be thankful for Vegemite, which he invented, on which so many Australian children have grown up and which gave me a taste of home when I needed it while living on foreign shores.
It has to be said, as an editor in my day job, it’s also an occupational hazard that I spotted a typo on stone. I don’t believe in an afterlife or ghosts, but I swear I’ll come back to haunt anyone who carves a spelling or grammatical error into my final resting place.
Graves can be sad; they can even be morbid. I find them melancholy but restful, a reminder that every life, however, brief, has it’s own story, filled with love, drama, tragedy and joy. It’s a reminder that every story ends and that I want to fill mine with love, adventure, friends, exploration and the unexpected.
In case you’re wondering, if I end up with a headstone (rather than cremated and kept in a pretty jar) I’d like my epitaph to read: Here lies Narrelle Harris. Full stop.”
I have started a new competition on my Facebook page! Just match a character from The Opposite of Life with a suitable Christmas song. Characters can include leads, supporting characters, goths, vampires, librarians, family members living or dead or someone you read about in passing who caught your fancy.