Thursday, January 25, 2018

Catherine Rey's previous work.

 From Readings Review of Rey's previous novel Stepping Out.

"The difference between a novel and autobiography,’ muses the narrator of this clearly autobiographical novel, ‘[is that] novels are closer to the truth. They’re full of the confusion, the violence and the hue and cry of truth.’ This intriguing reflection, in the midst of a ‘novel’ where the French narrator’s name is the same as the author’s, captures the elegant, intense, fiery and occasionally philosophical nature of Stepping Out.

Catherine runs away just two months before she turns 18, giving up everything for her married lover, a house painter. The two key relationships in this novel are with Marco, the lover, and Catherine’s brilliant, acerbic, deeply narcissistic mother, who left her with her grandparents at three weeks old, and has flitted in and out of her life ever since. But just as important is Catherine’s devotion to her writing. Rey reminds me of her fellow European Sybille Bedford, who also wrote evocative autobiographical novels about her eccentric family. She explores class, literature, family and feminism; all woven into a compelling story that interrogates the changing social mores of 1960s France. "

Abstract from Life Writing Journal

In the Asia-Pacific region, literature is plurilingual. Even Australian literature is not necessarily written in English. There are several contemporary Australian authors who write in languages other than English and many who write in various Englishes. This article examines one such example by analysing the life writing of Catherine Rey. It focuses upon the self-reinvention that this French author performed by migrating to Australia in mid-life. Focusing on the first-person narrative Une femme en marche (2007) and drawing comparisons with self-reflexive essays by this author, the article teases out the contrasts between Rey’s representation of France and Australia as spaces for literary creation. It then interrogates how Rey reinvents herself through linguistic play within her life writing. Using theories of ‘translanguaging’, the article analyses the ways in which this author blends French and English to probe the gaps in languages, to nuance literary representation and to create new linguistic forms to express her self-narrative.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

New novel by French Australian writer

French Australian author Catherine Rey launches her new novel in Feb 2018!

Catherine Rey was born near La Rochelle in France. At the age of 41 she left her job as a schoolteacher and moved to Perth where the grandparents who raised her had earlier lived for 20 years.

In 2005 she received a PhD from the University of Western Australia for her dissertation on the adoption of French as a literary language by the Eastern European writers Emil Cioran, Milan Kundera and Andrei Makine. She has taught at the University of Western Australia and Edith Cowan University and was a fellow at Western Sydney University in the Writers and Society Research Centre.

Rey's novels include  include L'ami intime, Les jours heureux, Eloge de l'oubli, Lucy comme les chiens, and Ce que racontait Jones, which was shortlisted for the Prix Femina and the Prix Renaudot, and published in Australia as The Spruiker's Tale in 2005.  Une femme en marche, was published in Australia by Giramondo as Stepping Out in 2008.

Her first English language novel The Lovers will be launched on Feb 27 at Potts Point Bookshop.

 The Lovers is an arresting tale, a mystery with a slow burn tension, which revolves around the disappearance of Lucie Bruyère. The novel unveils the truth about her charismatic yet subtly controlling partner, the world-famous artist Ernest Renfield. The suspenseful story, both police investigation and multi-voiced Rashomon, ends in a dramatic and powerful illumination.

Michelle de Kretser says: “I found The Lovers utterly compelling. This impeccably crafted novel told from multiple perspectives offers the page-turning suspense of a mystery while resisting easy resolution. It is ultimately a meditation on making art: the cost it exacts and the solace it brings.”

Here is my review:

Catherine Rey's gripping mystery unfolds in true Durassienne style. Like the novel and play L'Amante Anglaise, written in the late sixties by the French writer Marguerite Duras, the action of The Lovers hinges on an interrogation, only in this instance we never see or hear the interrogator voice.

After a party in a country house near Sydney, a French woman, Lucie Bruyère is missing. Over time as each character reveals themselves to the investigator Officer Lawson, the reader gets to play detective. But it's not just forensic evidence that is of interest in this case but potent themes of the hostile family, the migrant outsider, cultural landscapes, language, music, art, philosophy and more. So much so that clues to our own struggles and failings and the traps of our own lives are revealed.

The inspiration for the novel, Rey told me, comes from the Magritte painting The Lovers, which represents two heads embracing, each covered with a white shroud, and the question of who is behind the curtain. 

Having lived in Australia for almost 20 years this is Rey's first novel to be written in English. To my mind the title The Lovers, also tips its hat to Marguerite Duras' famous novel The Lover reminding us of the rich French literary lineage Rey hails from and how fortunate we are to have an author of her calibre in our midst.

Read more about Catherine Rey's other work here. 

Monday, May 29, 2017

To rent: Writer's House in Bali July - Oct 2017

 My friend Bob has a wonderful house in Bali perfect for a writer in need of peace and seclusion.


What: Rustic, secluded split level bungalow with ocean view at a cool 1,000ft altitude on the east coast of Bali. Suit writer or artist

When: From end of June to end of October, 2017.

Rent: $280aud per week


The two-bedroom house is completely furnished, fast Internet, sound system. All alone between villages and hidden by trees, facing southwest on 1600 m2 of tropical jungle, coconuts, clove trees and bananas, this is a place to escape into for months of relaxation and peace.

Two fish ponds host highly competitive resident frog choirs as well as visiting kingfishers, herons, swamp hens and other unspecified wildlife. There is also a guest house with upper and lower bedrooms and bathroom. The main house has a study, fully equipped kitchen, three terraces, car port. It is tranquilly isolated but with bitumen road access. The descent to Klungkung Market takes 10 minutes and Sanur/Denpasar, Padangbai and Kintamani, are 30 minutes away. No traffic to speak of, it is the ideal place for anyone seeking a ‘real’ Bali living experience.

It is not to be used as a homestay or for any other commercial purpose and Hindu-Bali observances are to be respected at all times.

This rental period of four months can be extended for at least a year (with a possibility of even longer should you fall in love with it!)

For information, inspection, additional photographs, contact: Bali: HP 081934359190. Email: <>

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Japan Train Haibun

Our country train barrels along; at the helm our train driver in his captain’s hat and white cloves, sounds the horn — waarp waaarp. It feels like a toy train, like we are in the land of Noddy as we rock from side to side, charge along the clickety-clack tracks, pull into a toy station in a toy town; neat toy houses with green trimmed topiary in each tiny front yard.

rush of steel
bowing as we pass
persimmon tree

Through a dark tunnel then out into the light again, cutting a path through dry rice paddies lying fallow since harvest time. At the edge of the rice fields, houses, buildings, habitation. A bell rings, an announcement comes over, the driver waves his white-gloved hands then is still again. A fit looking Japanese couple in pom pom hats rise from seats lining the carriage walls, clipping back pack buckles, unfolding their hiking sticks, getting ready to alight.  A grey haired man in a lime green ski jacket stretches his legs, flexes his feet, then saunters to the door. A smiling middle aged couple across from me share some snacks from the convenience store — rice balls and seaweed-wrapped misubi. Our trains stops, doors open, people get off but no one gets on. 

at Chinoseki, a long wait
haiku writers all in a row
with hot knees

Air rushes in, a train arrives at the next platform, people get off and scuttle away, some cross the platform to our train, this must be the reason for the wait. An elderly Japanese business man carrying his black business bag, a short Japanese lady in a black quilted hat, girl in leopard skin boots. In the drivers cabin, a change of drivers. A young woman in stewardess hat, white gloves, neat navy skirt and jacket uniform,  takes the reigns, sitting still as a mouse  awaiting the green signal. The former driver, stands at white attention next to her, his solemn expression, staring ahead.  

passing his gravestone every day
the train driver’s daughter
keeps her promise

(c) Jan Cornall, Japan, Nov 2016.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Haiku jottings, Japan, Autumn 2016.

Works in progress, Tokyo.

spring behind
autumn ahead
Tokyo bound

out the airplane window
cities of clouds

out the airplane window
the Sistine Chapel

down below —
the sea has

scary cloud monsters on parade
—all fluff

on the plane
I rub noses with
plumes of cloud

a lifetime of self doubt
in a haiku moment

to be mid haiku
in the final moment—

forgoing the movie
in favour of
 the view

the porch light turns off
setting sun

everyone on their screens
my pen in a notebook

night train into Tokyo
down side streets

at the hotel
the security guard and his
samurai pose

silent streets
thunder rolls
my suitcase wheels

in the city centre
a pin drops

a sudden brigade 
of see-through umbrellas
Tokyo rain

late autumn moon 
businessmen with small black bags
wind their way home

practicing his golf swing
while he waits
white umbrella

muted tones of Tokyo fashion
my red raincoat 
too red

at Zojoji temple
red wool caps warm the heads
of unborn babes

at the fish market
bright red 

just one anomaly in this squeaky clean city
what's that bad smell?
oh, laughs Akira
the ginkgo tree is dropping its seeds
smell, not so good
but taste, delicious

just one bad smell in this squeaky clean city
the ginkgo tree 
dropping its seeds

night worries wake me
the ginko tree drops its seeds

anxious thoughts wake me from the dead
but what good fortune!
I am still alive

writing something
I exist

autumn rain
Tokyo streets
sirens call

dog yelping in the rain
my squeaky shoes

silent streets
autumn rains
my squeaky shoes

in the subway
Basho's skylark

from the speaker in the metro
Basho's skylark

birdsong in the subway
the Emperor's nightingale

reading Murakami on the train
a sleeping man falls 
into my lap

workmen sleep in their van
dream engine running

Tokyo Tower
you could see Mt Fuji
except for the smog

travelling again
bringing too much
then buying more

on my way to the Emperor's Palace
pull a muscle in my glute
too busy jotting
a walking haiku

no jaywalking in Tokyo city
we wait and wait 
finally green

in the business district
crows carry 
small black bags

salary men and their black bags
what's inside?

two men up a ladder 
trim a giant

approaching the Emperor's moat
I'm in Mandalay 

her majesty on the palace moat
a white swan

outside the closed palace gate
so many tourists, yet somehow

at the Emperor's eastern gate
a Chinese tourist hums
a lively folk tune

at the eastern palace gate, a Japanese toddler sings:
London Bridge is falling down
my fair lady

the chalk sign outside the Kukyomon gate says:
the guided tours of the Imperial Palace, will not be held today
due to the other activities of the Imperial household

at the next table 
eight Japanese beauties
unusually tall

in Harajuku street
how do you know if schoolgirls are really 

behind the clouds
a melon moon
the softness of Tokyo faces

two old school mates, fresh from chemo 
could be two wise monks
except for their 
jaunty hats

to be continued...

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Lonely Writer and other new songs

A new song, dedicated to all the lonely writers in the world!

Lonely Writer

I don’t go out no more
No one comes to knock my door
Can’t remember who last I saw

Cos I’m a lonely writer

I don’t frequent late night bars
Don't get into stranger’s cars
I may as well live on Mars

Cos I’m a lonely writer

I don’t have a social plan
Try to catch me if you can
Write to me if you’re a fan

Cos I’m a lonely writer

Lonely writers work on their books
They skulk about in quiet nooks
Take lonely strolls and lonely walks
Have no time for small talk

Lonely Writer

I don’t have no time to dance
Or get in other peoples pants
Time is precious, can’t take the chance

Cos I’m a lonely writer

I must think and ruminate
For inspiration cannot wait
Must hit the desk at half past eight

Cos I’m a lonely writer

I don’t go for dinners out
Or to the pub for a shout
I’m a loner there’s no doubt

Cos I’m a lonely writer

At the writer’s festival, you would never know
See the lonely writers, all in a row
Witty, charming, erudite
We will party on all night
Drinking, drugging, swapping beds
Climbing in each other’s heads
Take the opportunity
Cos next week again, we’ll all be

Lonely writers
Lonely writers
Lonely writers

(c) Jan Cornall 2016

Rock Star

When I was young, I had the notion
My life wouldn't be just a drop in the ocean
I would do something grand, I would do something great
But now I wonder have I left it too late

To be a rockstar, have a fancy car
Even tho’ I cannot drive, I would surely feel alive
As a rockstar

As I got older I did a few things
Got my name in the paper, did a few gigs
Got a few laughs, in clubs after dark
Then I knew how I would make my mark

I’d be a stand up / comedienne
I would show the world
How to love a funny girl
 Be a stand up/ comedienne

Well I did a few shows
Went on the road
With Wendy and Gretel, we got our names known
Then I had babies, one, two, three
Then I discovered the real me

I’d be a writer, a famous novelist
At the writers festivals
I’d be on the top ten list
A famous author

Now I’m retired from aspiration
I’m wondering about the future I’m facing
Thinkin’, thank god I ain’t known across the nation
Cos I’m free to enjoy my ruminating
I don’t feel sad, don’t feel bereft
Cos I know there is still something left

I’m a singer, and I sing my songs
I invite my friends to sing along
I’m free to sing the blues
Or whatever the hell I choose

( Wild vocal improv)

Yeah I’m a rock star
I don’t need a fancy car
I’m happy not to drive
Cos I have a happy life!  Rockstar!


I met a guy, he caught my eye

I really couldn’t pass him by

He liked me too, we start talk

Upon the street, we start to walk

I like his voice, I like his style

We laugh a lot, I like his smile

It feels so good to find a man

Who listens well, who understands

There’s something tho’ I cannot place

There’s some look upon his face

His glances all about the room

I see the others start to swoon

Then I get it, then I know

I will have to let him go

Cos he’s a floozy

A real doozy

He doesn’t mean to hurt

He pushes through me

To get to the other floozy

And leaves me in the dirt

He flirts with boys, he flirts with girls

He loves old ladies wearing pearls

He’ll charm your dog, he’ll charm your cat

Won’t care if you’re thin or fat

He does not discriminate

There’s nobody that he hates

Cos he’s a floozy etc.

He loves the waiter, loves the cook

The waitress in a quiet nook

The bank teller, supermarket chick

Loves anyone who gives him schtick

Policeman, landlord, boring friend

He’ll invite them round again

 Cos he’s a floozy etc.

I met a guy, he caught my eye

I really couldn’t pass him by

He liked me too, we start talk

Upon the street, we start to walk

I like his voice, I like his style

We laugh a lot, I like his smile

It feels so good to find a man

Who listens well, who understands
and yet there's one thing that I know 
I will have to let him go

Cos he’s a floozy, a real floozy

He’s a charmer, he’s a flirt

He doesn’t mean to hurt

He gives you such attention

In the moment that you’re with him

When he’s gone all is forgiven

Such a floozy! 

 (c) Jan Cornall 2016

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Cornball Comax

A long, long time ago, when I lived in Eugene, Oregon, when I had lots of time on my hands, I started drawing comics.  I kept them all in an artist diary and luckily I still have them today. Here is the beginning of one of them...

(Click on the pic for more detail, esp bottom frames which are a bit dim).

to be continued...

meanwhile, for the real thing, check out the comix of Louie Joyce, son of Cornball, here.

(c) Jan Cornall 1975