Authors: Joanne Horniman
has been a kitchenhand, waitress,
editor, teacher and screen printer. She now writes full-time in a
shed overlooking Hanging Rock Creek near Lismore, northern
New South Wales. Her novels include
A Charm of Powerful Trouble
My Candlelight Novel
told by Sophie O'Farrell, follows on from the story told
by Sophie's sister Kate in
Secret Scribbled Notebooks
Secret Scribbled Notebooks
âA deeply satisfying novel on every level.'
âThe writing is beautifulâ¦brightened by shafts of humour,
romantic and introspective.'
âAn evocative, dream-like read.'
This project has been assisted by the Australian Government
through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body.
First published in 2008
Copyright Â© Joanne Horniman 2008
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher. The
Australian Copyright Act 1968
(the Act) allows a maximum of one chapter or 10 per cent of this book, whichever is the greater, to be photocopied by any educational institution for its educational purposes provided that the educational institution (or body that administers it) has given a remuneration notice to Copyright Agency Limited (CAL) under the Act.
National Library of Australia
Author: Horniman, Joanne
Title: My candlelight novel / Joanne Horniman.
ISBN: 9781741754858 (pbk.)
Dewey Number: A823.3
Cover design Bruno Herfst
Cover photograph by Getty Images/Marcus Lyon
Cover photograph by iStockphoto/Bill Noll
Text design by Sandra Nobes
Typeset in 10 pt ITC Galliard by Tou-Can Design
Printed in Australia by McPherson's Printing Group
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
I'd like candlelight novel now.'
Jack Kerouac, in a letter to Allen Ginsberg,
20 June 1960
Y GRATEFUL THANKS
go to the May Gibbs Children's Literature Trust for a residential fellowship in the Canberra studio where part of this book was written, and dreams dreamed during blissful naps on the blue sofa in the afternoon sunlight.
Also to the staff and students of Southern Cross University in Lismore, especially Dr Janie Conway-Heron, Senior Lecturer, Writing, in the School of Arts and Sciences, who generously allowed me to attend some of her lectures, and Dr Sacha Gibbons, whose tutorial I attended. Thanks to my friend Lainie Jones who facilitated it all.
Jacqueline Kent's colloquial translation of Rimbaud has finally been utilised, after many years. I'd also like to thank Kate O'Donnell, whose favourite writing advice from Jack Kerouac, âTry never get drunk outside yr own house', inspired a portion of the dialogue.
and knew that I'd been talking in my sleep again.
I'd been dreaming of my mother of course â on my sleep-talking nights I always did. Kate tells me that my words were unintelligible, like a foreign language â but that was the way I had to speak to my mother, because what I wanted to say to her could not be said.
Hetty was sitting up in her cot, watching the pale light through the curtains on the French doors, and I lay there gazing at her for ages, loving every bit of her. I observed her tender neck and the roundness of the back of her dark head. And all my love for her distilled into the sight of that neck, so innocent, and the dark hair lying softly against it. How silent she was! Sometimes I thought that she'd never learn to speak, but spend her whole life mutely taking in the world, storing up her observations. When she saw I was awake, she grasped the bars of her cot and pulled herself to her feet, holding up one arm in a gesture of supplication. I took her into my arms; she smelt of talcum powder and urine, like an old woman. I fed her at once and changed her nappy and got her ready for a walk.
I pushed the pram along the path that ran parallel to the river, where overhanging fig trees made a dark tunnel through the mist. The riverbank was a wilderness of rainforest trees, black in the pre-dawn light. And as I trudged I recited poetry in my head; I often did this because walking and poetry had a rhythm that belonged together. My best trudging poem was âA Prayer for My Daughter', by W. B. Yeats. It was a poem full of love and hope, for what else is there when you have a child?
The only sound was the rhythm of my feet and the wheels of the pram on the path, muffled by wet leaves. Moisture dripped from the trees. My hair must have been jewelled with tiny beads of it. When I put my hand to my head it came away wet.
In the gloom I half expected something magical to appear: a witch with a wart on her nose, Rumpelstiltskin, or for preference a dozen handsome brothers, one with a swan's wing instead of an arm. But it was just early-morning Lismore as usual. I came to the deserted court house, and the council car park, where I saw a man, his face tenderly blurred from lack of sleep, who looked as though he was wandering home from a drinking session.
When I got to the end of our road, instead of continuing down the main street, I turned right. There, a rattly bridge sprang across the river in a sort of leap of faith, from a shop called Planet Music to a hotel called the Winsome, which was a charming building of old, dark brick, with verandahs, overlooking the river.
On the bridge I paused to peer over the railing into the muddy water, and the dream I'd woken from came back to me. I'd been trying to write to my mother, but every attempt failed. I'd found myself writing on plastic (too shiny, and the ink wouldn't take), or on planks of fresh, smooth pine â but the words I attempted came out garbled, and then the ink faltered and gave out.
There was almost always a man pacing up and down on the bridge singing songs to the dawn, a sweet-faced man with curly grey hair, though he wasn't so old. He always smiled and waved to me and kept singing, and the homeless people who slept under the bridge yelled at him to shut up. I don't think he was a homeless person, just someone who had been unlucky in love, like me, and I felt the singing and pacing must help him.
I continued down Bridge Street, past the Winsome Hotel and various old shops and houses and the cafÃ© where Kate used to work. As I passed the hotel, I always looked up at the side of the building where a white mixing bowl sat on a shelf inside the window of some scullery or kitchen. I loved the ordinary domesticity of it, the white bowl against the dark brick wall. My life at this time revolved around seeing each morning the stillness of the white bowl, and the singing man (or perhaps the still, pale face of the man as he paused to watch the sun rise in the sky; and the singing bowl in the window).
The place where I walked next was a run-down area that the local council had attempted to prettify, by plonking down a rusty old tractor in the middle of the roundabout. At that point I stopped to contemplate yet another old pub, a petrol station, a vegetarian cafÃ© and a place that sold saddles. From there, the road went past wonky timber houses in the midst of paddocks, and my old school. There was a compound where the school kept farm animals, and I always took Hetty from her pram to pat the horse that hung its head hopefully over the fence, and to call to the cows and calves. They never responded, regarding us with deep suspicion. Then we moved on, over a small bridge that led to the other end of our street, and home.
None of this was ordinary or dull for either of us. I relished this morning ramble with my baby, crossing the river twice over different bridges, making a neat, circular walk, almost an odyssey. Or it would have been an odyssey if the journey had been more adventurous and marked by many changes of fortune (though who is to say that each wandering walk was not a small adventure, that I did not come home each day a little changed by it?).
At the end of our journey, Samarkand squatted, inscrutable as always, overlooking the river.
The house is a crumbling two-storey weatherboard place on tall stumps; it's a guesthouse, of the cheapest and shabbiest kind. But there is something magical and other-worldly about it. Because it's on the river, in that place where earth and water meet, it sits on a threshold, a margin, a place of change. And it was in this muddy, watery place that I dreamed
might one day be transformed.