I've only ever read one book by Howard Jacobson, called Redback, and I absolutely hated it. It seemed like a rambling example of literary clever-cleverness that had somehow escaped a decent editor. Not sure what his current stuff is like, but a little interview with him today in the Guardian piqued my interest. Jacobson worked for a while in Sydney and he was talking about his experiences there. It struck a chord with me as I had lived there for a similar length of time too. All of what he says rings true of me too:

"You fall in love differently when you are young and far from home in a seductive place. You fall in love with the very air you breathe, and the vivid colours and the unbearably sweet sensation of distance and unaccustomedness. If the person already embodies the spirit of the place that has seduced you – its beauty, its liveliness, its quickness, and somehow its faraway sadness, for Sydney always struck me as melancholy – and if your trysts are indistinguishable from this landscape, the city as much the site of passion as your heart, you fall heavily."

"So why, since I loved Sydney so much, did I leave less than three years after my rhapsodic arrival? The simple answer is that you can have too much of a good thing: there was too much fun and not enough work, Sydney had become a sort of Lotus Land to me, a seduction of the senses, and I was, after all, an Englishman with English ambitions to which the sunshine and the wine and the overall beauty of everything and everyone were at last inimical. It's a sad but necessary fact for some of us to face: that we fare better when the going isn't easy."

and on returning to visit it again:

"I can't trust me in the place. It's too like visiting myself as I was, as I might have been, as I had no business being."



Gaw said...

Those English ambitions keep trumping Lotus Land, don't they? And even for some of the locals - must be something in them. Jacobson's from Manchester, which is very wet.

Susan said...

Never been to Australia, but would love to explore. Have hitherto been put off by flying/jetlag recovery time but 'Lotus land, seduction of senses, beauty of everything..' all sounds very appealing.

worm said...

Its a real problem for me Gaw, I am terribly lazy, so I always end up putting myself in situations where i'm not allowed to be. Very masochistic/ protestant.

Susan, you have to go there!! You would love it, everything is so bright and sunny, the food is amazing (and cheap), and the views are great too. Plenty of cool shops and markets for hunting curious treasures in and around Darlinghurst and Paddington too!!

And the jet lag is only really a problem for a day or so! a day on the beach soon sorts that out!

Gadjo Dilo said...

Hmm, poignant stuff from Jacobson - I'd thought the third paragraph was yours and was disappointed to find closing inverted commas at the end of it ;-) My only feeling about Sydney is quite, quite different from this, having been derived from Peter Carey's book The Tax Inspector.

worm said...

sorry about that Gadjo! One day, with enough practice I may be able to write something decent and original!

re. the tax inspector - well, what do you expect from Carey - a commited Melbournite.

As Jacobson alludes to above, beside the jewel-like beaches, there are dark and melancholy parts of Sydney too. (And no city can be truly great without a dark and ever-present underbelly)

zmkc said...

Jacobson seems to be saying he is a masochist in a very longwinded, roundabout way - tant pis as we cosmopolitans in Lotus land say, over our morning manna.