Saturday, October 15, 2005


Playing the Imaginary Horses

Today's Sydney Morning Herald reports that novelist Gerald Murnane is soon retiring from writing to concentrate on the personal archive crammed into filing cabinets that already covers two walls of his office:

There are stories and poems written as a child, and a journal begun at 18 about girls and dreams of being a writer. For each book he has manuscripts, proofs, reviews and correspondence. "But it grew to the point where it's become almost an obsession that my life has to be recorded, a time-consuming thing. Once I realised the thing could have monetary value I added even more - even an application letter for reserve seats at the Caulfield Cup."

Perhaps there's a closet show-off inside Murnane. However, the most intriguing parts of his colour-coded collection are kept for his own satisfaction. He has written 50,000 words on "people who might have loved me", a history of his bowel movements since the constipated, white-bread '40s, a file of "miracles", and a "shame" file that documents his gaucheries. He expects his sons to pass the whole thing onto a library and says it holds no dark confessions to shock a future biographer.

Only his imaginary horseracing world makes him reticent. Over decades he has drawn intricate racing silks; named horses, jockeys and trainers; designed racecourses and run races with the winners calculated by a complex system of numerical values given to letters in words drawn from random texts.

Ok, go ahead and laugh, but I have to admit that I'm utterly intrigued by this story.

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