It turns out that this blog was well-named, I think. 'A fugitive phenomenon' was what Nicholas Jose called Australian literature in his essay on it for Australian Book Review last year (November 2005), and so, for me, here, it seems to have proved.
It's not that I've lost interest in blogging, quite the reverse; I never feel short of things to say over at Pavlov's Cat, and have a blogroll as long as your arm of people I check up on regularly, sometimes daily. And it's not that I've lost interest in Aust Lit; quite the reverse, again.
One problem is that most of the projects in which one gets involved are to some extent confidential, and you don't get to my my age without learning the value of discretion -- as well as, God knows, the price of indiscretion.
If one is reviewing a book, say, then it would be naff in the extreme to talk about the book en blog before the review that was commissioned and paid for by somebody else has actually appeared in whatever that publication was. If one is involved in an evolving team project then its details are likely to be confidential for excellent legal and other reasons. If one has just spent an hour on the phone to one of one's littery mates and caught up on a raft of gossip, most of it is the kind of stuff you don't want to be spreading around in public.
And if some scandal or kerfuffle or beat-up erupts, such as the Rosemary Neill piece in the the Weekend before last's Australian about the alleged disappearance of Aust Lit in the universities, then chances are one knows many of the players and has some inside knowledge of what the history of Aust Lit has been over the last few decades (ie its entire life as a university discipline) in particular universities.
No, between them the laws of libel and the fear of embarrassing or hurting one's friends and colleagues leave me with nowhere near as much to say on this topic as I thought I would have. Not publicly, anyway. And when it comes to pure information and summary on the subject, Perry at Matilda was already doing a fabulous job of this nearly a year before I ever took up blogging at all.
So it may be time to broaden my horizons: to keep the Australian accent, but use it to chat about books-and-writing issues in a more general way. For instance: did you know there's a new Thomas Harris out? Hannibal Rising is the back-story: how Hannibal Lecter got to be like that.
I come from a generation of people who were shaped by the Second World War in the sense that one way or another it brought our parents together or determined their circumstances and circumscribed their lives. Even in Australia this was true, and most Australians who were born between 1940 and 1960 have their own parents/war story to tell. But for the children of Europe, before, during and after the war, their lives were wrought and blighted in a way no safe Australian can well imagine; this is at the heart of Elizabeth Holdsworth's essay 'An die Nachgeborenen: for those who come after', which has just won Australian Book Review's inaugural Calibre Prize for essay writing.
And it's the wartime horrors of this European background that Harris uses for his famous cannibal. Hints and memories that appeared in Hannibal, the sequel to The Silence of the Lambs, have been fleshed out (sorry) and brought to the foreground as, this time, the main event. I haven't actually read this book properly yet, but I've flicked through and can see where it's going. I think Harris is an underrated writer and I'm looking forward to this one, not just to be creeped out (crept out?), which I always enjoy (and yes I know it isn't nice), but also to appreciate his considerable storytelling technique and style.