Sue Robertson writes stories that ache with gentle humanity, and a willingess to confront at times difficult truths in regards to love and life. Her story, ‘Before They Had Teeth’ will be published in the upcoming Margaret River Press anthology, Shibboleth and other stories. We spoke to hear about the sights, sounds, scents, and tastes that inspire her…
What are you reading?
Number one at the moment is Miranda July. I have just finished “The First Bad Man”, which I gobbled up so fast I had to do a go around. And Elizabeth’s Strout’s “My Name is Lucy Barton” also consumed in one gulp. Short stories are much kinder on my gut (and my sleeping patterns). Currently stacked in easy reach are “Can’t and Won’t” by Lydia Davis, Deborah Levy’s “Black Vodka”, Colum McCann’s “Thirteen Ways of Looking” and Lorrie Moore’s “Bark”. And for when I can’t find exactly the “right” story, “New American Stories”, ed Ben Marcus. I love that he writes, ‘I have been reading stories for forty-two years and I still find it astonishing that, by staring at skeletal marks on the paper or screen, we can invite such cyclones of feeling into our bodies. It is a kind of miracle.’ His introduction sends me to my happy place. And as a reader, that’s exactly where I want to be.
What are you listening to?
When I am writing, sad to admit, I listen to i-radio “Oldies”. All day long I am shuffled through the Beatles, ABBA, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and countless songs I know, but can’t recall the artist, and am not quick enough to catch it in the corner of the screen. I listen to the Proclaimers walking ten thousand miles, to the Beach Boys on the Sloop John B, and anything else that clever machine can churn out. And I eat black jelly beans.
When I am chilling with a glass of wine and a book, or not, I listen to Diana Krall, Madeleine Peyroux, Blossom Dearie, Iz or the soundtrack from Madmen.
What are you watching?
And well may you ask. My “watching” habits are eclectic in the extreme. I have been seen watching “My Kitchen Rules” and “The Amazing Race”. I am currently embracing the whole “The Making of a Murderer” phenomena. I find it compelling and addictive with a toxic combination of characters, character, setting and a story line that seems to come directly from the writer of the movie “Leviathan.” It is not such a stretch to compare the plight of Koyla in Russia with Steven Avery in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin. And the final season of “Madmen” and that’s like watching my ‘idealized’ youth getting sucked, all over again, back into the bottle with the magical genie. “The Lady in the Van, of course and the last ‘going-out’ movie, that wasn’t with the grandkids, was “Carol”. I watched “The Dressmaker” on my i-pad on a plane, and found both movies entertaining but was very happy I had read the books first.
What have you got a taste for?
Besides black jelly beans, and wine, you mean? I am relishing the whole final flourish of the summer/autumn. The figs with balsamic, nectarines, blueberries, raspberries, passionfruit, bananas – always bananas. The varieties of lettuces and avocados, cherry tomatoes sprinkled with Murray River Salt and saturated with olive oil from Strathbogie. Pinot Grigio from the King Valley and the Rosata.
What scents surround you?
Today, it is the final blast of a summer’s day, that smell that says, enjoy me, I’m about to disappear for several months. And it’s the basil and coriander from the pots on the kitchen bench. It’s the strangely intoxicating aroma of carpet glue the carpet layer is using in the room next door as he replaces a chunk of missing carpet. And it is the musky dried meat scent of a dog chew Gracie, my little dog, has at my feet, and that whiff that seems to be the obligatory accompaniment to the gnawing of a dog chew.
Sue Robertson is a Melbourne-based writer. Her stories have appeared in Best Australian Stories 2005, Melbourne Subjective, SALA Short Stories 2015, Australian Women’s Weekly and Australasian Post, and have been presented on Radio National Short Story. In 2010 she won the Bluethumbnail Prize and in 2013 received a Special Commendation in the Scarlet Stiletto. She is currently working on a collection of interlinked short stories.