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Edyth Bulbring

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Finding the New Author Me

A few weeks before I go to the Franschhoek Literary Festival I turn old enough to know who I am and what I want from the rest of my life.

I return from Franschhoek after three days not being able to think very clearly at all. For this I blame Porcupine Ridge, one of the sponsors of the Festival, and a handful of authors who made me wish I was anyone other than boring old me – half way to being nearly dead*, writing books only my mother reads.

After my first session on Day One, I want to be French author-philosopher Muriel Barbery. She with the great accent, the endearing shrug – and the sales of her second novel (The Elegance of the Hedgehog). Perhaps if I get a doctorate in Philosophy and write my next book in French it will become a bestseller like Muriel’s? I think on this for about seventeen seconds and conclude I have a better chance of getting the grass stains out of my son’s soccer shorts. C’est la vie.

A couple of sessions later I decide if I can’t be Muriel, then I’ll be Damon Galgut instead. I practise clawing at my forehead in the mirror. I tell my reflection about the pursuit of truth’s grimy edges at any cost. I feel anguished and tortured and stare at myself with eyes that sigh.

Trying to be Damon makes me feel like an imposter in a strange room. I shake my fists in mute desperation when I realise I am too much of a fainthearted slob to be Damon. Angst like his needs serious work.

As darkness falls over Franschhoek I drown my frumpy, middle aged identity in a couple of cases of Porcupine Ridge. I find myself brawling with some lad called Brian, or is it Brad? – who may or may not have something terribly important to do with making the Spud movie. I snort at him like a demented horse when he says (or may not have said) that there is no way, absolutely not a chance in hell I can be The Mermaid or Boggo, or even Gecko – even if my balls have dropped. What is it with these movie people that they have to be so literal?

The next morning I punish my wannabee someone other than hungover me to a session starring Rian Malan, the bad-boy Afrikaner who makes a living saying things that get up people’s nasal passages and irrigate their bowels. Rian wears a hat that could only have been chucked out of a Hospice box. I wonder where I can buy me one.

I watch Rian burbling away. I hold my breath as he pauses for uncomfortable lengths of time. He clutches the air, as though trying to snatch goggas from the air. Is he hungry? Has he got stage fright? He seems lost in thought as he decides which view he should klap us with today.

I too want to defy millinery fashion and opine contrary views which I will piss on the next time I open my mouth. I could be the bad-girl English author, mumbling about in weird hat with attitude.

I’m not sure I can discipline myself to only writing one book every twenty years, so I transfer my identity crisis from Rian (oh my traitor’s heart!) to the more prolific Mark Behr.

I spend an hour with Mark in a hall scattered with people he slept with and lied to.

Mark talks and talks (and talks), wringing his hands and grating his soul – and my head – extracting every penny from my sixty buck entrance ticket in a group therapy session.

Mark makes me want to leap out of the closet and declare myself to be a bastard lesbian and a bloody agent. To confess to the world that I too have a shady past and spent my university career fruitfully ratting on my friends instead of eating cabbage and trying not to get expelled from the Women’s Movement for shaving my legs.

The moment passes. Quickly. And I promise Mark I will forgive him. I will, I will. If he will only stop talking and pass the disprin.

I end my search for the New Author Me over a cup of Five Roses tea with chiclit author Paige Nick. If there is one person at the festival I want to be – more than Muriel or Damon or Rian or even Mark – it’s Paige.

She is a million miles from normal with a sense of humour as warped as the headboard in a brothel and a laugh like a vuvuzela on helium.

If I was Paige I would get to write incredibly hot sex scenes. Sweaty, naked, sucking thrusting sex scenes. Which Damon and Rian and Muriel and Mark would read. And my mother.

I ask Paige to pass the teapot and I pour myself another cup of tea. With two sweeteners and a dash of milk. Just the way I like it.

* Edyth Bulbring is the author of Pops & The Nearly Dead (Penguin; March 2010)

 

Recent comments:

  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    May 21st, 2010 @12:11 #
     
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    Never before have I seen ANY event that had quite so much free wine sloshing around. Meanwhile, up at their idyllic cellars, Boekenhoutskloof were practically giving it away. Perhaps this is why my 2010 FLF memories are so golden, so warm, so, er, hazy...

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  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    May 21st, 2010 @12:17 #
     
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    Big bump here. Edyth - hilarious!

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  • <a href="http://fionasnyckers.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Fiona</a>
    Fiona
    May 21st, 2010 @12:25 #
     
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    Is there something in the water? All these bloggers producing inspired hilarity for our Friday reading pleasure. I loved this piece.

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  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    May 21st, 2010 @12:55 #
     
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    Agreed, Fiona. Now, if we could only train Sven to put his stuff on his blog.

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  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    May 21st, 2010 @20:38 #
     
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    I know I'm being stubborn. I know I've forgiven worse. I know I should look forward, not back. But I could NOT bring myself to go to any of Mark Behr's panels. So I read this with a certain degree of quiet glee.

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  • Maire
    Maire
    May 23rd, 2010 @02:06 #
     
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    Ah the schizophrenic joys of the writing lives! Thanks Edyth - I loved reading this!

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  • sylvieh
    sylvieh
    June 1st, 2010 @11:16 #
     
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    Brilliant post. How did I miss this? Thanks Ben.

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