Almost a Mirror
For authors releasing new books this year—the culmination of years of persistence and determination, of intense creative work in imagining, drafting, rewriting and editing (repeat, repeat, repeat)—the crisis the world has been plunged into has had, and will continue to have, depressing repercussions. With book launches cancelled, festivals postponed, library talks and presentations of all kinds unable to go ahead, authors are losing out on opportunities to raise awareness of new work among the reading public and to earn much-needed income (it’s a fact that most of us earn more from events than from royalties for the books we spend years in creating).
The same applies to those with books released in the second half of 2019, many of whom were booked for festivals and events this year.
All of which is a preamble not only to the exciting new novel I’m introducing today but to all guest posts in the 2, 2 and 2 series. Please support these writers, whenever you’re able to, by buying books, talking about them to friends, libraries and book clubs, engaging with the authors’ social media channels and participating in online events. Many online book launches, talks and even festivals are just beginning to emerge—creative responses to crisis!
I admired and was fascinated by Kirsten Krauth’s first novel, the startlingly original just_a_girl, and so I am looking forward to reading her new release, Almost a Mirror.
Kirsten is an author and arts journalist who lives in Castlemaine. Her writing has been published in the Guardian, Saturday Paper, Monthly, Age/SMH and Overland. She’s inspired by photography, pop and punk, film, other writers and growing up in the 80s. Almost a Mirror was shortlisted for the Penguin Literary Prize.
Kirsten is creating some innovative ways of promoting Almost a Mirror (see below), so do watch out for online events and links.
Here is the book’s blurb:
What we make of memories and what they make of us.
Like fireflies to the light, Mona, Benny and Jimmy are drawn into the elegantly wasted orbit of the Crystal Ballroom and the post-punk scene of 80s Melbourne, a world that includes Nick Cave and Dodge, a photographer pushing his art to the edge.
With precision and richness Kirsten Krauth hauntingly evokes the power of music to infuse our lives, while diving deep into loss, beauty, innocence and agency. Filled with unforgettable characters, the novel is above all about the shapes that love can take and the many ways we express tenderness throughout a lifetime.
As it moves between the Blue Mountains and Melbourne, Sydney and Castlemaine, Almost a Mirror reflects on the healing power of creativity and the everyday sacredness of family and friendship in the face of unexpected tragedy.
Over, now, to Kirsten…
2 things that inspired the book
I was looking at a photograph by Sally Mann of a girl—her daughter—holding a flower, a night-blooming cereus, or queen of the night, and I began thinking about an artist, a photographer, who takes photos of her children and that tricky artist–mother dynamic. In the opening chapter of Almost a Mirror, the central character, Mona, is being photographed by a famous photographer in his studio. She steps out of the frame. Later in the book, she becomes a photographer, taking polaroids of her son. I was interested in looking at innocence and agency.
I was sitting on the stairs that lead up to the Crystal Ballroom, a notorious music venue in St Kilda in the late 70s and 80s that launched the careers of the Birthday Party—Nick Cave, Rowland S. Howard, Mick Harvey, Phill Calvert and Tracey Pew—and became an underground hub of musicians, artists, filmmakers, fashion designers and many who just felt they didn’t belong in suburban Melbourne. I had to write about the place.
2 places connected with the book
The Ballroom has such a rich atmosphere of decay and decadence, and when I was there I could feel the ghosts of Nick and Rowland in the bar downstairs. It was originally a palatial room in the late 1800s with a chandelier, ornate mirrors and a sprung floor for waltzes. By the post-punk era, the floor was great for pogo-ing and people were pinching crystals from the chandelier.
I’ve always been drawn to the Blue Mountains—I once lived in Springwood—and both my books have been partly set there. Here one of my characters, Jimmy, heads to Katoomba, the soft-headed Orphan Rock, on a day where people walk adrift in the aftermath of fire (it was written before the fires this year), and he stands at Echo Point and waits to see the horizon.
2 favourite songs that inspired chapters
As the book is set up as a mixtape of 80s songs, each song title a chapter (44 in total), I’m working on a compilation of readings/songs with musicians around the country. My original book launches/festival appearances (postponed now) were going to be gigs with music.
I’ve been in the studio and we’ve been working on doing covers of two of my favourite songs, ‘Barbados’ (The Models) and ‘Wide Open Road’ (The Triffids). Peter Fenton has reinterpreted the songs and they are exquisitely beautiful, very moving. They give me shivers, and the words are so poignant for these times, too: ‘Now you can go any place that you want to go…’ The songs have been mixed and produced by Richard Andrew. It’s a wonderful thing to be part of right now, especially as each chapter was inspired originally by the songs.
Photo credits: author photos by Penny Ryan; Nick Cave photo by Wayne O’Farrell