Paratalk or Torque?

Suzie Eisfelder
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Today’s paragraph comes from The Victorian Writer. This magazine is published by Writers Victoria and comes to me as part of my membership. This is the April-May 2019 edition, from a different time, a different era; a time when most of the world felt safe and could go out at will and without a mask. The paragraph is part of Jock Serong’s memories of his childhood home in ‘Block With Development Potential, STCA’.

In its place was a temporary fence: one of those wire barriers connected by footing blocks, that denote construction in progress. That was the first thing I saw. Then I saw a rubbish skip on the kerb, hulking under the flowering gum that used to consume our footballs and frisbees. Protruding from the skip was a torn-off section of plasterboard wall, and as I studied, reality came hammering in.

What I have to say about this paragraph is how Serong describes things. His use of words really makes me see the things he’s talking about.

I’m going to start with the rubbish skip and how it’s hulking. Reading that made me feel as if was lurking where it shouldn’t be, and that might be how Serong was feeling as he was looking at the fence that was wrong. The rubbish skip was the first sign he had that something was amiss. Hulking also gives the impression of large size, and that’s good as a skip can be quite big. If it’s one for a building site where they’re bringing down the building then I’d be talking about one about the same height as me.

But seeing the rubbish skip hulking under the flowering gum makes me think the gum tree is really quite big. I know they can get quite big, we have lots of them on Melbourne streets. So to see the two images, one sheltering beneath the other gives me the impression of generosity of size.

The first sign the reader sees that the building where Serong lived might have been knocked down is this plasterboard wall showing from the top of the skip. I’m sure it can be quite emotional to go back to the house you lived in for some years and see that there is no longer a house there. I’ve been past the house I lived in all my life until I moved to this area. It was still there when I was there last year, but it has changed tremendously and that was charged with emotion. So to see the house not there at all would come as a much bigger shock. I quite like how he’s chosen these words to show us what he’s seeing.

The next phrase I want to mention is ‘reality came hammering in’. When I read the next paragraph I realise that I missed something in this one. And it’s this lead up to the next shock. It’s very nicely done, if this were a book then this phrase would be the end of the chapter with a whole chapter in between before we find out what the ‘reality’ is.

The problem with looking at just one paragraph is that when I choose a paragraph at random it might not necessarily show the entirety of the story. If you can manage to see this copy of The Victorian Writer I suggest you read it. This story makes the whole magazine worth it. In trying to write about one paragraph I’ve come to appreciate this story much more.


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