Ursula Dubosarsky’s new book, The Golden Day, was launched yesterday with a suitable sense of occasion. I’d spent the morning as an extra in a rap video clip (about which I may blog some other time), but no one at the launch seemed to notice that my usually shiny forehead was sporting a light dusting of make-up.
We were at Nutcote Cottage, home of May Gibbs, a lovely site for a launch. The golden light of a fine Sydney autumn afternoon, tiny muffins, cupcakes and Lamington slices would have made the mood celebratory even without a subject. As you see from the pic a new Dubosarsky book draws quite a crowd: from the publishing world, family, writers (not just for children), artists and illustrators, colleagues, Marrickville dwellers, the wife of a former Federal Minister, former students of SCEGGS Darlinghurst and even some of the book’s target audience, that is to say, children.
Julie McCrossin presided. Drawing on her experience as radio interviewer and stand-up comedian, she put Ursula through her paces, quizzing her about her inspiration for the book. It’s set in a genteel girls church school in the inner eastern suburbs of Sydney, a school that evidently bears an uncanny resemblance to SCEGGS Darlinghurst, of which both Julie and Ursula are alumnae. Calling on contributions from other Old Girls, they evoked a startling picture of uniformed schoolgirls making their way from the bus stop to the school gates though filthy streets where junkies and prostitutes hung out. One member of the class of ’78 was coaxed by Julie into saying that she didn’t remember much out of the ordinary, apart from an occasional flasher and the naked woman who appeared in a doorway one morning asking her to get help.
‘There are myriad kinds of writers,’ Ursula said, responding to Julie’s pressing her for the meaning of some of the incidents in the book. ‘I’m the kind of writer who lets herself go to the dream.’ I quote this because it rings so very true of Ursula’s work, but also because just a few moments later Julie referred to the ‘ ‘myriad of influences’ she detected in the book (Picnic at Hanging Rock, classical myth, etc), thereby adding a little fuel to the fire of a conversation I’ve been having recently about usage: Ursula the classicist uses ‘myriad’ as I do; Julie the journalist agrees with my journalist friend. (Are you reading this, L–?)