This might surprise some of you, but I never really meant to be a Critic. I began with an irresistible loquacity, a desire to talk about the art stuff I see, which is married to the desire for interested interlocutors. The transformation into a Critic, which subtly ossifies this essentially private and fluid desire into a fixed public role, an authority, is perhaps an inevitable evolution. But it feels false. And not only because something which started with an ambition to be a kind of belles lettres, a leisurely and civilised way of keeping myself mentally stimulated while I pursue my own work, now means that I spend most of my time either writing reviews or worrying about not writing them. As if, a little voice behind my shoulder keeps whispering, it really matters what I think.
Similarly, I thought I'd left journalism 20 years ago. And yet it's crept up on me again, and here I am, despite my heroic efforts at career sabotage, being a journalist. Neither role, critic or journalist, is necessarily a bad thing. I remember when I resigned from the Melbourne Herald in order to write poetry, my decision prompted the wrath of a senior journalist, Bill Hitchens. He told me off in no uncertain terms: he thought that in turning my back on the possibility of a mass audience, I was being criminally irresponsible. He was, of course, quite right. But I also knew I had other responsibilities, even if they looked like irresponsibility to him. And I still do.
Perhaps it's because it's August, and all of Melbourne is entering that bleak phase when you're really tired of grey skies and rain and woollen underwear, and longing for sunshine and balmy evenings and the swish of chiffon. Maybe it's because everyone I know seems to be drowning in mucus, and I can feel my annual bout of bronchitis coming on. But all this is weighing heavy on me at the moment. I think it's not so much overwork (though no doubt that is part of it) as a tangle of ambitions that presently are tripping each other up. Whatever, Ms TN is doing that rather human thing of wondering how she ended up here, where she never quite intended to be.
Anyway, bear with me while I negotiate the perverse byways of my psyche. I saw three shows last week, and will indeed write about them - a fascinating production of The Lower Depths at Theatre Works, Peter Houghton's The Colours at the MTC and Yumi Umiumare's astounding En Trance at the Malthouse, which I wholeheartedly recommend. I'm off to find my mojo.
Picture: Honoré Daumier, The Art Critic