Wisdom and sensitivity: I admire them, I don’t possess them, but I know how to recognise them and David Burton has them in spades. Burton is a Queensland writer and sage, and his script Ending Gorgeous is a striking mix of bizarre humour and thought-provoking narrative. Burton credits his parents in the script dedication, and I quote:
For Dad, for teaching me everything a young man should know: superheroes and politics. For Mum, for teaching me, above all else, take care of your family.
Which sounds ludicrous, but that’s more or less Ending Gorgeous in a nutshell. Margaret Hart is an Australian woman in her mid-50s, and as well as being a mother of two, she’s a miraculous superhero who’s been the tool of the Australian government for the last 50 years. As her son Billy quotes in an interview:
BILLY: My mother could fly by the time she was eight. While her peers were learning a is for apple she was being studied under the kind of examination that even a cancer-riddled lab rat would find invasive. She never learnt how to write a love letter to her grade five classmates, because she was transported from calm and pleasant St. George to
Sydney and Canberra so she could sign a contract with the defence force. And sometime between there and fourteen when Zimbabwe happened, she learned how to use a tampon for the first time. It was tougher for her.
Ending Gorgeous is an extremely well-constructed fable about the tangled web of world politics, the misuse of power and the effect of public life on the family. Those are some fairly big topics, and the mastery of Burton’s script is that he focuses the script so tightly on the tangible: Hart’s intervention in a corrupt military dictatorship in the Pacific, the media focus on her daughter’s fertility, the impact of her husband’s death on Hart’s family unit… It all rings true and it all carries weight.
also, Burton is media savvy as hell and wins extra points for good calls about celebrity pregnancies.
Maja Westerveld Bile. Maja is a Dutch writer and this one came out of the blue. After multiple readings, Bile still resists my attempts to classify it. How can I explain? It’s the story of a brother and sister. In a room. For an afternoon, an evening and a night. They talk. One of them leaves. That’s it.
Ms Westerveld: resisting all attempts to classify her.
Okay okay but what is carried in their conversation is so much love and so much hate that to quote it will do it injustice. There is so much history, there is a lifetime of two lonely souls trapped in each other’s faces, cut off from the real world and drowning in each other, and conveyed in tight little morsels of dialogue. How can I convey the way the two siblings draw each other in, share hints of affection and deep sympathy, and then spit sudden venom at each other when they are most vulnerable? Bile is the word for it.
I’m not going to try and analyse and unpick it, the script resists analysis. Let me instead quote from one of my favourite monologues:
BEN: I was so proud, when you would reach for my hands as we crossed the street, or if I had to carry you when you got tired of playing soccer.
You, on my back with your legs hanging.
With your sports shoes with lights in them and your laces untied, your knees usually grazed and full of black traces of sticking plaster, bruises on your shin.
Your hair would tickle in my neck and I would listen to the soft smacking of your lip as you would suck your thumb near my ear.
Almost sensual, only back then, I didn’t know yet.
I only knew I could walk around like that for hours, with your sleeping face safely curled up behind my neck.
You hated that nickname and I would stick up for you when people called you that.
“You’re crazy, she doesn’t have a snout!” I would say.
And you would hide behind me and press your little nose against my underarm.
That made me the strongest.
The very strongest and you knew that.