"There has been a steady improvement in Rory's work. Spelling is still very weak for a boy of his ability. It is surprising that he appears unconcerned about it. I feel that he would prefer to avoid it and not to worry about it. He has not been a keen member of the school library. I feel that insistence on daily reading at home would overcome his passive resistance, and that a real interest would soon develop."
Brookland Primary School, 1955
I graduated with an honours degree in Philosophy and went to work for the Victorian Education Department, for whom I researched subject integration and student initiated learning. It seemed important at the time - and was, and still is. Then I went travelling. I wandered around S.E.Asia and the Middle East and had many adventures during which I wrote a novel about politically active school teachers in the sixties. It failed - initially - to find a publisher.
Back in Melbourne I spent the early seventies as a teacher seconded to the Curriculum Advisory Board. I hung around a number schools. I worked with a lot of teachers and a lot of kids and I wrote a lot of stuff about what I'd seen and done and heard. Dull eyed statisticians with their pre-tests and post-tests were not impressed with my work. I wasn't with theirs. When I was offered a lectureship at Melbourne University I accepted like a shot, partly because the Education Department was starting to complain about my lack of formal qualifications - I didn't have a Dip.Ed.
At Melbourne University I spent an utterly delightful couple of years teaching Dip. Ed. students.
Then, on the basis of my as-yet-unpublished novel about political chalkies, I won a fellowship to Stanford University's Creative Writing Center. I flew off to California and spent a year writing a novel about a mad photographer and a single mother. It didn't find a publisher either, but the ideas in the novel were good and years later I used them again - with more success - in The Book of Revelation, recently re-published in the USA as Dark Gray.
While I was in California, Damien Broderick had got hold of the MS of my first novel and pronounced it dull because it was set on Earth in the 1960s. The trick, Broderick said, was to move it forward a few thousand years and onto a more interesting planet. Well you have a go, I said, and he did. The result is our joint novel, Valencies. For the record: on this novel we hardly co-operated at all. I wrote the first version; Damien wrote the second. Things were different for our other joint novels. Zones, for example, was largely written on the one computer, with the authors looking over each others' shoulders.
In the late seventies I lived on a farm and became a hack writer. I wrote book reviews (The Weekend Australian and the National Times). I taught Creative Writing at the NSW Institute of Technology. I wrote a splendid novel about a girl who shoots her dad (The Bomb-Monger's Daughter).
eighties I fell in
love and moved to Adelaide because that's where Annie lived and held
down a respectable middle class job. I wrote reports for my publisher
on other people's MSS. I wrote stuff about the digital-analog
interface. I wrote a prize winning entry in a building sciences
competition (no mean feat, the building was twelve storeys high but had
no windows). I wrote about epigenetic cancer and blue-green algae. In
short, I wrote anything I could get people to
pay me to write (and still do, and will). I was awarded a Literature
Board fellowship to write a novel about the Indonesian practice of
transmagrasi. In pursuit of this I went to Java with the Queensland
architect James Birrell and pretended to be his associate as we
pretended to seek affiliation with an Indonesian firm interested in
relieving the World Bank of a few millions. Our joint novel, Water
From The Moon, has been used as a textbook in university courses on
the developing world, but
has not found its way into the bookshops of Jakarta.
Tom was born in
1982 and Chris in 1987.
In the nineties I wrote
more books and stuff.
In the two thousands I'm
doing much the same.
Annie died of
secondary breast cancer in Febuary 2012.
"He needs much practice in writing and it would be to his advantage to do a little piece of writing each day during the holidays."
Brookland Primary School, 1956
(2) who I am not
The name Rory Barnes is more popular than you might think. The last time I ran a vanity search the machine assured me that there were more than thirty thousand websites associated with the name. Most of them refer to people who are obviously not me. I'm not the astronomer from Arizona who became the first guy in 160 years to successfully predict the existence of a planet. I'm not a sailor with a boat called Fruitcakes, nor a solicitor with a replica of Piltdown Man in his waiting room. I have never played cricket for the Wanstead Cricket Club and I'm not a talented female singer from New York city.
But I could be mistaken for an Australian Scientolgist who believes that Scientology is "...a sane, commonsense practical approach to the living of life. I love it because it requires no faith..."
I wish my namesake all
in his dianetically enhanced life. But, for the record: I'm not him and
he's not me.