The Museum of Words by Georgia Blain
I hadn’t read Georgia Blain until her last novel, Between a Wolf and a Dog, published early last year. Immediately I regretted not having read her work sooner, as it was clear from the first page that here was a writer capable of wrangling the messiness and magic of ordinary lives with masterful insight, intelligence and wit. When Blain passed away late last year after living with brain cancer for 13 months, I turned to her remarkable personal essay collection, Births, Deaths and Marriages, taking comfort in her signature spare prose, which is unsentimental yet deeply affecting.
The Museum of Words, published posthumously, is an incredible gift for those who loved Blain, those who valued her writing and those who are still to discover this great writer. Blain wrote it knowing she was dying, yet it’s not about that exactly; she uses her illness reflexively. Her primary focus is language – specifically the experience of a writer beginning to lose one’s words. Most of all The Museum of Words is a celebration of what is most important to Blain: her family. It’s about Anne Deveson, and growing up with a writer as a mother; Anne passed away a few days after Blain. It’s about Rosie Scott, who Georgia met through Anne, and her importance to their family. Rosie also died from brain cancer earlier this year. And it’s about Georgia’s husband, the photographer and film-maker Andrew Taylor, and their daughter Odessa.
Blain’s intention was take the messiness of both illness and treatment and process it in the way she knew best – with remarkable warmth, clarity and honesty. Thanks to the immense skill of Blain’s editor at Scribe, Marika Webb-Pullman, and Blain’s partner Andrew, The Museum of Words reads like a fully realised work by one of Australia’s very best writers. We are so lucky to be able to read it.