The Pacific Room

The Pacific Room


The Pacific Room

This remarkable debut novel tells of the last days of Tusitala, -the teller of tales', as Robert Louis Stevenson became known in Samoa where he chose to die. In 1892 Girolamo Nerli travels from Sydney by steamer to Apia, with the intention of capturing something of Jekyll and Hyde in his portrait of the famous author. Nerli's presence sets in train a disturbing sequence of events. More than a century later, art historian Lewis Wakefield comes to Samoa to research the painting of Tusitala's portrait by the long-forgotten Italian artist. On hiatus from his bipolar medication, Lewis is freed to confront the powerful reality of all the desires and demons that R. L. Stevenson couldn't control. Lewis's personal journey is shadowed by the story of the lovable Teuila, a so-called fa-afafine (-in the manner of a woman'), and the spirit of Stevenson's servant boy, Sosimo. Set in an evocative tropical landscape haunted by the lives and spirits which drift across it, The Pacific Room is both a love letter to Samoa and a lush and tender exploration of artistic creation, of secret passions and merging dualities.

Michael Fitzgerald lives on a lush gully in Sydney's eastern suburbs. He first journeyed to Samoa in 2005 as arts editor for the South Pacific edition of Time, and has since worked as a magazine editor for Art & Australia, Photofile and now Art Monthly Australasia. His writing has appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald, Australian Financial Review and Harper's Bazaar. The Pacific Room is his first novel.

The Pacific Room
Transit Lounge Publishing
Author: Michael Fitzgerald
ISBN: 9780994359550
RRP: $29.95


Interview with Michael Fitzgerald

Question: What inspired you to write The Pacific Room?

Michael Fitzgerald: Samoa, a gorgeous speck in the Pacific which Robert Louis Stevenson described as -thy lovely name Soft in my ear like music came', was my novel's chief inspiration. It was here the health-plagued Scottish writer spent his final few years. Culturally fascinating, Samoa harbours a rich tradition of oral storytelling – fagogo they call in. And in Samoan culture there is the Polynesian practice of sometimes raising boys as girls – fa'afafine literally means -in the manner of a woman'. Both the story of Stevenson and this fluid sense of gender identity thread and twist through my novel in surprising ways.


Question: What research did you do, prior to writing The Pacific Room?

Michael Fitzgerald: I first travelled to Samoa in 2005 on assignment for Time magazine – I was the South Pacific edition's arts editor at the time. When the idea for The Pacific Room took hold of me I returned on research trips in 2007 and 2008 and, more recently, spent time going through the Mitchell Library's incredibly rich Stevenson archive, poring over original manuscript pages and vintage photos from his many trips to Sydney. And, of course, Stevenson's own writings remain extraordinarily alive and vivid: an ocean of words to dip into.


Question: Why did you decide to become a writer?

Michael Fitzgerald: While The Pacific Room is my first published novel, I've written for as long as I can remember dreaming. As a schoolboy bored by summer holidays by the beach, I wrote a sketch about the characters I observed from my towel, sent it into The Australian newspaper and won a short-story competition. The journalist asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I said unequivocally, -a writer'. As St Teresa of Avila said, you should be careful of what you wish for.


Question: How does your role as an arts editor feed into what you write?

Michael Fitzgerald: I was lucky enough to be arts editor at Time magazine when there was much more latitude for journalistic travel and research – a great luxury in hindsight and which obviously benefited The Pacific Room. I'm now editor of Art Monthly Australasia magazine, and my daily access to the visual arts and its rich history keeps my mind and imagination well honed and alert – in a way which I like to think is very conducive to fiction. While Robert Louis Stevenson was dismissive of artists (perhaps because of his experience having his portrait painted), for me they are inspiring souls. You'll need to wait for my next novel to find out why.

Interview by Brooke Hunter

 

The Pacific Room
Transit Lounge Publishing
Author: Michael Fitzgerald
ISBN: 9780994359550
RRP: $29.95




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