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“Hello, I’m Gail Bell and this is from a true story called Golden Eye first published in 2009 in The Monthly magazine:
I met Felix and Marjorie as a couple in the late 80s.
One evening, a year into our relationship, Felix uncharacteristically took the initiative of asking me for advice.
“You might say I was born to be depressed,” he said, and spoke candidly of his mother’s suicide and his father’s descent into a bitter and entrenched gloom.
The compromise was prescription pills. “A high dose, but a small price for domestic happiness,” he said.
He was moving closer to the thing he wanted to ask, but couldn’t quite make the leap.
“What Felix is trying to say,” Marjorie broke in, “is that he’s developed a strange effect in one of his eyes and we’re trying to discover the cause.”
“So what’s going on with your eyes?” I asked Felix.
“Eye,” Marjorie corrected me. “Only one.”
Felix hesitantly took the floor. “I get a slow build up of heat in my left eye, from warm to what you’d call hot. But not stinging, if you know what I mean. This happens every couple of days sometimes. Other times it might be a week.”
“And the size,” Marjorie prompted.
“Yes,” he said, getting a firmer hold on his lines. “The eye feels as if its twice the size of the other one. It’s not, I’ve checked in the mirror. Marjorie’s checked too, and the doctors.
“But, after that the world changes for me, for a little while anyway. Small gold flakes, like glitter, float downwards from somewhere—it’s hard to describe—settling on whatever I’m looking at. The gold sticks and joins together, so that if I was looking at you you’d turn into a gold statue.
“Then bits of blue come floating down and stick to the gold. If I move my head I get those flashes of colour you see when you turn an opal in the light. This goes on for a few minutes then the blue shakes off in flakes, then the gold starts to break off. The gold hangs on for a bit then it fades out and—it’s all over.”
In the aftermath Felix feels a few moments of total contentment. His face, as he told us the story, took on a Buddha like calm.
“Do you think it could be the drug?” Marjorie asked.
“I doubt it,” I said, wishing Felix would say more about the calm and contentment. I always want to know more about moments of rapture, there seems to be so little of it about in daily life, and less and less in the talk we share with others.”
ABOUT GAIL BELL:
Gail Bell was born in Sydney and is a graduate in pharmacy and education from The University of Sydney. Her first book, The Poison Principle, published in 2001 won the 2002 NSW Premier’s Prize for non-fiction and became a bestseller in Australia, the UK and USA. Her second book, SHOT, was shortlisted for the Nita B Kibble award. Her third non-fiction book The Worried Well, a groundbreaking study of antidepressant overuse, established her as an essayist. She is a regular contributor to The Monthly magazine, and the incoming editor of Best Australian Science Writing 2012.
“I first applied to Varuna in April 1998 and finally gained a 3 week fellowship that I took up in May 2000. Installed in Eleanor’s studio, in crisp sunny weather, I worked on completing my first book The Poison Principle. After 10 years of research I’d reached a point where I needed to let go of fact-finding and settle into the narrative. Peter Bishop gently talked me through my ideas then startled me with the question “how does it end?”. I’ve always been grateful to Peter for pointing the way to the finishing post. The Poison Principle went on to win prizes and gain a wide audience here and overseas, and thereafter I was hooked on Varuna as a place where magic happens. I stayed for another week in July 2000, refining the manuscript, and returned in April 2001, May 2002, March 2003, July and October 2004. My second book SHOT was published by Picador in November 2003, and again the book’s integrity was assured by consultations with Peter Bishop. I spent 3 weeks at Varuna in 2005, in March and November, writing The Worried Well, and returned in August and November of 2006 for another 3 weeks, this time pushing to the end of a book which explored my interest in addictions. Since then I’ve written in my own studio which I designed as a homage to Varuna days, with tall bookcases and a view into a garden. I owe Varuna more than I can ever express and I call in from time to time to say hello and catch up with old friends. I will never “leave” Varuna. For now, I’ve stepped aside so that a new generation can enjoy all that this fine writers’ house has to offer.” Gail Bell
The Poison Principle: A Memoir of Family Secrets and Literary Poisonings (2001), Sydney: Picador; (2002) London, Macmillan; (2002) New York, St. Martin’s Press.
SHOT: A Personal Response to Guns and Trauma, Sydney: Picador. (2003)
The Worried Well: The Depression Epidemic and the Medicalisation of our Sorrows, Quarterly Essay Issue 18, Melbourne: Black Inc. (2005)
Gail is a regular contributor to The Monthly magazine (Australian Politics, Society & Culture) see http://www.themonthly.com.au/gail-bell
The Depression Epidemic, Pharmacy News, pp 10-14 (August 2005)
Murder He Ate: The Poisoning of Viktor Yuschenko, The New York Times. (December 2004)
The Rise of Reality: Memoir Writing, Writing, Queensland (April 2004)
Poison Principles, Sunday Telegraph Sunday Magazine, Sydney (June 2003)
My Grandfather was a Poisoner, The Sunday Telegraph Review, London. pp1-2. (August 2002)
The Truth about Drug Companies: How They Deceive us and What to do about it by Marcia Angell, The Sydney Morning Herald. (September 2005)
Selling Sickness: How Drug Companies are Turning us all into patients by Roy Moynihan & Alan Cassels, The Monthly: Australian Politics, Society & Culture. (June 2005)
Dirt Music by Tim Winton, HQ Magazine. (October 2003)
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