The edition has been a long time in the making. To put this anniversary in perspective, Overland was launched in 1954. The journal has thus outlasted Robert Menzies, apartheid, the Soviet Union, White Australia, penal powers, Gough Whitlam, the Bulletin, Joh Bjelke-Petersen, the Communist Party of Australia and John Howard.
C2H5OH, or ethyl alcohol, is a clear, colourless, volatile and flammable oxygenated hydrocarbon produced by the fermentation of sugar that is used, among other things, in the preparation of beverages. It is also one of the oldest and most efficacious of psychoactive drugs – and we love it.
Last year I had a meeting with two officers of the Australia Council.
The Australia Council – or OzCo, as nearly everyone in the cultural industries calls it – is the federal government’s arts funding and advisory body. The meeting was with two of the council’s digital and new media team, who were keen to explain the latest digital arts initiative, Arts Content for a Digital Era.
For a student of history, Noel Pearson seems to devote an awful lot of time to forgetting the past.
In a landmark speech in 2000, in which Pearson signalled his transition from land rights activist to conservative power broker, he unloaded on the evils of passive welfare, blaming hard-won human rights for ruining black lives.
A chart hung above the chalkboard in Mrs Brandie’s classroom, written in the patient, legible hand of a primary school teacher. Black marker on white card, two columns: name, weight – Anwyn Crawford, 34 kg.
A couple of months ago I went on a date with a man from France. As we were talking, I thought to myself, ‘Avoid the burqa conversation, Michelle, avoid the burqa conversation.’ I must have jinxed myself because then, all of a sudden, we were having it: the burqa conversation.
With the politicisation of climate science in the 1990s – the result of a careful strategy developed by Republicans and the fossil fuel lobby in the United States, documented most recently by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway in their book Merchants of Doubt – it was inevitable that the new conservative ABC management would change the way global warming was reported.
Visit almost any university and you find students discussing their short stories in the cafes and food halls, or lying on the lawns composing poetry. Dreaming of becoming the next Helen Garner, Les Murray or Peter Carey, they pour into the creative writing courses that have multiplied in the last fifteen years. Where students once studied Virginia Woolf or Graham Greene, now they’re busy trying to emulate them.
Deep in the DNA of imagination – in what Jorge Luis Borges called ‘the voluntary dream which is artistic creation’ – it makes little sense to define art by nationality. That assumes that nationality is the primary marker by which human beings know themselves, fencing the endlessly multiple possibilities of being into a marquee defined by political, historical and geographical boundaries.
I am late as I reach the sunken brick building housing the Hip-hop Academy. It is a sunny winter’s day and the Maribyrnong River flashes, rocking in time with the tide, out back of the Footscray Community Arts Centre.
A clean-shaven, long-limbed man in black pants, Run DMC T-shirt and hi-top sneakers greets me. I recognise Aamer Rahman; he’s 27 but could pass for an adolescent.
Flicking through an old issue of Overland (edition 182) I came across an essay by Malcolm Knox entitled ‘Pushing Against the Real World: The Case for “Original” Australian Fiction’. It sparked my interest – I was grappling with similar ideas at the time – especially by mentioning a paper delivered by Mark Davis in 2005 in which he argued that the ‘Australian literary novel’ is suffering a slow and inevitable demise.
With all this activity and so few outlets, it’s not surprising that publishers, editors and agents feel besieged by the volume of the unsolicited material they receive. Some blame the universities for encouraging staff and students to write in the genres where the surfeit of manuscripts is greatest and the prospects of success most fragile – notably literary fiction, poetry and scholarly monographs.
Artists are neither a ‘proletariat’ nor a ‘vanguard’, and they do not make successful ‘revolutionaries’. If they have been, it has only been for a moment before the firing squad or the gulag or the concentration camp has seen to their ignoble demise. Some of the more fortunate are taken up as a permanent class of bohemian émigrés by whatever cities happen to be the cultural centres of their moment.
Hannah replied to my Facebook request for friendship by email. Hey Keira, she’d said in the email, what’s it been, one year, two? She was no longer with Thomas, she’d moved interstate and she’d prefer – she wrote – not to use Facebook to maintain contact.
There’s a joke at the resort and on the whale-watching boats. Tourists who are leaving the island pass it on. New arrivals splurt laughter, clap hands to mouths in embarrassment, cast sidelong glances at the skipper of the Moby Dick, then furtively retell and embellish. The whispering buffets Rufus – his hearing is painfully acute – though he knows no malice is intended.
I suspect people will love this poem and people will hate this poem. I do commend it to you. It is a fine and curious beast; there is a lot going on within its numerical boundaries. The remixing of lines was basically a process of finding thematic threads, sonic harmonies and lines that flowed unexpectedly into others. But from within this simplicity, our wider concerns emerge.
The City’s Outback is based upon an ethnographic study conducted in Mount Druitt, a suburb in western Sydney. Cowlishaw introduces Frank Doolan, a blackfella who helps her find Aboriginal people to interview – ‘the people of the place’ living within the city’s ‘subordinated self’. Doolan is an agitator, poet, protector, confidant and mediator. He recognises something woeful in a world that ‘systemically damages Aboriginal lives’.