204 Spring 2011
It’s tempting to see the last decade as the confirmation of Coleridge’s quip about how a politics that begins in fear, ends in folly. God knows, since 9/11 there’s been folly enough.
Costing the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan is not easy but a very conservative estimate suggests that the US has spent at least $900 billion.
Read the editorial for 204 Spring 2011
I come from a long line of gardeners. Back in Cornwall, Croggons are big in gardens: my grandmother was often visited by people who wished to admire her exotics and my Uncle William spent years restoring a historic garden at Creed Rectory in Grampound. My parents merely have to stick things in the ground for them to sprout and bloom. For a few years, my father even made his living with a franchise for Jim’s Mowing.
Read 'On gardening'
Possibly I’m misremembering, but somewhere tucked into the small corpus of published writing by the late JD Salinger is the line ‘The wise man lives without reputation.’ Like a lot of Salinger’s work, this exudes a certain perfumed mysticism, pungent but never quite attributable, befitting an author who devoted himself to kriya yoga, gurus and reading the Bhagavad Gita.
Read 'On the online life'
When I first arrived in Perth in 1992, the struggle over the development of the Swan Brewery, located on a Nyungar sacred site of the rainbow serpent dreaming, was still raging. In the darkness of early morning, my housemates and I attended the picket line before construction workers or police arrived. Many of the influential activists of the time sat gathered in circles, including Robert Bropho and the wonderfully vital Yaluritja Clarrie Isaacs.
Read 'Rjurik Davidson on 'Mad Bastards''
On the poetic ambitions of Clive James, celebrity
Because he’s consistently collected his journalism and reviews in book form over a long career, Clive James can boast a large oeuvre. Yet, if it is large, it is also broad, extending into the higher literary genres of memoir, fiction and poetry. Throw in his fame as a TV performer and he is, in effect, a one-man writers’ festival. At the 2003 Mildura Writers’ Festival, he was even awarded the Philip Hodgins Memorial Medal for his literary excellence.
Read 'A One-Man Writers′ Festival'
Andy Worthington on Guantanamo and torture in a post-9/11 world
On the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the world is a fundamentally different place, one in which indefinite detention without charge or trial has been accepted in the United States for those labelled as terrorists, people who cannot be tried in federal courts because they are considered ‘warriors’ in a war on terror that many in power do not wish to see ended.
Read 'When America changed forever'
John Kinsella′s record of a year
When Tracy and Tim arrive, I’ll go up and close the double gates behind them. At this time of evening it would be usual to see roos, but none show. Their numbers are down. People have been shooting illegally in the reserve, and earlier in the day I noticed a strand of fence-wire cut where a hunter has stepped over, chasing roos onto our place. Our property. I reject the notion of property. Custodianship sounds too appropriative, and for a non-Indigenous resident, all too convenient. Really, that’s the issue that burns below the surface of all I write about this place. Proudhon is only halfway there with ‘property is theft’. Some theft is more theft than others. He fails to investigate the nature of such theft: that’s more the key to understanding the implications of surveying, gifting, selling, claiming.
Read 'A rural diary'
Ellena Savage on articulating trauma
Historically understood as a physical wound, trauma’s semantic application as an injury both psychic and material developed in the aftermath of the First World War. Its conceptual roots can be traced back to the language used to describe the effects of train wrecks in the late nineteenth century (‘spinal concussion’, ‘railway spins’, ‘railway heart’) and, in the early twentieth century, the afflictions suffered by soldiers (‘shell shock’, ‘war shock’, ‘soldier’s heart’).
Read ''My flesh turned to stone''
Eve Vincent on visiting Villawood
Writer Sunil Badami and sociologist Gabrielle Gwyther, among others, have detailed the ‘othering’ of Sydney’s populous western suburbs which are perceived, says Badami, as ‘some bloody hell, beginning somewhere around Annandale, blurring into a distant blank space … a no-man’s land of strange terrors and cultural desolation that evaporates into Emu Plains’. The western suburbs, insists Badami, are heterogeneous, dynamic and complex. Here, multiculturalism is made a meaningful fact of life.
Read 'Life in limbo'
Jessice Whyte on philosophy and the idea of communism
In 2010, Slavoj Žižek, whom the New Republic once dubbed ‘the most dangerous philosopher in the West’, gave a public lecture at the London School of Economics on the necessity of communism. The audience at this elite university overflowed the auditorium into a nearby room, watching through a video link. At one point, the evening’s host, the international relations theorist David Held (also the PhD advisor to the son of Muammar Gaddafi), looked visibly agitated and managed to interrupt Žižek – itself something of a rare achievement.
Read ''The long night of the Left is drawing to a close''
Malalai Joya interviewed by Overland
The presence of Australian troops is only beneficial for the bunch of warlords and criminals ruling Afghanistan. The Afghan people face dire conditions as the US and their allies have massacred innocent women, children and men – and are continuing to do so. Since 2001, tens of thousands of civilians have been killed by the blind bombardments of the US and their allies, which includes Australia as well.
Read ''No nation can liberate another nation''
Jennifer Mills provides a handy guide
First, be white. If you are Aboriginal, you can certainly speak on behalf of every Aboriginal person in Australia, but it is best to get a white person to write down what they think you should be saying. Non-Aboriginal people of colour will just confuse everybody. Only white people can write objectively about the Aboriginal experience.
Read 'How to write about Aboriginal Australia'
Richard Seymour on the Left and the War on Terror
The wars go on, interminably, but the ‘war on terror’ is over. Liberties lost have yet to be regained. Secret prisons, kidnapping and torture continue to operate, with the connivance of a post-Bush administration. Still, the war on terror is finished.
Now that it’s over, can we figure out what it was?
Read 'What was that all about?'
John Martinkus on being abducted in Baghdad – and then criticised for surviving
Baghdad. Friday, 16 October 2004.
Almost as soon as my vehicle left the front gates of the compound, I realised something was wrong. There was a black car behind us that seemed to be following. As we turned the first corner, not more than 500 metres from the guarded hotel entrance, another black car that had been parked on the curb moved into the centre of the road to block our path. That car suddenly stopped and two men leapt out, pulling handguns from under their shirts and running towards us.
Read 'Kidnapped in Iraq; attacked in Australia'
Kirsten Tranter on gender and China Miéville’s 'Embassytown'
Embassytown is perhaps China Miéville’s most self-consciously literary novel, as well as a classic sci-fi space opera set in the distant future on a planet at the edge of mapped space, Areika. The book’s title comes from the name of the enclave inhabited by the human colonists within the larger city that they share with the native Areikei, referred to by humans as ‘Hosts’.
Read 'Refiguring fiction'
Emmett Stinson on why publishers need to take self-publishing seriously
With the rise of services like Smashwords, Lulu, Xlibris, Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing and countless others, the practice of digital self-publishing has received considerable attention in the mainstream media, buoyed by stories of writers such as Amanda Hocking (a self-described author of ‘young adult paranormal romance’) who made almost US$2 million selling 900,000 self-published ebooks.1 While there’s a long history of self-published print books that have become bestsellers – Australian action-thrillers by Matthew Reilly, for example – digital delivery of books lowers the barriers that have traditionally hampered self-publishing.
Read 'Vanity Fair'
1st. Your shoes don’t fit. They’re either too big, or too small; either way, even if you wore them once, you will wear them no more. What kind of protagonist outgrows their own feet?
2nd. You’re stuck in a rut. Every day, through a camera lens, appears the same routine: you get up, shower, eat two eggs, skim a whole paper. Drive to a generic government high-rise building, park, sign-in, disappear. Here’s the rub: you don’t remember how you got this job or what it is you do. You do remember you despise eggs.
Read 'How to tell if you are the red herring'
The sun was high, relentless in the clear sky as he slammed the door behind him and turned out of his gate. As he stepped from the shade of the house onto the footpath he was stunned motionless for a moment – Christ almighty! – by the white brilliance of the heat. He stood shielding his eyes with his hand – he would have to go back for a hat – when Nerida from up the road called out to him. He hesitated, looking down towards the Centro. He wished he could pretend he hadn’t seen her, but he was caught.
Read 'Animal People'
Not many eleven-year-olds are enamoured with death. Mary Agapitos is. She likes to hang out in the Kalgoorlie graveyard, exulting in the rust-coloured earth that still reigns around the tombs, the bauxite rocks lying about like oversized gravel and the tufts of colourless grass protruding beneath the occasional eucalypt. In particular, she enjoys the Orthodox section where she reads and pats headstones of people she once knew. Old Greek surnames that comfort her like her mother’s embrace.
Read 'Reading coffee'
Dirty skirts bunch and glow –
soaring out of streetlights
& glide down Cringila Road.
Read 'The twin stacks'
by the track,
everlastings in bloom; paper-fine heads
that vandals cut for vased reverie.
Read 'At Heatherlie Quarry'
At sunrise, the mine lifts in stark surprise
reveals a skyline shaped by giant graders
Kimberley hills stepped like ancient ziggurats
Read 'Toyota Dreaming'
I want to write a poem about gardening,
watering the veggie patch & how it
reduces things down to a manageable
size. To write a poem about putting on
Read 'Two Years On'
I move through a slanting,
footpaths erupting roots through bricks
near the mad old bus stop.
Read 'Misinterpretations /or The Dark Grey Outline'
Looking along the creek, the sky
Was filled with swallows circling,
And further up, more swallows
Read 'After Rain'
i’ve picked up a bag of words i packed a long time ago
i introduce them listen to long conversations
foil-pink trance suspends into the filmy mint-green ephemeral
Read 'gladstone bag'
Read 'Before Autumn'
On the harbour library green lamps swayed, and he let out a long breath.
Hoop. She would say redolent like cutting toast. We stripped her. The vowel slightly raised voice as the e followed and was
Read 'Peregrine Falcon'
lighting beacons upon the tops of silos
sparrows fall like clods of dirt
we update our blogs according to the contract
Read 'excluding guns and ammo'
Looking up, the players have gone.
Punctual as death,
dogs sniff their way otherwhere.
Read 'Stuff of Sleep and Dreams'