209 Summer 2012
Overland is fundamentally committed to emerging writers. This edition features the winning entries from the Overland Victoria University Short Story Prize, the richest and most prestigious competition of its kind in Australia. They are introduced by Jennifer Mills, Overland’s incoming fiction editor, in a judge’s report offering a snapshot of the huge quantity of writing that was assessed.
Read the editorial for 209 Summer 2012
I often find it mildly hilarious when I read articles that talk of writing creatively as a ‘career’. This is purely personal: after three decades of making a precarious living through various kinds of writing, it’s impossible for me to look back over my own ‘career’ with anything but rueful amusement. But exhortations for the ‘author’ to become a ‘brand’ don’t make me laugh. They fill me with revulsion.
Read 'On not having a career'
Red Shed Company
Imagine. You are young and have not yet forgotten that anything is possible. There is something bigger to believe in than your career prospects and your résumé, your future super dividends (as if you have any), your individual rung on the clichéd and fundamentally absurd ladder of fame and fortune.
Read 'Scenes from a radical theatre'
Riot Grrl, Russia and the future of music
It’s about the romance, partly. What could be more romantic than the sight of three women – mothers of small children – on trial in a small glass box, flanked by police officers and a massive dog, surrounded by the state apparatus of Russia, with the remnants of the Iron Curtain knitting together to prove just as impenetrable as before?
Read 'Me and Pussy Riot'
The paradoxes facing the Left
Where are we, today? On the one hand: austerity measures, the aftermath of the 2008 financial crash and the attempt to dismantle whatever residual features of the welfare state remain. On the other: mass resistance in the form of occupations, strikes, riots, protests, a revival of interest in Marx, feminism, anti-racist and anti-fascist ideas and actions, and widespread cynicism about electoral politics.
Read 'The pessimism of time'
Asylum seekers in indefinite detention
I come to dread the phone calls. But, even when I am not there to take them, the messages haunt me. An ominous flashing light on my phone, a few buttons pressed; her ghostly voice, barely audible, in my ear.
‘Elizabeth Lawyer, this is R. Please be calling me.’
Read '‘You can’t dream’'
The culture of confession
Six months after the death of JD Salinger in 2010, the toilet from his former home in Cornish, New Hampshire, went up for sale on eBay for one million American dollars. The advertisement claimed that the toilet was ‘uncleaned and in its original condition’. It also speculated that Salinger might have dreamed up and even written some of his unpublished work while sitting on this ‘throne’.
Read 'Salinger’s Toilet'
Darwin, theft and Cyclone Tracy
There is a photo taken at the end of 1974 of a man sitting outside the remains of his shop on the Stuart Highway, Darwin, holding a shotgun to keep thieves away. It was a few days after Cyclone Tracy had wiped out close to 90 per cent of the town in what remains Australia’s greatest urban catastrophe.
Read 'Descended upon by looters'
A way forward for progressive writing
The notion is, of course, a product of modernity. As Terry Eagleton outlines in The Function of Criticism, the idea of the public sphere was forged in the struggle against the absolutist state. Salons, clubs and coffee houses, broadsheets, pamphlets, the novel itself – all of these were born as the middle classes carved out a space against the aristocratic notions of hereditary hierarchy.
Read 'Political writers in the neoliberal age'
Early career writers and financial survival
In my former job as a book publicist, there was an inevitable stomach-churn that accompanied working with an ‘unknown’. Not because they weren’t good writers, mind you, but because, in a world saturated with content, opinion and information, it was difficult to make the public care about someone who wasn’t already a household name.
Read 'Balancing the books'
The benefits of sport
‘Just fucking do it,’ my friend said. At least, that was the gist. She’d just joined roller derby. I was contemplating boxing. I took her advice.
Read 'Living the life within'
Spy films, globalisation and the meaning of place
Set pieces in foreign locations have always been a hallmark of the spy film genre, but in the current crop of Anglo-American franchises they have reached new levels of baroque virtuosity. The modern cinematic secret service agent is at home anywhere, speaks all languages, walks over everything; he’s a silent drone, a lethal tourist.
Read 'Streets of wherever'
The discourse of human trafficking
Unlike sex trafficking today, white slavery – the abduction of American or European girls to be sold as sex slaves in foreign markets – was largely a myth.
Read 'Overlooking tragedy'
Short Story Prize
Winner: Overland Victoria University Short Story Prize
Dimity is about to sneeze. She is lying in the yard, watching the bees around the clover. Grass between her knuckles, and at the back of her heels and her daisy-chained ankles. She turns her face to the sun, breathes in and –
Read 'Frank O’Hara’s Animals'
Joint runner-up: Overland Victoria University Short Story Prize
Joe scrapes a homemade metal knife along the underside of a cowhide. Fat collects along the edge and he wipes it on his overalls. The hide goes into the pit, I throw buckets of salt on it and he starts scraping the next one. Inside this shed, just beyond the abattoir, Joe turns animal skins into leather and makes sausages. In town he lives alone, smokes too much and smells of preservatives. In the high school library, he teaches me how to play chess.
Read 'Killing Floor'
Joint runner-up: Overland Victoria University Short Story Prize
Tuesday, September 11, 2001 dawns humid and somewhat cloudy in southern Vietnam. Millions of men and women ready themselves for work. Some make their way by scooter to downtown Saigon, or District 1, in the centre of Ho Chi Minh City. Some go to the market.
Read 'The day the world stayed the same'
Overland Victoria University Short Story Prize
From 622 entries, Enza Gandolfo, Jeff Sparrow, Jacinda Woodhead and I selected a short list of nineteen stories. Of the entries we received, 64 per cent were from women. Of the short-listed stories, seventeen are by women and two by men, figures which reflect the ratio of submissions in a blind-judged competition. Each of the stories on the short list has skill, energy and that great asset, a point of difference.
Read 'Judges’ report'
Do writers need copyright?
As a lawyer who’s worked for a number of years at the Copyright Agency, I am genuinely in favour of copyright and believe that writers and others who create works are served well by it.
Read 'Conditions for creativity'
So then the Librarian said:
‘the Piggy Bank is pi times ratshit squared’
and left the building seeking tundra.
Didn’t think I’d hear from that man again, but then there was a message in my inbox. Within five hours we were in his bedroom. His hair is not computer hair, it’s straight and black: turntable hair, old school, calligraphy brush hair.
Read 'Making Love (to a man)'
He had good ideas in the shower,
he was sitting upright heroically typing away on his computer –
he improvised the filthiest, bawdiest limericks you can possibly imagine.
The scavenged tin hovels and wet pits of desert dwelling skags
seem deserted save for the encircling shadows of bulimic buzzards.
And hanging from the sprigs of thistles are toothbrush plastic rosary beads
Read 'Glazed Peyote Crème Brûlée'
At dawn the birch trees are ice-smacked:
shocked and glassy.
The man limps across the snow, like a toad,
Read 'Winter war'
supervene on the typical
nonsense from afar
asemic street and business signs
You don’t need eschatology to see the finitude
in all this. Cantilever arm of all sweetness,
pinions of every description
Read 'The Ear Especially'
standing on top of the helicopter counting
the bristles of my toothbrush
i look down but not back
Read 'transit of venus'
Il faut être toujours ivre.
The hardest working man in the Pantheon
Charon ferries only kebabs now, demands
Read 'Recrossing the Styx'
The museum’s frog info site is sponsored by Alcoa,
a company more responsible for the destruction
of Hills frog habitat than any other. I went to confirm