April in nonfiction

Type
Review
Category
Reading

In A handful of sand, Charlie Ward goes beyond photogenic myth to tell a harder story about this famous land rights battle. It’s a tale of the hollowness of political promises, clashes between different levels of government, white ‘helpers’ of varying degrees of assiduousness, and differences of opinion between younger and older Gurindji about the kind of future they wanted to build. Particularly frustrating are the accounts of unrealistic goals foisted onto the Gurindji, which created ‘tensions between the elders’ modest goals [for their land] and the prescriptive demands of the state’.

handful
so woke
Type
Article
Category
Activism
Capitalism

So woke

Two weeks ago, social media lit up in a fever dream of outrage. This time, because a corporation hijacked the imagery and aesthetics of resistance movements as part of a daft strategy to sell soft drink to millennials. Most disturbingly, Pepsi’s ad appropriated the imagery of the Black Lives Matter movement, ultimately trivialising police brutality. However I suspect that there’s another hidden, murkier reason that this ad got the left into such a tizzy: because it draws attention to our own always-already co-opted, neutered gestures of resistance.

Homeless
Type
Article
Category
Dignity
Precarity

Facing homelessness

Three nights’ accommodation at the Coburg Motor Inn and the prospect of being fast tracked through the system might sound good at a glance. Three nights in a motel may be a treat, but that’s where the support ends – where are people supposed to go next? As for being fast tracked up the public housing list, it would mean displacing people who’ve been waiting on that list already, often for years.

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Type
Short Story Prize

First place, Neilma Sidney Prize: The trip

I’d wished I’d brushed my teeth. They were always telling me that. Brush your teeth, they’d say and I’d say I have, I have, even when I hadn’t. Then they’d get smart and would want to smell my breath, which is totally gross. I’d say, no way, gross. And they’d say, go brush your teeth and so I would because there’s only so much luck you can push with your grandparents.

But on this day, I hadn’t brushed my teeth.

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Type
Essay
Category
Homophobia
Labour rights

To be a queer teacher

LGBTIQ teachers are consistently positioned as the ‘other’: their lives, identities and families are regarded as different, as unrelatable, as potentially harmful. Straight teachers are spared this burden: their family lives are valued as acceptable models for young innocents, as somehow representative of social and moral norms. This othering is pernicious and pervasive. A male primary school teacher I met at a networking event shared his feelings of betrayal when his husband, who had donated his expertise to help fundraise for the school, was publicly referred to as simply his ‘friend’ by the school principal, someone he had long considered an ally.

shop window
Type
Article
Category
Consumerism
Labour rights

'Are you open? Why not?!' On the invisibility of retail workers

As a retail worker with more than ten years’ experience, I was saddened, though not particularly surprised, by the recent decision of the FWC to cut penalty rates in my sector. It strikes me as the logical outcome of the widening gulf between the ‘servants’ and the ‘served’ – a willed ignorance to the actual conditions of labour, that extends right through to the uniquely free-floating, disconnected lives of most of the political class.

Make up
Type
Reflection
Category
Sexism
Writing

The beauty regimen of a woman writer

Every morning I wake sometime between 3 and 4am to spend an hour worrying about how I’m going to have enough time to do the work I’m being paid to do and also make the work I want to make. I often follow this up by berating myself for not just getting up to write. Eventually I go back to sleep for at least half an hour so that I can wake again refreshed. I find that chronic insomnia and dwelling on daily anxieties like this helps to prematurely age me, giving my hair the ‘silver fox’ look I am increasingly going for as I hit middle age.

Bass Strait
Type
Polemic
Category
Reading
Writing

You can be a successful writer, but only if you live in Melbourne or Sydney

Discourses of privilege are widespread in Australian literary circles, but this rarely extends to simple, old-fashioned geography. I find this surprising. It’s no secret that there can be snobbishness towards art from the regions; geography and class can be closely related. One need only consider the loaded nature of the word ‘provincial’, or attitudes to certain suburbs in any given city.

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Type
Review
Category
Poetry

March in Poetry

As a book with its institutional filters, Gularabulu can be a disquieting read. It is clad in notes: about Aboriginal English, explaining stories before they’re told, guiding pronunciation. Its transcription occasionally describes, rather than carries, Roe’s wordwork. His breaths, even background noises, are painstakingly noted.

I describe this as poetry, perhaps incorrectly. Others call Gularabulu a story collection.

Capture
Type
Review
Category
United States
Writing

Tale of a haunting: Jeff Sparrow's search for Paul Robeson

While Sparrow’s admiration for his subject is palpable (and amply justified), the book is never triumphalist or hagiographic – or, worse still, nostalgic – nor are the central claims concerning the relevance of Robeson’s political thought uncomplicated. The book reads rather like the story of a haunting. What is it that moved a white Australian writer to travel the world in search of the ghost of a black American artist? And what did he learn?

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Type
Article
Category
Activism
The future

A history of nothing but thunderous defeats: notes on building a movement

Both the Women’s March on Washington in January and the international women’s strike that took place last month have raised questions about how to build a lasting resistance movement. How do we get the balance right, for example, between calling for bold political actions and consolidating the movement? How might we coalesce despite the uneven nature of the politics of broad coalitions?

Tones
Type
Article
Category
Long read
Writing

‘You’ll be great, but only if you work your arse off.’ An interview with Tony Birch

As I read Ghost River, and the parallel narratives of Birch’s river men – their fear of police and hospitals – alongside Ms Dhu’s death and her family’s fight for justice, I tried to make sense of how to read these stories that are fictional and those that are true. And in the case of Ms Dhu, how to bear a true story that no one in positions of power cared to believe until it was too late.

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Type
Reflection
Category
Culture
Labour rights

The stain of Centrelink

In many obvious ways the pros of being employed outweigh the negatives, though employment in the form of two or more casual jobs brings no greater feeling of security than the dole. Neither does being employed in a job you aren’t all that great at. The depression eases when the bills are being paid, but the relief is only temporary. For me, all the standing in line, all the being spoken down to all amounted to nothing more than the freedom to not have to report my income.

tempel
Type
Article
Category
Architecture
Far right

Relics of the far right

Tempelhof airport sits at the southern tip of Berlin’s city centre. The immense building, 1230 metres in length, curls around the airfield. Tall, narrow windows cascade down its facade, and an almost human-sized metal eagle’s head stands at the main entrance. The airport, which ceased operations in 2008, was largely designed and built under the Nazi regime. Once at the centre of Hilter’s vision of ‘World Capital Germania’, the Nazis’ megalomaniacal project intended Tempelhof to be the gateway to a Europe commanded by the Third Reich.

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Type
Article
Category
Debate
Publishing
Reading

Your attention, please: who’s reading Australian books?

There’s a bigger and more fundamental question that is usually elided when debates like this pop up. Maybe it’s easier for me, as someone whose current stake in Australian literature is largely limited to that of a reader’s (and, I suspect, as one of the few civilians who has read two of the three shortlisted Miles Franklin novels mentioned by McAvan in her opening paragraph), to put this question into words: ‘Why does no one care about Australian books?’

DESERT STORM
Type
Article
Category
The media
Trump
War

Saving beautiful babies

For the first time in Trump’s presidency, large swathes of the liberal press applauded a man they had expended many thousands of spoken and written words denouncing as a neo-fascist bigot and buffoon. The missile strike, according to CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, marked the moment ‘Donald Trump became president of the United States’. Even more absurd examples abounded.

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Type
Article
Category
Activism
Refugee rights

After welcome, after sanctuary

As Jennifer Bagelman observed in research with the Glasgow City of Sanctuary, sanctuary measures such as employment programs and social events, all aimed at a future that is still in abeyance, can simply feel like ‘dependency, uselessness, and invisibility’ for people who have no other choice but to rely on the self-congratulatory services of the sanctuary city, all while having no certainty about whether a life without the need for sanctuary will ever be possible.

see me
Type
Review
Category
Australia
Writing

See me showing you me

From my position as an Indian immigrant in Australia, a writer and scholar, Questions of Travel provided a selfie of a country that I and people like me could retweet and circulate, contributing to the flow of the literary selfie. In this book I saw a Sri Lankan Australian author writing about Sri Lanka, Australia and our larger world: a self enacting self. A text saying ‘see me showing you me’. Not through autobiography, but through the work that only fiction can do.

Bucks Fizz Pic 1
Type
Reflection
Category
Culture
Music

‘Tomorrow Belongs to Those Who Hear it Coming’

I was a fan of the 45. Initially this was due to financial constraints – albums were more expensive, and my pocket money was capped at $2.50 a week. But I grew to like the portability, the surprise of the B-side. I even liked the physical action of having to get up to turn the disc over. With a single, I could have a three-minute vacation in one feeling, and then move on to another. A single was like flirting, an album was commitment.

Amber Hansen_Story of chickens still
Type
Review
Category
Art
censorship
Violence

The hypocrisy of meat eaters: on MONA and animal cruelty

The use of animals in performance art is nothing new. Nitsch himself has been performing iterations of 150.Action since the 1960s, the heyday of the short-lived but influential Viennese Actionist movement, whose works were grounded in nakedness, violence and destruction, and which often breached obscenity laws and provoked widespread moral outrage. Recent examples are just as easy to point at.