I’ve never known quite how to feel about Alan Moore. Perhaps my feelings are best expressed by the time I found myself drunkenly screaming, ‘Alan Moore is a sex pervert’ in a public park immediately after declaring him one of the greatest living writers. His fondness for sex scenes has always left me prudishly uncomfortable and I’ve been very disturbed by the gendered violence in his work.
When published in 1995, Justine Ettler’s debut novel The River Ophelia received a lively critical reception. For some, the book exemplified a genre of gritty, in-ya-face writing then known as ‘grunge lit’, named after the contemporaneous music movement from Seattle (think Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam).
There is no doubt that the formation of racist street patrols is newsworthy, however we may never know why Channel Seven felt the need to woo these neo-Fascists with such soft balls. Possibly it was in the interests of keeping them sweet to guarantee that next exclusive interview, maybe it was to keep things interesting for their next awful Underbelly knock-off.
In a world marked by pain and damage, it’s difficult to put down our shields. Most of us have them; I have several. Usually we are born with them, but sometimes we make them. We hold these shields in front of our faces, to protect ourselves from the pain of others.
Technologically, the first VR device was Morton Heilig’s Sensorama – a ‘Revolutionary Motion Picture System that takes you into another world with 3-D, wide vision, motion, color, stereo-sound, aromas, wind, vibrations’. Heilig shot, produced and edited the films himself. Titles included Motorcycle, Belly Dancer and I’m a Coca Cola Bottle. The machine had a bucket seat, handles, vents and a hooded canopy. In the end, the machinery was too complex and expensive, and Heilig failed to find investors; the Sensorama remained a prototype.
Since first contact, Indigenous people have been viewed as a problem that needs to be solved.
This viewpoint, rooted in ethnocentric colonialism – a form of cultural supremacy in which specific cultural groups strive to make the world in their image – remains pervasive over 230 years later. It’s visible in the current epidemic of child removals (Indigenous children are eleven times more likely to be removed from their families, and one in five lives with a state-appointed carer) and in Australia’s abhorrent detention statistics (Indigenous children are twenty-six times more likely to end up in juvenile detention than their non-Indigenous peers).
Look, it hasn’t been a great year for women artists. But let’s be frank: it very rarely is.
In January, the Australian Book Review launched its inaugural Gender Fellowship, which asked a writer to produce an article on gender in contemporary Australian letters, only to later decide that none of the applicants had met the criteria ‘in sufficiently new or compelling ways’. Leaving aside ABR’s poor judgement in launching a gender fellowship dictating recipients must write about gender issues, the magazine then announced that the initial applicants weren’t good enough on International Women’s Day.
This brings us back to the question posed whenever a production of The Merchant of Venice is mounted: is this an antisemitic play, or a play about antisemitism? Indeed, if we need Shylock’s ‘Hath not a Jew’ speech to remind us that Jews are, in fact, human too, then we are dealing with a much larger cultural problem that productions of The Merchant of Venice play into.
The power of the debate – as an illustration of gender politics in 1971 – is patent, a more than ample foundation on its own, with Mailer looking more of a fool as time goes on in his attempts to rein the women in, belittle their arguments and remain on top. Its fascination for us today lies also in the language and manners, striking in their formality, even in Johnston’s experimental prose and radical politics; Greer and Trilling are just as prolix, speaking in paragraphs we no longer hear in these contexts, worn down as we are by decades of festivals, talk fests and technology.
Overland is seeking fiction from new and emerging writers for a special online edition to be guest edited by Linda Godfrey.
As a member of Sweatshop Western Sydney Literacy Movement, I have had countless conversations with other writers from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds about the responsibility we feel to our communities, and of the demands and restrictions that places on our work. When we critique narrow but socially dominant mimesis we are seen as bitter and demanding.
It has been suggested that Uluru, amongst other things, is a symbol of reconciliation in Australia. It is certainly a cherished and revered place for Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike. When I was there, watching visitors time and again read the sign at the base of the rock and then continue across the threshold, it felt like a symbol of something else: of our historic and continuing disrespect for the first peoples of this country, of a shoddy version of reconciliation.
Translation is more than just carrying a text from language to language; it’s also a passage from audience to audience. To its Greek listeners, the Iliad didn’t need footnotes or endnotes. It wasn’t ‘literature’ or a status marker for taste and education. It was popular entertainment, put on at boozy gatherings by MCs whose talent could get them free drinks. That mood is hard to recapture now, even if a translator’s philology is faultless.
Speaking at a Moscow press conference in 1998, Oleg Gazenko – a scientist attached to the mission – expressed his regret in sombre and sympathetic tones: ‘The more time passes, the more I’m sorry about it. We shouldn’t have done it. We did not learn enough from this mission to justify the death of the dog.’
In the centre, I was confronted by Australia’s past and current crimes. Viewing Australia’s designed cruelty first-hand left me both sorrowful and angry. Manus is a festering wound. Australians can ignore the sickness, but slowly, surely, it is poisoning our country. This is a sickness that was contracted during our violent invasion of Aboriginal land and it surfaces every time we condone state cruelty against a person.
These are words, phrases and stanzas that work the teeth and tongue, and the dense packages of syllables and consonants are often delivered in bite-sized chunks. Longer poems, such as ‘Dunes’, ‘Nether’ and ‘Mostly water’, are broken into shorter sections, so that there is a perpetual sense of ongoing creation and destruction, of worlds and substances forming only to dissolve again at a touch.
Our heroine is Acker, who is tattooed, shaven-headed, a dissector of old books (literally – she chops them up). At first we take her for an advocate for victims of domestic violence, but nothing in this text is that straightforward. How, Wright asks, could we ever resolve the debt we all owe to the unfairly dead?