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Benjamin Law: Overland and me

benjamin-lawOverland is now 57 years old, and by god, hasn’t the bastard aged handsomely? It has become that scruffy, bearded, left-leaning uncle with crinkles in his eyes and a ripping communist past, always ready to tell you a cracking story about how he Fucked Shit Up In the Day. Then 24 hours later, you’ll see him heading down to Occupy Sydney with a notepad and dictaphone, tweeting the entire thing live and taking notes for a blistering essay.

I’ve only written for Overland recently, but I’ve always dipped into it for years, having first discovered it stacking it on the shelves for a Brisbane bookshop where I worked. Behind the counter, I noticed there was always a dedicated readership of Overland, which made sense. As the country’s most progressive and ball-tearing journal, of course it would be popular in Queensland, a state with its own necessarily radical past.

It’s a giddy honour to have your words printed in Overland‘s pages, knowing many of Australia’s finest writers cut their teeth – and continue publishing their best cuts – in its pages over the years. Just reading the former contributors list is like a highlights reel of Australian letters: Peter Carey, Patrick White, Germaine Greer, Bob Ellis, Sam Watson, Thomas Shapcott, Judith Wright, Janette Turner Hospital, and some of my personal favourites like Christos Tsiolkas, Sophie Cunningham and Linda Jaivin.

And in an era where Australian society politics – and the dialogue around it – can often come off as increasingly conservative and castrated, it’s comforting to know Overland‘s still pushing boundaries. It has never gotten stale, and a lot of that has to do with the editorial chops of its current editor Jeff Sparrow. (Also handsome.) In the last few issues alone, the satire has been scathing, the poetry by turns rippingly funny and gorgeous, and the essays and features timely, adventurous and sobering.

Journals sometimes have a reputation for being dusty, but Overland succeeds because it’s always engaged its readers world beyond the bookshelf. Its initiatives are impressive, from its live events, to its headhunting of writers from under-represented communities, to its poetry prize, and its beautiful hybrid monster collaboration with Meanjin, the dedicating reading-in-a-digital-age blog, Meanland.

So subscribe, my friends. If only for the fact that it’s publishing stuff by young writers you’ll be hearing lots more about in five years’ time.

Benjamin Law is a Brisbane-based freelance writer, and a regular contributor to frankie, The Monthly and Qweekend. He has one book under his belt, The Family Law, and is working on his second, a collection of non-fiction looking at queer people and communities throughout Asia.

Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.

If you like this piece, or support Overland’s work in general, please subscribe or donate.

Benjamin Law is a Brisbane-based freelance writer. He is a senior contributor to frankie magazine. The Family Law (2010) is his debut book, and is published by Black Inc.

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