I’m leaving Overland at the end of 2014, which makes this the final edition I’ll edit. It’s been a strange seven years, watching the social settlement of the postwar era dissolve and so many of our certainties about culture and politics melt into air.
If you Google ‘writer’s block’, the miracle that is the internet serves you 81 million responses in 0.35 seconds. You can identify which of the ‘10 Types of Writer’s Block’ might be plaguing you, and then attack it with ‘5 Tips for Punching Writer’s Block in the Face’ or ‘7 Strategies to Outsmart Writer’s Block’.
The author bio briefly summarises an author’s life and achievements, usually in the third person. Buried in a publication’s contributor pages or tucked at the end of an article, the bio can seem vestigial: a mere convention or afterthought.
When people who have experienced violence in childhood come to see me for the first time in my counselling practice, they bring stories to tell, stories that take the form of puzzles. Each story is a description of a crime, a story that makes no sense. It is like watching someone find evidence of a crime and mistaking it for a message, or wondering if they are the one who is guilty.
The internet is the future we seldom imagined. It eluded generations of science fiction writers, only to suddenly appear, fully formed, some time in the mid-1990s, and from then on quickly become an essential part of how most people communicate, research, write and work. Our new present.
When I meet new people they often ask me where I’m from. Sometimes I say Melbourne; other times I say Africa. Both claims are equally true. Like many people, I grew up between two cultures. My identity has always been something I could not pin down with any accuracy.
Research findings about what makes us happy have begun to influence public policy. In December 2011, the US Department of Health and Human Services convened a panel of experts charged with devising a reliable measure of ‘subjective wellbeing’ – the academically respectable term for happiness.
My grandmother passed away this week. She was ninety-five. It was not a shock. A few weeks ago she was hospitalised for what was believed to be kidney failure. It all went south from there: infections, rehabilitation, a fall from a hospital bed, refusal to eat, collapsed veins, delirium.
Margaret Atwood was recently announced as the first author to participate in the Future Library, an unusual publishing project initiated by Scottish artist Katie Paterson. The project will collect a book every year from a different author, but will not publish them until the year 2114. Apparently it doesn’t bother Atwood that she is writing a novel that no-one in her lifetime will be able to read.
Throughout the last century, a certain London address was inundated with strange requests. People across the globe wrote to 221B Baker Street, seeking to procure the services of its famous fictional detective – that is, to persuade Sherlock Holmes to apply his deductive prowess to the most pressing conundrums of the day, from the Watergate scandal of the Nixon era to the mysterious and unsolved murder of Swedish prime minister Olof Palme in the mid-1980s.
Australians should be well positioned to understanding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Murray-Smith had taken the motto for the new journal from Joseph Furphy’s description of his novel Such Is Life: ‘temper democratic; bias, offensively Australian’. Furphy had intended this as a declaration that his novel had nothing in common with what he regarded as effete and gentlemanly writers like Henry Kingsley …
As usual, the hundreds of entries for this year’s Overland Victoria University Short Story Prize were read blind. The judges – me, Overland editor Jeff Sparrow, deputy editor Jacinda Woodhead, and Victoria University academic and writer Jenny Lee – finally decided on a shortlist of fourteen stories; we later learned that this shortlist was made up of eleven women and three men.
We left the dog on a highway once. It was the middle of summer, a week or so until Christmas and we had been arguing. We were supposed to drive down South to visit some friends of yours who’d just had another baby. You’d talked about the baby for weeks, showing me pictures. I think now maybe that is what you wanted – to father a child with your name. At the time, though, you only talked about getting out of the city.
Walking back late afternoon, salt-crusted and heavy from her swim, Helen follows the high tide line along the cooling sand. Her eyes search the ridge of drying seaweed, empty plastic bottles, lengths of yellow fishing line, and half-rotten birds. If she sees a specially smooth, bleached piece of driftwood, she pauses to examine it, turns it over with her toes, maybe takes it home.
The first time I saw Tercero I didn’t know what I was seeing. His head loomed over me, and I thought he must be a spirit or an animal, or a combination of the two. From his mouth came a language that rolled and bubbled and spat like boiling water. It was awful.
It was the great pleasure of the judges (Campbell Mattinson, Clare Strahan and me) to read through the 400 submissions for the Overland Story Wine Prize, whittling down the excellent offerings to our top twelve, and rereading those a number of times to determine the winner and runners-up.
Each judge was impressed with the diversity, cleverness and pathos of the submissions.
On the bus she’s pressed next to a man with the same grey hair as her father, and he’s reading the news while the rain falls outside the windows on the new blossoms, and she thinks how glad she is of the fact of spring because it reminds her of when she was four …
6pm Saturday night. In a Boulevard town, mum and I debate about whether it’s too early for a cocktail or if my hair is too early or if we’ll even get in. We do the hair in the sliver of light on the black outside of a 711.
My name had been amputated when I was young from two syllables down to one. I fancied myself a Marilyn or a Belladonna – something you could really wrap your tongue around, something you could pronounce with pouty lips.
In 2014, Overland has commissioned four contemporary writers to contribute a short story that responds in some way to a piece of fiction from our sixty years of archives.
The last of these Fancy Cuts is from Ali Alizadeh, award-winning poet, short story writer, critic and novelist. Alizadeh’s typically unflinching story ‘Samira was a terrorist’ began with James Aldridge’s story ‘Taffy was a pacifist’, first published in Overland 21, August 1961.
Samira Alizadeh was a fearful girl living in a very dull city in Australia. It was perhaps not an evilly banal city (as a certain German philosopher may have put it) but simply uninteresting. Samira had lived the first sixteen years of her life in a very eventful country in the Middle East.
It was not an unkind town, it was simply a town which was always on the edge of seasonal catastrophe, as the wheat was sown and the grain ripened. Would it rain enough at the right time? Would the winds blow dry storms across the sandy plains and root out the young wheat and smother the town of St. Helen for days?
On land cleared to a few trees
you say you’re protecting
native wildlife (but not kangaroos,
Flung them on the riverbed which flooded
that week next. Not short of invectives, I cursed
pebbles as flint, startling the public of Wagga
A skateboarder hisses down Salisbury Crescent,
the sound of a soluble Panadol in the glass.
The night is packed full of fog. Only the rolling
And can it be our voices need consoling,
well we only link our voices at footy,
guess he’d never been, corporate projection
To town planners, the granite gorge traces like a wound
across this scythed and hothouse landscape;
its water a sprawling spray-storm in the Wet
for the attractive people
there is a wall to skate through
it was a joke until somebody told it
curled up in a dead world
now underground, stroking
As a boy with Keating
just after the Redfern Speech
he looks as soft and innocent as a three day old chick.
t took you ten years to climb mt sorrow took
captain cook a little while to pass by but he was in
a bad mood – you return for a better one with gwendolyn,
You tell me not to answer the phone. But I do. Because your eyes flash gold when you walk past the kitchen. Because Plath was brave enough to answer the phone. And I need to make sure it isn’t Assia Wevill
We searched you in the hollows
And we searched you in the fen
We took you down for mercy