Since I had been born a man, I craved women constantly, the lower the better. And yet women, good women, frightened me because they eventually wanted your soul, and what was left of mine, I wanted to keep. Basically I craved prostitutes, base women, because they were deadly and hard and made no personal demands. Nothing was lost when they left. Yet at the same time I yearned for a gentle, good woman, despite the overwhelming price. Either way I was lost. A strong man would give up both. I wasn’t strong. So I continued to struggle with women, with the idea of women.
Charles Bukowski – Women.
When we put the call-out for this Overland issue around ‘The idea of women’ we included Charles Bukowski as a reference, as a starting point to agitate, excite and to rouse. Bukowski, the misogynist, the man both beastly and beautiful in his own carnival-mirror vision of women embodied the act of perceiving, of distorting women.
We asked for stories about, ‘Women as fantastic beasts. Women as projections. Women not as they actually are, but as they are imagined and fantasised about; as they are limited and defined by, or viewed through, ideas of femininity – from the empowered to the absurd’. We are deeply grateful to all whose imaginations were stimulated by this challenge. We were presented with over 340 images of women. Some were realistic and well-observed; humble and astute. Some were lightning bolts. In the end we curated four pieces whose tensions with and against each other helped illuminate the non-literal ways in which women are seen by themselves and by others.
We loved Ariane Both’s ‘The world is fire’ for its moments of beauty and otherworldliness. It is a story about how an idea of womanhood can be locked away only to grow strange, bedrock-breaking roots.
We were kicked in the guts by Judyth Emanuel’s ‘If someone told me I was dying I would drink myself to death’. There is vitality and power to the voice of this piece. It speaks to the idea of woman as a transcendent thing, spilling over boundaries, expansive and fantastic.
Sally Breen’s ‘Raining price’ excited us with its tone, with the realism of the character, with the exploration of what happens when a woman’s idea of herself comes undone far from home.
Fikret Pajalic’s ‘Make my back burn’ paints for us a man locked into the idea of a woman, unable to see past himself. There is a clear homage to Bukowski’s Women in this beautifully voiced piece, and we like how it plays against the rest of the pieces presented.
And finally, we simply could not say no to Vivienne Cutbush’s mixed media piece, ‘The crucible’, as the perfect accompaniment to the fiction presented. It is a delight.
We hope you enjoy looking through this little kaleidoscope of ideas and stories about women as much as we did discovering them.
Read ‘The idea of women’ fiction issue:
‘The world is fire’, by Ariane Both
‘If someone told me I was dying I would drink myself to death’, by Judyth Emanuel
‘Make my back burn’, by Fikret Pajalic
‘Raining price’, by Sally Breen
‘The crucible’, by Vivienne Cutbush