Elias Greig on ecofascism and the settler invasion fantasy, Natalia Figueroa Barroso on Charrua language and colonisation, the winners of the Neilma Sidney Short Story Prize and Judith Wright Poetry Prize, new poetry and fiction from Angela Costi, Liam Ferney, Michael Farrell, Ouyang Yu, Tim Loveday and more.
published 31 August 2008
At every political demonstration, university convention or progressive social gathering I’ve attended, there lurks that unshaven greenie in op-shop get-up, a ‘One Less Car’ sticker on his bike, vegan beer in hand – that archetype of left-wing virtue, ready to challenge ethical or intellectual laxity with his alacritous mind. As I read Stick This in Your Memory Hole, I realised: that man is Tristan Clark.
Published by Melbourne-based Aduki Independent Press, Stick This in Your Memory Hole is a collation of thirty-seven of Clark’s blog-style essays that address subjects including politics, media and the environment, Christian rock, soft drink and the respective sparring merits of Jesus and Mohammed.
A self-proclaimed disciple of the cynic tradition, Clark espouses contempt for material goods, social convention and most facets of modern society – with few escaping the wide net of his calumny. His prose oscillates between the high and the lowbrow, as academic and philosophical references give way to humorous pop-culture trajectories, streams of invective and more than the odd toilet joke.
The title refers to the sinister ‘memory hole’ in George Orwell’s 1984 in which documents inimical to ‘official truth’ were disposed of and thus eliminated from public consciousness. In an era of a corroded culture of radical thought, minimal public debate and pervasive media propaganda, Clark envisages a similar informational vacuum – the memory hole having become a figurative hole in our heads. Clark wishes to redress this intellectual void and political apathy by ‘unravelling of the very fabric of our society’. His wish-list includes ‘more authentic, inclusive democratic structures, less egregious economic theology and desire [for people] to overcome authority and domination’.
However, with his resounding ‘fuck yas all’ approach, the compilation sometimes seems like one long – albeit eloquent and likeable – aimless exercise in ‘paying out’. In some chapters Clark adopts an earnest academic tenor, with thoroughly researched and assiduously presented arguments. Yet frequently this cogency descends into tedious schoolboy-type political antics or desultory pop-culture references. Similarly, the text is overpopulated by parenthetical one-liners, which, combined with headings such as ‘Make up My Own Mind? Yeah, it spells H-O-R-S-E-S-H-I-T’ and ‘Ah Shuddupaya Face’, give the sense of being in the company of an importuning ten-year-old boy (who could use some serious time-out in the corner).
However, Clark does pre-empt the reader’s possible sense of waywardness with a (characteristically self-referential) interrogation of the ‘Great Motives for Writing’, as proposed by Orwell. Of the four – sheer egoism, aesthetic enthusiasm, historical impulse and political purpose – Clark professes the latter, ‘to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other people’s idea of the kind of society they should strive after’.
The book presents some edifying and often startling information, particularly with respect to environmental and economic issues. These will provide a sound political shake-up to those guilty of the occasional, disenchanted spell of ‘fuck politics – let’s shop’. Yet, in light of his lack of constructive proposals, this cant tone and (self-conscious) aura of vegetarian piety may arouse antipathy for Clark’s superciliousness.
Ultimately, Stick This in Your Memory Hole is an intellectually arousing, intelligent and fairly endearing read that reflects the new forms of media and expression emerging from independent publishing. Yet Clark’s slapdash amalgam of academic, informative, creative and polemical writing often detracts from the credibility of his intentions. The blog-style format would be better served by revision into more considered, coherent and well-structured chapters.
Written during the final dejected days of the Howard government, much of the content of Stick This in Your Memory Hole – such as Clark’s florid critique of Rudd and his reluctance to apologise to the Stolen Generations – has been superseded by the events of the 2007 election. While it undoubtedly fulfils part of Orwell’s ‘historical purpose’ of documenting ‘things as they are … and [storing] them up for the use of posterity’, there is an obsolescence to Stick This. One can’t help wondering (if he can possibly have anything more to declare after this opus) what Clark would have to say about subsequent political developments … or, then again, maybe not.
Zoe Holman is a Melbourne-based history student and aspiring journalist.
© Zoe Holman
Overland 192 – spring 2008, p. 94
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