Fiction

Reflection: Oronooko by Aphra Behn

One of my concerns of late has been the reclaiming of classical literatures from regressive frameworks. If that sounds euphemistic it’s because it is. My concern, more simply put, is that regressive ideologies have claimed the classical literatures that came from Europe as their own, and this is at the expense of progressive ideologies. I’m not saying that these texts are the only texts of merit, nor am I saying that they should be studied at the expense of texts that have been marginalised under, let’s admit it, settler-colonialist pedagogies that are premised on European-supremacy. Nonetheless, given settler-colonialism is one of the after effects of European invasion and colonisation, I do think it is important to understand the texts that gave shape to that mindset, if only so that the systems built on those readings can be dismantled from within. Colonised peoples know that the systems are fucked, finding ways of teaching colonisers (and I count myself among that number) about the ways in which their world views are not universal, nor even coherent, and are certainly not materially applicable in a universal sense (ie. they’re not just “the way things are”). To this extent Aphra Behn’s novel, Oronooko provides a valuable insight into the early spread of colonialism and the ideologies that underpin it.

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Poetry

Reflection: Broken Teeth by Tony Birch

There is a special circle in hell

For whomever it is that invented “sale” stickers

That refuse to peel off. 

Scraping away at the front cover of a book

Becomes an exercise in precision,

Trying not to rip or ruin an elegant design.

I am reduced to surgery:

A paring knife,

Tweezers,

Cotton wool,

Eucalyptus oil.

And I pad, scrape, pick, and lift

The fading scab of $9.95

From the delicate matte-finished skin beneath.

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Fiction

Reflection: I Have More Souls Than One by Fernando Pessoa

One hundred years ago, during the early months of 2018, I was out for dinner with friends on Lygon St. They’re two of my favourite people, she a bioethicist, he a rare-books librarian, all three of us spec lit and SF nerds. After he and I finished off a bottle of red between us we wandered into Readings for dessert. It was on the new release shelves that we came across the teeny tiny Penguin Modern imprints. At $2.50 each we all found a few that might be useful. For me it was Orwell’s Notes on Nationalism, Stanislaw Lem’s The Three Electroknights and Fernando Pessoa’s I Have More Souls Than One. As expected, these writers have helped me to see the world, all fresh and shaken, but it was Pessoa who left me shook last night.

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Fiction

Reflection: Heather, The Totality by Matthew Weiner

When I’m anxious I go to bookstores. I worked in them for years, and for some reason, I still find it’s soothing to stroke spines and neaten piles of books. This is not the best news for my bank account, because I always find new friends I should bring home. My To Read pile grows higher every day and the days I have left I which to do this reading grow fewer.

 I picked up Heather, The Totality while I was having one of my mismanaged anxiety clouds. The cover was dynamic. It looked like a fast read and right now I am not above an easy win. I finally settled down to read it while soaking in a tub full of hot water and Epsom salts. It had been a long day, one of those days where my worries about my father’s health collided with my concerns about my own mortality and my choices that had lead to the fact that, in my late thirties, I can soak in the bath and read a book without being interrupted. The solitude of steam and salts is a mixed blessing. Every blessing is also a curse, I suppose.

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Fiction, Life Writing

Sounds of Silence: Audiobooks and the Reader

I’ve been listening to audiobooks. I’ve had friends and colleagues tell me that this is a thing that I should be doing for ages. This makes sense, I’m busy, I’m overcommitted, I commute and I do a lot of walking. Audiobooks should be a way of maximising productivity and pleasure in one hit. In some ways, they have been. I enjoy being read to, there’s something delightful and childish about it. I find it comforting.

I also find it hard to concentrate, and I often have to go back and repeat entire chapters. I realise that as I’ve been cleaning, walking, staring out of the train window, whatever, I’ve lost half a story. In one ear, out the other.

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Life Writing

Reflection: By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept by Elizabeth Smart

I’ve been reading a lot of florid fiction of late. There was Jenny Hval’s Paradise Rot last week, Djuna Barnes’ Nightwood, and Beverley Farmer’s Alone. These books have allowed me to sit with some fairly deep and conflicting emotions that I’ve had to process over the last twelve months, feelings related to my position as a Dedicated Spinster, feelings related to the likelihood that I won’t be a mother (old, single, precarious employment/no mat leave) and the reality that even if I do, my father, who is very unwell, won’t ever meet any of my children (beyond the furbaby, Dr Felix). This is, like, a lot. And I often find that the clean, fresh, pared back language that is favoured in contemporary writing doesn’t do justice to the messiness of these deep, but reasonable, feelings. By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept  was a glorious means of understanding the fury, focus and frailty that arises when we see the future we had imagined thwarted.

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Fiction

Reflection: Paradise Rot by Jenny Hval

I remember the first time I saw Janny Hval. She was performing at the Bella Union in Trades Hall and was supporting Laura Jean. She was on stage with a double bass, and a drum kit. There might have been other instruments, I don’t remember that. I do remember her voice: ethereal, and pure. Her voice was morning sunlight made song. She put me in mind of Milton’s Lapland witches, whose charms eclipsed the labouring moon. Ever since then, I’ve been chasing that first encounter. I found a version of it in her album Viscera, although less so in later albums and performances. I was hoping that her book, Paradise Rot, would again, trip up my experiences. It did.

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