Fiction

Reflection: Netsuke by Rikki Ducornet

I spent a Sunday afternoon lying on the beach enjoying sun, a cool breeze coming off the water, and a book. I read the whole of Netsuke in one sitting. It has been a long time since I have given myself the time to dedicate to a book like that. Normally I read in snatches, before bed, or on public transport, or as a reward after finishing marking essays or transcribing interviews. None of this is my own research of course. I’m terrified of starting my own writing. It feels very far away, and I’m convinced of my own inadequacy as a writer (both scholarly and creative). I discussed this with my analyst this week. We’re unpacking my focus on productive and unproductive writing. I’m fond of binaries. It’s very Euro-centric of me.

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Fiction

Reflection: The Transmigration of Bodies by Yuri Herrera (Translated by Lisa Dillman)

I really enjoy the retelling and reimagining of familiar stories. I like that by shirting perspective, considering the viewpoint of a minor, or a peripheral character opens a story to new tellings, prioritises different concerns and positions readers to reconsider the ways in which they presume it is normal for power to be exercised. Herrera’s retelling of Romeo and Juliet does just this. Resituated in a plague-ridden Mexico (a plague on both your houses), The Transmigration of Bodies follows The Redeemer, a fast-talking negotiator, who has to clean up the mess that arises from the deaths of two young lovers from warring families.

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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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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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