Rebecca Solnit is, for me, an essayist who I can read with ease. I agree with most of her takes, I find her turn of phrase clear, but not patronising, and I enjoy the way she weaves her knowledge and experience as an historian into her observations about life in what has been fairly complex, turbulent, and angry times. I enjoy the essay as a genre of writing, but I can no longer drag together the energy to be righteously indignant every time I read something. I think this is why I love Solnit. She offers relief. She offers hope. I know she can be pop-feministy, but there are also times when I want to listen to pop music, or watch reality TV and I think these things can teach readers, in their own small, quiet, softly, softly ways.Continue reading “Reflection: Call Them By Their True Names: American Crises (and Essays) by Rebecca Solnit”
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.
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.
I have been fascinated by Kate Tempest since the first time I saw her. I think it was on some Australian morning show. I remember being surprised that they had a poet on (I don’t watch daytime television for the most part) And there was this Raphealite cherub in jeans and an oversized shirt, And instead of pearls and jubilations she spoke gritty prescience. She was some Cassandra, some some soothsayer, some unforgiving truth speaker. I was a ready made acolyte.
I devoured her written work, Let The Eat Chaos, The Brand New Ancients, Hold Your Own, The Bricks that Built the Houses, and Everything Speaks in Its Own Way. I listened to them where I could find them. I even made the Wayward Girls read them (we did Brand New Ancients just last month). Then this month, Running Upon the Wires was released. I ordered copies (both the book and the CD) from the UK (for reasons I don’t have to justify to you).
It’s just before 8pm on a Monday night and I’m sat in The Clyde, waiting for my dinner and listening to a group of undergraduates (five men, one woman) discuss sex education. One of the students wears a navy hoodie with the word “Science” emblazoned across its back. I’m guessing they’re not humanities students. Mostly because one of them said “re-entry” and the rest of them giggled. I’ve just come from a talk at the nearby Church of All Nations, hosted by the Victorian Women’s Trust and Readings bookstores. The conversation was between noted local feminist columnist and slayer of trolls, Clementine Ford, and Bri Lee, the young author of a memoir entitled Eggshell Skull.
On Friday I walked underneath a blazing sun with 60 thousand other people to stand in solidarity with Aboriginal people and Torres Straight Islanders. We gathered in Naarm on Wirundjuri and Boon Wurrung land, under the banners of Constitutional recognition for Indigenous Australians, the abolition of national holidays that are invested in narratives of white supremacy, and calling for a treaty to be negotiated in relation to the stolen land on which we work, walk, live, and love. We mourned the violences enacted against a 60 thousand year old culture. As I’m writing this, I’m sat in a pub, surrounded by old men while Baker Boy plays over the speakers, and there is an absolute joy that I derive from hearing Danzel Baker singing in Yolngu Matha. The resilience of humans to keep culture alive through art, stories and music is, for me, central to what it is to assert subjectivity (self in relation to power) in the face of oppression and dehumanisation. It is a bitter irony that International Holocaust Remembrance Day falls on 27th January, the very day after the Australian national celebration of the events that resulted in Australia’s genocide against First Nations people. News papers can’t seem to decide between proclamations of “Never Forget, Never Again” and “Just Get Over It.” The dissonance is painful.
I decided to head out the other night to write at a pub. It had been uncomfortably tropical in Melbourne, and my house is an old weatherboard, which is charming, but snug. This is brilliant in winter. In summer? Not so much. By the time I arrived at my venue of choice it became clear that a significant portion of the inner north had had a variation on the theme of my own idea. The pubs and beer-gardens were chockers, and this meant there was not really the space in which I could commandeer a table (annotated printout of article, reference books, iPad) and, perhaps more pressingly, my misanthropy went into overdrive. As it was 15 minutes before the tram that would take me home arrived, I decided to walk back along Brunswick st toward what I hoped would be a slightly less populated pub (spoiler alert: it was! yay!). On the way I called in to the usual suspects, the Brunswick St Bookstore and the Grub St Bookshop. As soon as I walked through the door of the latter, I saw A Card From Angela Carter. Continue reading “Featured Content: A Card From Angela Carter by Susannah Clapp”