The first thing I read this year was Meanjin. I’ve been tweeting at Sarah Stokely’s fun curated rotation project @WeMelbourne this week, and essentially livetweeting reading the journal (photo above from New Year’s Day) so I thought I’d reproduce some of my thoughts here. What? Stop screwing up your nose. I’m lazy and I had three gins, two wines and a beer last night. OKAY FINE I’ll include some new, not-ever-tweeted thoughts below as well, geez.
Also, disclaimer: I personally know some of the people I write about below, so I’m not claiming to be impartial about their work. However, I don’t think any of their shit smells sweet, know what I’m saying? But it’s up to you what to think about my judgments below. I’ll use first names if I know them, and full or last names if I don’t.
This is about Chad’s great essay ‘The Bartender and the Archive’, which details the historical meanderings of cocktail recipes and the current trend of authenticity and recreating ‘traditional’ versions of spirits. Chad is a very descriptively dense writer (in a good way), which makes for delicious reading. Lots of interesting research here. Get me to some violet liqueur now.
Refers to Sam’s story, ‘I Should Be So Lucky’. So I didn’t think I would like this as much as I did. I thought the intro paragraph, which frames the story as the writings of an intern at an online magazine, was hokey. But the tone throughout the rest is perfect for this story, which imagines the discovery of a ‘luck’ gene that makes its bearers much more fortunate than the suckers who don’t have it. Playfully critiquing the media’s/readership’s enthusiasm for biological causation, and our obsession with ‘fairness’, the story is really fun to read.
I’d already read Ronnie’s personal essay online and loved it, but the second time around I loved it even more. We open on Ronnie in a Hungarian spray-tan salon, solemnly going through with what might have started as ‘a gag thing, but inside the plastic half-shell the laws of humour don’t apply’. Ronnie and some travel companions follow the roads from Budapest to Croatia, where they stay at a huge house on a rocky beach. This is a lovely and bittersweet piece about the postdoctoral mutation of the ‘spring break’ tradition; the transitional stage where the next stop is potentially nowhere or close to it. Not at all about the usual suspects hope and contemplation, but rather just being where you are – in this instance, on a beach with rocks in Krk. Worth two reads for sure.
@WeMelbourne Also loved reading about admirable ‘rule of law advocate’ Debbie Mortimer.
I also know Debbie, but not Lorin Clarke, who wrote ‘Debbie Mortimer and the Forensic Fight’, a profile of the long-time barrister, who has acted in well-known cases including the recent High Court decision dealing with the ‘Malaysia people swap’ deal. Debbie’s a fascinating person with strong ideals regarding the rule of law and human decency, and I loved seeing a woman being profiled for her vital, challenging work, rather than who she’s married to or what she owns.
And so end the tweets that I hath tweeted on the subject of Meanjin. But there are a couple of other things I wanted to mention. Even before I knew Margo Lanagan’s ‘Titty Anne and the Very, Very Hairy Man’ was a Little Red Riding Hood refix, I was totally enchanted. I love her writing so much. I read both Sea Hearts and Tender Morsels last year, and they’re both sublime. She does sex and hunger and youth so very well. The rest of the fiction I found a bit blah, although Wayne Macauley does his usual, effective five-finger death punch at the end of ‘Keilor Cranium’. Also really loved Lyndal Walker’s paean to young adult freedom and share housing, ‘Share Houses’.
Finally, aptly, any Twitter/literature consumers out there are recommended to read Sam Twyford-Moore’s ‘Twitter>The Novel? @tejucole>Teju Cole?’ It’s one of my favourite essays I’ve read about Twitter, as well as a really interesting short history of Teju Cole’s body of work, literarywise and Twitterwise. The other thing I love about this essay is the insight it gives into Sam’s own use of Twitter as a writer’s research tool; he tweets messages to himself about things he wants to follow up.
Something else I tweeted about literary journals today was how incredibly important a role they play in discovering and nurturing new writing talent. I recently found the first issue of Stop Drop and Roll and leafed through it, and there were so many writers in there whom I now consider must-reads, including Elmo Keep, Martin McKenzie-Murray and Rebecca Giggs. I don’t usually play the part of literary journal tragic; I consider their value to be totally apparent, but I know that they’re not everyone’s cup of tea. Still, I’m glad to have some nice evidence for the position that they’re undeniably an important part of the literary ecosystem.