Think of biting into a ripe juicy strawberry, or the warm and heady scent of date scones the moment you break them open to pour on the honey. Reading one of the three bite-sized erotica-themed stories in Krissy Kneen’s Swallow the Sound is a similar palatable pleasure. Despite the sensual stimulation (goosebumpy skin, watering mouth, wide-drinking eyes) the brain is also massaged by this collection. The characters in the three stories are all slightly faulty, not blessed with the debonair charm of a Mills and Boone heroine, nor powerful like Anais Nin’s Baron. They aren’t quite comfortable or experienced yet in their sexuality. And thus, each story is like the hymen breaking – not a sharp corruptive tear, but a subtle one – the moment when it all becomes a bit cloudy. As each story is a short, sweet gem, it would give far too much away to summarise them for purpose of review. Instead, I will offer small moments of insight from each. Infidelities is not from the perspective of those committing the adultery, but an onlooker, and is the most obvious in the ‘sexual awakening’ vein. I had the pleasure of hearing The Conjoined Twins Wake and Find Sleep Again read aloud by the author at the launch of the book, and her smooth intonations emphasised the literary quality of the story. Through dark and wet imagery, the protagonists comfort each other on a difficult night. One twin is deformed, and complex emotions are explored through her desperate longing to become her sister, to fold inside her. The bottom half of their body is shared: ‘She felt herself slipping across the mess of veins and nerve endings, lost in the shallow gasps of Rachel’s breath. There were no longer any edges to her body. She was Rachel. Beautiful Rachel. She became beautiful in Rachel’ (p. 17).
The most tender story is The Sprung Trap of Her Body, where a male carer, sexually inexperienced, nurses a seriously ill woman. For such a short story, the characters are well drawn and emotive. The story is both provocative and touching. All of the stories have an underlying current of emotion – sadness, hope, tenderness. All provide some strange form of comfort, like consuming hot chocolate on a chilly day. Swallow the Sound is a perfect bedside book and is small enough to carry in your pocket and drink up with your morning tea at work. I was very excited to discover that Krissy intends to follow up Swallow the Sound with a series of bite-size erotica titles, all by new micropublisher Eatbooks.
Purchase Swallow the Sound at the Eatbooks website.
See the review of the 1st Eatbooks Literary Journal.
Depending on which side you open it from (a magazine with an identity crisis?) you will not be disappointed with the latest issue of Voiceworks, an Australian magazine that showcases the creative talent of under 25s. It is non-profit, literary, and intellectual without being inaccessible. ‘We are the youth and we are not apathetic’, it screams. But boy, are we disillusioned – I can’t help noticing the elegant darkness of Voiceworks’ writers in the issues I have read (Identikit, Superfunhappy, Zero and Ratrace). While the fiction, poetry and artwork vary in subject and tone, in almost all pieces there are spikes under the mattress. There may be vague semblances of hope, but the majority of these lie in nostalgia. The awareness of beauty is always tainted by the awareness of its transience.
Although this has ended up being a lengthy review, I wanted to comment on each piece in the issue. I jotted notes as I went – some are insights, some are comments, some are criticisms, and some are amazements. Please enjoy the mish-mash of readerly insights by an Aussie youth reading Aussie youth –
A genius satirical artwork by Sam Wallman comments on the penchant for youth conformity ‘Become a fuckwit in less than 5 minutes!’
Ryan Paine’s editorial outlines the focus of the identity issue and its broader implications. Ultimately, an individual’s struggle for identity is tied into national identity, and this relates to our integrity (and lack of).
‘Singularity’ is the continuation of creative response project ‘Beautiful Corporeal’. A quirky piece, brimming with pathos, that explores judgement of difference in surface appearance.
‘No Cars Go’ by Caitlin Shearer. Indifferent, stylized – a teasing Lolita, with peached cheeks and shadowed inner-thighs, but a stop sign warning against her innocence – or is it her indifference?
‘The Wire’ by Felice Howden. This story exists in a difficult timespace. Have months passed or just one morning? It is an explanation of paranoia – technological infiltration of our very insides, carving us out until we are hollow. I felt the story was too short though, I wanted to know about the character. Frank is flat in his lethargy and sickness – a blank slate.
‘Braille’ by Geoff Lemon. Sense-stimulating, imagetic. ‘Dense with flavour, she is/the dark shock of raspberry crushed on the tongue’. The Braille metaphor works well closing the first stanza, but is repetitious by the end. It would have had more impact as a stand-alone line, or repeated once – resonant – when the narrator has finally cracked the code. The poem has a distinct rhythm and readability though – beats like a hip-hop song to a sensual climax.
I don’t know what the point is of ‘Miri and her Fucking Lemons’ by Jenni Kauppi.
Guest Artist Graeme Doyle throws you in your seat with his miasmic faces, disturbing layers of vision. A phantasmagorical expression of multiple resonations, simultaneous. Every image has something guarded and something open, eg. the juxtaposition of dark slitting eyes and open light-reflected ones in ‘Eve End Uneven’. Mystical and dark rock album covers.
‘A City of Your Choice’ by Z Barron. A definitive Y poem – ‘we could drown in concrete and no one would notice’. Disdain for commercialism, consumerism of religion. Z Barron speaks to my hearts own. I’m so glad pieces like this are getting published. It is not quite the cyber-punk poem but it is close, utilizing techno-speak as description – ‘pixelated knees, waist-deep in digital’. Speaking a new Universal language and not-so-new themes of youth. Relatable and lonelifying…
‘The Needle’ by Tess Kerbel. A wry smile this poem did plant upon me. A clever snapshot, a moment, an object. What can be made of it, and the irony that it could be nothing. Just another ‘small, silver minute’. Kerbel insists that perhaps we are probing too hard.
Gina Marich’s reflection on Ikea ‘Selling Abstrakt Lifestyles’. She stumbles into Ikea in search of air-conditioned comfort and finds herself confronted by the simulacra of display toilets and plastic plasmas. The article gives a little glimpse into the motivations behind buying – the theme-park-like escapist element (like in WOW Sight&Sound), and also explores the dangers of choice anxiety. Unfortunately, Marich ends on a soft note, where something biting would have fit. But the article is still relevant. I commend her analysis, but feel a bit more pessimistic myself.
‘Illustration’ by Vinna Kartika. Children looking up to an experienced eye, from the comfort of their cottage. Within the eye and its expressive tendons are nestled items of everyday – necessities and expressities. It is too much for the swollen eye, who sheds a tear towards its semi-exposed heart. But the children look on with innocent wonderment, they look on and on with expectation…
‘Uncle Jeremy has Turned into a Tree’ by Patrick Lemon. A simple story with a kernel of truth and a subtle pathos. Infinitely re-readable.
John Swain’s illustration is stylistic.
‘Blind Faith’ by Amy Jackson. The son of a Minister discovers sinful behaviour. A very entertaining story with a strong teen male voice.
‘Skin’ by Anna Dunnill. Intriguing, philosophical and searching, a slender story, a moment with some anonymity. It’s almost as though the conversation between two characters is really an internalisation. Confessional, open. A youthful and feminine need to have our insides tattooed on out skin, but a fear that they might be misconstrued, or, like Pluto, made irrelevant, cast off.
‘The Truth of Horses’ by Bridget Lutherborrow. A horses identity. Like a campfire story, about family, freedom and unknowing.
Matthew Lorenzon’s music column. Intelligent, educational. Tying in music theory to larger spheres of identity, history, culture and politics. One of the best pieces in the magazine.
Aimee Nichols’ sex column. Delicate and informative. Discussion and information for survivors of sexual abuse.
Linus Lane’s comics column. I always enjoy the comics column as I don’t have time to read many comics, it keeps me posted. This time, an informative look at the history and ultimate failure of the Aussie superhero comic. See Linus Lane’s ‘Eugene’ comic – www.theunibin.com.
‘Emo Accountant’ by Mary-Anne Georgy. Apt for this issue. The true loss of innocence… Already symbolically aware of the weight of the world, now it is thrust in his face. Time to choose a new way of fitting in by fitting out?
Geoff Lemon’s Edcommitorial. Discussing Voiceworks’ role: training ground for entering established media, or genuine alternative to it?
‘Fish Brain’ by David Murcott. Rythmic, visual, odd. I like.
Sam Wallman’s ‘Earnest Planet’. Clever.
Pavel Wojtech’s ‘Untitled’. Fluid in line, great contrast, moody.
Beck Haskins’ ‘Illustration’. A surreal dreamscape of the victimised rats. The pursuer plucking them from his vantage point over the fence.
‘Day Five and the Burden of the Big See’ by Keira Dickinson. Paranoia and Kafkaesque confusion. Animals as authority figures. A marketplace where the characters are forced to PICK ONE! Fear. Wisdom gained only in the silent undercurrents of a river. A very intriguing story. Many layers of absurdist meaning.
Featured poet – Mandisa Mabuthoe. Her themes of sexuality, faith and belonging have (forgive me) a universality. The spaces in which the poetic events occur are micro worlds – rooms, transport, a mirror. ‘Comfort in My Unmade Bed’ is personally my favourite. The wanting to remain but the pressure to face the outside. The rain, the wine, the books, the pencil – bitter-sweet.
‘Veritas’ by Steph Moriarty. An emotive character study. A full-circle short story. A very promising writer. To explain what it is about would be to minimize it. Subtle yet clear.
‘Alzheimers’ by Jessica Wright. A series of snapshots that hint the protagonist’s condition. Ends perfectly.
‘Small Gestures’ by Jessica Joseph-McDermott. Literally gave me shivers. The second person narration puts you in the story. By the close, you are the one whose eyes are opened.
To digress for a minute – feelings evoked at this stage of reading:
The consumerism and manufactured dreams we have been brought up on shatter at some stage, thus we recognise the shiny surfaces that disguise the dark truths – our naïve innocence, our comforts and protectedness, are exchanged for overwhelming responsibilities, a labyrinth of choices, and a fast, flashing, evolving environment.
Stories can reclaim the little things – noticing the truth in each other’s eyes, not merely waiting for our turn to speak, a tiny tattoo, a memory, a flower…
‘From Behind the Lens’ by Briohny Doyle. Incredible piece. History, memory. The fear of amnesia brought about by modern consumption and construction of historical truth.
Pat Grant’s ‘How to be a Good Zombie’. Useful!
‘Hungry’ by Amelia Walker. Symbolic. I believe it is about the distance between what we need and hope for, and what society delivers. The impossibility of new beginnings when we have displayed our raw selves? The only recognisable identity being our ‘official’ one.
‘On the Back of the World’ by Jessica Au. Jessica – where is your novel? Vivid characters bred from true insight. Shockingly beautiful.
‘Old Jindabyne’ by Fiona Wright. Nostalgic imagery.
Alex Hutton’s Media column. A look at the Bald Archy Prize. Supportive of alternative ways of artful expression and recognition.
Emma Wortley’s book column. When Emma is done I would like this job please. She does a wonderful job – here, what a reader gains from observing and being unable to partake in the decision-making of characters.
Timoth DeAtholia’s film column. A very apt piece on three types of typical Australian films and how this is tied into current politics of economy.
Candace Petrik’s Zine column. Still not 100% clear on Zines. Possibly because I am not city-based. Can I look at one? Candace compares Zine-creating and blogging.
If you haven’t yet encountered Voiceworks, see the website for stockists. If you have read this issue – leave a comment – I would love to know how others received it.
My microfiction piece Piece of You has been published in the 2nd OneFifty ezine ‘Nergels’.
Download ‘Nergels’ from OneFifty’s website – click on STORIES once you’re there.
This novel is imaginative, monolithic, action-packed, and induces some head-scratching as is traditional with time-travel stories. At times there are too many characters and events, which requires patience. But the reader will not be disappointed. Twist after twist reveal themselves and the confusing aspects slot into place. By this time, you are so attached to Kennedy, Lightholler and comrades that you don’t want to leave them behind. Kowalski’s debut novel details a backwards nightmare world of a would-be future. The literary descriptions are surprising in an adventure novel. It is obviously intended for an international market, and carries a strong message that war in some form is inevitable, for freedom of the masses to prevail. It’s a shaky message but the author cleverly catches you in the narrative’s spirit. I look forward to what Kowalski might come up with next.
See the book’s website
See also the interview with David Kowalski.
Company of the Dead is a mix of genres – action, adventure, sci-fi, and it is also evocatively descriptive. Where do you see it fitting on the shelf? What other authors do you admire?
Frankly I’d like to see it on everyone’s shelf, as to where they might put it is a dilemma I have long had myself. As you say, it’s a mix of genres and deliberately so. I’d like to think of it as literature, I suppose. As for my tastes, they are quite varied. I love James Joyce and Marcel Proust, writers who lived for their words, but I equally enjoy authors like Stephen King and James Ellroy. There is a long list of writers I admire; what they hold in common to me is a desire to treat their readers as honestly and respectfully as possible.
Your characters (eg. Kennedy and Lightholler) are appealing and charismatic. Was it difficult to leave them behind once you’d completed the novel?
What are you planning as a follow-up?
I am working in collaboration on a screenplay. There is also a novel I’ve had in the pipeline for the last five years. I will tell you two things about it. Firstly, it has nothing to do with Company. Secondly, whenever I discussed the premise of it with friends who were familiar with the way Company was progressing, they told me to abandon Company and start on the new one. I hope that bodes well.
Had you always intended to write for an international audience? I kept hoping for an Aussie to pop up!
I was waiting to see an Aussie myself, believe me. There were a number of characters in the book, slated to be Australian. Any attempt I made in that direction seemed contrived within the framework of the novel. The relationships they have and the things that drive the characters are intrinsically related to their cultural backgrounds, and I certainly did not want to make any token gestures for the sake of local markets. As for my intended audience – I wrote something that I thought I would enjoy reading. I didn’t want to be bound by borders or social interests.
Interviews + Profiles
Jul 20, 2007
The UK Poetry website Metaroar has posted my interview with three great contemporary Australian poets - have a read: Compulsive Imaginings
The UK Poetry website Metaroar has posted my interview with three great contemporary Australian poets – have a read:
Jul 18, 2007
You may not notice your kidneys, as you don’t notice the other organs tucked inside, quietly functioning to make you whole. Your kidneys filter waste liquid due to metabolism of
My Dad didn’t pee for seven years.
Luckily, there is a machine that could clean his blood for him, and luckily, Dad finally had a kidney transplant. While the dialysis machine can keep you alive, the body is still not functioning naturally. All the drugs you have to take only deteriorate other parts of your body, your mind, your stability.
Dad was grateful that the machine kept him alive, he was always positive. After all, he often said that the cancer patients he had seen in hospitals were much worse off. He smiled past his own difficulty. It must have been hard when he was pacing the house all night due to restless legs syndrome. He didn’t have a nurse but had the machine set up in our home. Three days a week crimson tubes snaked his body as blood was filtered and transported back into his veins. My sister and I helped him to pull the needle out at the end. Blood never worried us, but on the odd occasion I could tell a friend was uncomfortable by the sight.
When out and about, people often stared disapprovingly at the scarred vesicle on his arm – coupled with his pale and drawn appearance, it was an easy mistake to make.
Having someone ill in your family puts a strain on relations. My sister and I were teenagers, experiencing our own ups and downs. To be honest, there is a certain amount of guilt involved for the family member of someone who is sick. We always had to be home to pull the needle out and I remember sometimes resenting this, then feeling guilt at my resentment. Everyone else seemed so lucky and fancy-free. Some of the drugs he took also made him aggressive. What’s worse is worrying about your parent’s mortality. Sometimes the machine would beep. The patient can ‘go flat’ and pass out. If the right actions aren’t taken, the patient can die. I remember the quick bile in my throat, the way my heart raced when the machine would beep. Most of the time it was just that levels had to be adjusted, more fluid, less fluid etc. But the fear permeated daily existence.
My Dad now celebrates two birthdays a year. In January 2007 he was 53, and in May he was 3. The kidney didn’t come from anyone he knew. All of the family had been tested. Mum wasn’t able to give him one due to her own health. My sister and I were not allowed because we have not yet had children, and two kidneys are needed for healthy childbirth. My boyfriend at the time offered, but was not a good enough match. My Dad has seven brothers and sisters – none offered, but that is another sad story.
Dad got lucky when some poor person died too young. Dad wasn’t the only one. Other patients received organs too. At first the anti-rejection drugs made Dad a mess. He had a face like a balloon and he cried every two seconds. There was also the strange new wonder of peeing! For the first few months Dad couldn’t even go on public transport because he’d have to get out at every stop and find a toilet. His retrained bladder is still like a pea.
Everyone that sees Dad now is amazed that he is the same person. He is radiant. He has truly learnt about living life to its fullest. He’s on his second wind. Another 2-3 years on the machine and his bones would have deteriorated, not to mention his mental health.
A donated kidney doesn’t last forever, but the receiver is acutely aware of the gift of his/her existence. And so is their family. I don’t know where I’d be without my Dad’s encouragement, his smile, his ‘Dad jokes’, his advice, his confidence, his hugs.
Many people are naïve about organ donation. They think their organs are only going to go to some drug addict who has self-destructed his liver. If they’re religious, they believe if their body doesn’t decompose as a whole, then their soul will falter. My belief is, when you die, you’re not going to know what happens to your body. Isn’t it better to give someone else a second lease on life, perhaps several people, than to give it to the worms?
In Australia, there are more than 1700 people waiting for organ transplants. To register as an organ donor in Australia:
In the UK:
In the US:
For more success stories:
Kidney Health Australia (help raise money for people on dialysis to lead normal lives, especially children):
My healthy family today.
BlogCatalog Community Organ Donation Awareness Campaign:
I chose Gail Jones’ ‘Dreams of Speaking’ to do a small review for ‘book of the week’ on the handy site Booksprice. You can look up any book and they will compare prices for you. Click on the link to read my review or search out books on the site. If you are reading this post at a later date there is an archive of ‘book of the week’ on the site.
My teenage brother is a fantastic pianist and student at the Royal College of Music. It was listening to him play that inspired me to write the book. I love classical music myself.
Do you find that passionate art, whether it be music, visual arts, film, or literature is often tied to madness – explain.
Definitely. A Note of Madness was heavily influenced by a fascinating book called Touched With Fire, by Kay Redfield Jamison, which examines the relationship between mental illness and the artistic temperament. I was staggered to discover, through her book, the huge number of illustrious writers, poets, musicians, composers and artists who also suffered from some form of mental illness, often costing them their lives.
Absolutely. Mental illness appears to be on the increase. One in four people suffer from some kind of mental illness, 20 percent of all deaths by young people are by suicide, suicide is the most common form of death in men aged under 35 and in the U.K. there are estimated to be 24,000 cases of attempted suicide by adolescents each year, which is one attempt every 20 minutes.
Your descriptions from Flynn’s point of view are vivid, disturbing, realistic. On a personal note, is any of it derived from encounters and experience? Or is it just strength of imagination?
A Note of Madness is very much based on personal experience. Mental illness is something I have experienced first-hand, something I have grown up with, something which came very close to destroying me. I suffered from undiagnosed depression for most of my childhood and by the time I reached university, my depression peaked, and just before I was due to graduate, I found myself walking around campus, looking up at the tallest buildings, trying to work out which one would guarantee me a fatal fall. In the end, I chickened out, wrote a suicide note, and instead went to bed with several bin liners tied over my head which slipped off during the night, sparing me my life. I eventually spoke out and got the help I needed, but I am still being treated for depression to this day.
Can you briefly outline your second novel From Where I Stand? Do you think you will continue with these themes?
From Where I Stand is a psychological thriller. Raven is a deeply disturbed teenager, who, after witnessing the death of his mother, is placed in foster care. The Russells do their best to earn his trust, but only little Ella manages to get through to him. Meanwhile, at school, bullies are making his life a living hell. An unexpected companion comes in the form of Lotte, a classmate bored by her ‘ordinary’ friends. Together, they track down Raven’s mum’s killer, with the goal of exposing him to the police. But their carefully crafted plan goes dangerously wrong and suddenly nothing is as it seems. Everything is falling apart and, ultimately, there is only one, final way out. The themes of mental illness and emotional disturbance are fascinating to me and definitely ones that I will continue with.
Tell us a little of your journey as a writer, and to becoming a published writer.
I declared that I wanted to become an author at the age of 6 and never really stopped writing since. When I was 17, I was in letter contact with one of my favourite authors of YA fiction – K.M. Peyton. She encouraged me to write a full length novel, which I did. She loved it and showed it to her editor, David Fickling. It nearly went to publication but at the last minute some of David’s colleagues got cold feet. However it did mean that I got to be taken out to lunch by K.M. Peyton and David Fickling to discuss my book. For the next ten years I was busy with other things, but I never stopped writing, although I didn’t try to get published again. In 2003 I started writing A Note of Madness and I thought – why not give this one a go? So I sent it off to various agents and editors. It took six months before I found an agent and a further six months before my agent found me an editor. Since I signed the contract for A Note of Madness, I haven’t stopped writing. This year, From Where I Stand is out, next year A Voice in the Distance (sequel to A Note of Madness) is coming out and the year after that, Without Looking Back, a story about a family on the run, is coming out. I have now written two novels for adults: Maya, about an atypical child custody battle, and The Changing Colours of Dawn, a psychological thriller.
See Tabitha Suzuma’s website:
Purchase A Note of Madness