Jan 12, 2009
Another stimulating issue of a journal that dares to challenge you. By this I don’t mean just political stimulation (thought there is plenty of that there) but through non-mainstream points of observation. Overland generally gives you a variety of pieces on topics you may not have even thought of thinking about, if you know what I mean. In my review of 192 I wrote about how much I enjoyed the piece on women’s boxing, something I had known nothing of previously. This issue, the standout nonfiction pieces for me were ‘The Last Fanzine’ by Andrew Ramadge, an interesting and informative piece about a provocative underground rock zinester; and ‘Death of the Father’ by Sandy Jeffs, a clear insight into schizophrenia. With the latter, I felt again that Overland had published something that everyone would benefit from reading – for a better understanding of people and their world. Two more that really should be pushed under people’s noses in this issue, even if not quite as lyrically pleasing as the previous two, are Alexis Wright’s introduction and tribute to the poet Oodgeroo Noonuccal – and of course people should be reading an Indigenous voice on Indigenous issues, but so few of us do; and the other, who also argues for a depth and breadth of voices from different representatives on issues of importance is Antony Loewenstein, who in this issue gives us ‘The Resource Wars’. Loewenstein is not afraid to challenge you, give you a verbal slap here and there. It is needed. He follows the links between oil; invasion and war; the suffering environment; hegemony and rhetoric used by Western governments; and the ignorance of Iraqi deaths, plus more. It’s a fine essay and a good introduction/companion to The Blogging Revolution. Susan Lever’s follow-up to the Peter Craven and Ken Gelder debate on literature also had me quite enthralled. Lever gets much deeper into individual authors and texts in Australian literature’s past and present. I found her points on antagonistic voices; writers who make amends for the past; and the role of the literary academic all fascinating. I agree with her that ‘Fortunately, there are still Australian readers and audiences who know that language can transform our dull everyday lives with exciting possibilities, that it can make us see things we never imagined and apprehend the great mysteries and paradoxes of life.’ Amen!
One of the fiction stories was like a headbutt to the chest. I still haven’t gotten over it. This was Eva Sallis’ (now Hornung) ‘Life Sentence’. A bird’s point-of-view. A lifetime with its owner. A life of knowing and being forgotten, while never forgetting. Becoming hard. The last line just about had me crying over my sushi. The writing flows beautifully with in-built roughness. You should all read it. Now.
I’m afraid I almost forgot what the other two stories were about in comparison, except that they both had some semblance of coming to terms with, or even embracing a final ordinariness, after either dreaming of something else, or having it. These were ‘A Chink too Wide’ by Richard Lawson, and ‘The Modern Australian Short Stories Tutor’ by Louise Swinn. Swinn’s story also has a nice undercurrent of a secret, complex longing.
In the poems I found many explorations of space, such as the quiet between the words in Aden Rolfe’s, and the almost three-dimensional effect of Sarah-Jane Norman’s words. Ted Nielson’s were interesting – ‘i took the hand of a preacherman’ being playful and conversational, with ‘franchisee, revisited’ drawing up a mood of virtual and real worlds, a ‘pre-post-apocalyptic’ relationship (his words). And Kevin Gillam’s also has space, quiet, and is of and about simple beauty. Very striking.
Again my one gripe was with the reviews. Absolutely no fiction one this issue! Otherwise, they were adequate and well-written summaries, particularly those on history books. The poetry review was hilarious. Elizabeth Campbell absolutely rips into John Kinsella, then Overland gave him the chance to defend himself (I don’t blame them). Still, I’m sure many of her points may be valid. Both writers’ anger, while intellectually-based, is actually really entertaining to read, and very human.
I look forward to what Sparrow and the team put together next. I’d love to see more stories from a mental health/emotional perspective – the personal/biographical, intelligently written. I’d also love more literary criticism in the vein of Lever’s piece, and at least one fiction review per issue! But then, I love the way that Overland surprises me, so I’ll just wait and see what I can learn (maybe something on Cricket, I’ve never quite gotten it…)
PS: It looks like you can read all of Overland online now. Don’t know how it will help the subscriptions, but it’s all here.