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Smith Journal

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From the team behind Frankie comes the new hope for the Australian manscape: Smith Journal.

Firstly a confession: I’ve spent the last few years quietly enjoying Frankie Magazine over my partner’s shoulder. Now, thanks to Smith Journal, I have my own Frank to play with.

Not every Australian male dreams of becoming a successful entrepreneur, footy player, or racking up a perfect set of abs. There’s a shallow spectrum of Australian masculinity loafing upon the pages of popular men’s magazines such as Ralph, GQ, Zoo and Alpha. It’s high time the rack got a bit of a shake-up, even if that shake is more of a pat from this mildly mannered new kid on the block.

Smith Journal is the kind of magazine that makes you want to be a better man. Not the kind of man who can do 50 squats each morning, but the kind that collects wild reeds from the edge of a creek and fashions them into furniture that maybe no one will ever buy, but he does it just the same. Why? Because that’s what the man wants to do. Mates or no mates.

Writers of Smith, many of whom also contribute to Frankie, use words like ‘blunder’ (meaning ‘did bad’) and ‘crack’ (meaning ‘have a go’). When things … Read more

wordplay: smarting

Wordplay is my process for keeping track of all the beautiful and unfamiliar words I read, and to help expand my writing vocabulary. Today’s word is ‘smarting’.

smarting v. to be a source of sharp, local, and usually superficial pain, as a wound.

I literally bashed right into Franks one summer night a year ago, driving home tied and foggy-eyed from the Red Man Club, where I’d fished till ten. In its then incarnation as Bemish’s Bich Beer Depot, it rose appealingly up out of the night as I rounded a curve on Route 31, my eyes smarting and heavy, my mouth dry as burlap, the perfect precondition for a root beer.”

Richard Ford, Independence DayRead more

Blow-up and Other Stories

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Julio Cortazar has been one of my favourite ‘found’ writers over the last year.

In 1984, Cortazar left the world with an extensive collection of unnerving tales. His work is considered by many to bob at the high water mark of short story writing, the author having deeply influenced a number of twentieth century writers, including Chilean author Roberto Bolano and Gabriel García Márquez.

Blow-up and Other Stories features fifteen stories from Cortazar’s library, including pieces long time fans will probably recognise such as “Blow-up”, “End of the Game” and “Continuity of Parks”. Cortazar’s stories play liberally with time and narrative, in one a man reading a mystery finds out too late that he is the murderer’s victim, in another an amphibious reptile swaps places with a boy watching outside the glass tank.

In each story Cortazar achieves that careful mix of surreal and real, twisting his fluid prose through unfamiliar and often unsettling territory. Somehow he’s able to ground even the most unlikely premise in reality, such as in “A Letter to a Young Lady in Paris” where a man grapples with a bizarre gag reflex; vomiting up a litter of perfect grey bunnies.

This is a different and … Read more

What Faulkner taught me about memory

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Make no mistake, William Faulkner and I were never 'good friends'.

In fact, by the time I caught wind of Faulkner’s most celebrated work, The Sound and the Fury, the man had been dead almost 50 years.

You could say we didn’t have a lot in common; Faulkner liked horse riding, binge drinking and extra marital affairs. I’ve never even been on a horse, not married, and drinking has never been my strong point. Considering the age gap (82 years), the odds of us ever kindling a bromance were stacked high from the outset.

But had we met, I’d like to think we would have seen eye-to-eye on the subject of memory.

To me, Faulkner was (is?) a writer able to recognise that the past and present aren’t as clearly separated as we’re taught to believe.  In The Sound and the Fury (TSTF), Faulkner collapses the boundary between what’s happening in the present and memories of the past, two concepts of chronology that, via techniques such as flashback and genres like memoir, we’ve come to rely upon being clearly separated.

In TSTF it’s not always evident what’s happening now and what’s a returning memory, which makes for a disorientating journey. And while Faulkner and I might sit across … Read more

What the world will look like when all the water leaves us

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A week or two back I was roaming the near empty shelves of a Borders liquidation sale when I spied a lonely copy of Laura van den Berg's debut short story collection What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us.

Swallowing my surprise that a book I was actually looking for was available at Borders, and suppressing my irony alarm that this new availability came just as the store would soon close for good, and there being at least 10 feet between me and the shelf and only a clearance bin full of vegetable shaped staplers to distract my fellow sales junkies, I had to feign absolute disinterest, casually slink down the isle, pick up the title in question, even put it back down to complete the illusion, before rushing to the counter before the dream subsided.

And now I almost feel guilty that I only paid $10 for this excellent collection. I would really hate the thought that Laura van den Berg googled her name and somehow happened upon a blog explaining how a reader found her book at a ‘everything must go’ liquidation sale.

Because this book is so much better than that.

Laurie Steed first alerted me to ….Water Leaves Us when he reviewed the opening story on his blog The Gum Wall. The collection is a rare blend of what I’m calling ‘extraordinary realism’ – narratives that succeed in making the extraordinary accessible through grounded … Read more

Voiceworks

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How have I not seen this literary journal before? I'd heard about Voiceworks as an organisation, but what a luscious thing it is to hold this modestly priced design wonder in my hands.

Voiceworks, it turns out, is a journal for young writers, based out of the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne. Run by an all under 25 editorial team, Voiceworks publishes fiction, non-fiction and poetry by Australian writers under the age of 25.

Volume 84 is dedicated to the Pulp genre, with a nice cross section of schlock inspired pieces, though perhaps not quite as many ‘on theme’ as one might expect.

Nonetheless, there’s plenty to like here: I got a well overdue dose of guilty pleasure reading Michael Richardson’s pulpy short The Lurking Horror of the Galapagos, and was blown away by the fierce brevity and style of Amy May Nunn’s ‘very short’ short A Dead Drink.

There’s also a great interview with young blockbuster writer Jack Heath, and a thoughtful piece on the future of books, Insert Hope Here, by Emily Craven.

If the future of the printed book (and journal) depends on winning the hearts of book lovers with great product design, Voiceworks had me at hello.

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Tom Cho on Paper Radio

I’m super impressed by the audio stories produced by Melbourne team Paper Radio.

Their work rides the line between an audio reading and a radio drama by combing high production standards with a keen understanding of what’s possible in the audio space. The result is a stream of engaging audio stories, written by some of Australia and New Zealand’s best new writers.

Their most recent episode, The Sound of Music, is a story from Tom Cho’s excellent collection Look Who’s Morphing.

I had the chance to listen to a reading by Tom Cho at last year’s Perth Writer’s Festival and came away very impressed–it wasn’t so much a reading as it was a performance. Tom definitely set the bar for any future readings I’ve been to since.

You can listen to the latest Paper Radio podcast, and others, for free at: http://www.paperradio.net/fm/the-sound-of-musicRead more

Wanted: Desert Notes

For the past 10 years I’ve been carrying around a photocopied version of a short story written by Barry Lopez.  I do not know it’s name, but it is one of my most prized possessions.

Since the story was given to me by a creatie writing tutor, I have changed careers four times, I have moved interstate. I have lost the bulk of my thesis research and incinerated many kilos of university papers.

I have discarded birthday cards, christmas cards, the large novelty sized cards they insist on giving out when you change jobs.

I have taken the story on holiday with me, read it on a plane, on a train, read it whilst broken down in the middle of outback Australia. And still I have this same copy.

I will tell you what I know about the story. But first, here is an excerpt:

I was crossing the desert. Smooth. Wind rippling at the window. There was no road, only the alkaline plain. There was no reason for me to be steering; I let go of the wheel. There was no reason to sit where I was; I moved to the opposite seat. I stared at the empty

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wordplay: verdant

Generally, I find genre fiction relies far too much on staples of the category to carry a story, rather than the deft skills of the writer. There are too few literary writers being published in science fiction at the moment, and this certainly hasn’t always been the case.

Hence how glad was I when I stumbled upon Margaret Atwood’s dystopic novel, Oryx and Crake.

It is rare to read an author so in touch and aware of the staples of a genre, and yet so willing to step skillfully outside the boundaries to bring a fresh voice and perspective to the table.

Unlike Handmaid’s Tale, which was just too claustrophobic for me to get into, Oryx and Crate is at once accessible, yet packs considerable depth. And much like other Atwood tales, there are plenty of opportunities to pick up some new words for my literary toolbox.

verdant a. green with vegetation; covered with growing plants or grass: a verdant oasis.

Their singing is unlike anything he ever heard in his vanished life: it’s beyond human level, or below it. As if crystals are singing; but not that, either. More like ferns unscrolling – something old, carboniferous, but

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guess who’s come to stay?

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Expect a detailed review in the coming weeks.… Read more

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