Teasing Threads – ’22 Years to Life’ by Mohammed Massoud Morsi

Chris Palazzolo reads 22 Years to Life, by Mohammed Massoud Morsi, 2015

33842117Like most Australians my daily routines are spent sweetly oblivious of the hell many of the world’s peoples endure. I step out my front door and I don’t wonder whether a sniper’s bullet is going to take me out; I send my kids to school and I don’t worry that I might be pulling their bodies out of its rubble later in the day. Reading Mohammed Massoud Morsi’s novella, 22 Years to Life, is like an irruption of this daily hell into my ambivalent Australian paradise. In the peaceful early scenes of the novella, Fathi and Farida, a young Gazan couple, travel to Canada for fertility treatment. The glimpses of my kind of life (in Canadian form) – the quiet, well-ordered streets, the safe houses, the civil and legal safeguards of private life – are Morsi’s narrative doorway for me. They are the conduit into a world where houses and walls are no protection to the human animal and where any kind of intimate life is routinely annihilated.

The narrative actually turns on two forms of intimacy. The first form, the one that’s to be annihilated, is the one we in the West take for granted is available to us whether we choose it or not – the intimacy of love, companionship and family. The second form is the annihilating form. It follows in the tradition of stories from the Iliad to The Naked and the Dead – the intimacy of war. In the early scenes of the novella we see the first form grow. The opening scene is the moment Fathi (the narrator) sees Farida for the first time. We follow their courtship and marriage, their attempts to have a child, their struggles with fertility and finally their success when a son is born and they set up home in Al-Mawasi on the coast. Around them, during this time of peace, we see the beginnings of a civil society, crabbed and secretive under relentless Israeli sanctions, curfews and no-go zones, but tentatively building homes, markets and schools.

War is coming. Embedded in this provisional society is Hamas, and its network of tunnels, arms smuggling, and recruitment cells. Its activities provoke the Israel-Gaza Conflict of 2014. War asserts its rights over all tenderness and love. First, it destroys all privacy by blowing everything inside out; it blows out cars and houses and bedrooms. And then it kills the exposed people by the hundreds. It blows them inside out too, limbs and guts and brains all over the street. The first intimacy is eviscerated. All that’s left is the second intimacy – the intimacy of hatred and revenge. The book ends with a kind of micro-perception of the same intimacy that it opened with, though not of love, but of hatred. A new recruit to Hamas sees the fear and youthfulness of the Israeli soldiers he attacks in a suicidal frenzy, and whispers metaphysical comfort to them as they die. Palestinian. Israeli. Their bodies rot as one.

– Chris Palazzolo


Teasing Threads is Chris Palazzolo, novelist and poet, editor at Regime Books in Perth, radio host on 6EBA FM North Perth, and was, until recently, manager of one of the last video shops in the world. His novel, Scene and Circles, is available from https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/449419

Room for Reflection: Annette Marfording Reviews ‘Here Where We Live’ by Cassie Flanagan Willanski

Here Where We Live by Cassie Flanagan Willanski, Wakefield Press 2016

here where we liveWillanski has extensive experience as an environmental volunteer and campaigner as well as a degree in environmental studies from the University of Adelaide, and this collection of short stories, which won the Wakefield Press Unpublished Manuscript award in 2014, reflects this interest. The collection includes eight short stories and one novella. Rather than falling within the traditional short story genre, however, her stories are offerings of moments of life, often those where mostly female characters face uncertainty, are at a turning point and come to a realisation about what it is that they desire from their lives and how that may affect their relationships. In addition to these environmental and human concerns – which ground the title of the book –, many of the stories are linked to Willanski’s research for her Master of Arts degree ‘about the ways white Australians have written about (and for) Indigenous people’ and her discoveries about white people’s attitudes to Indigenous people, as she explains in her author’s note. As a result, in several stories characters ask each other or themselves whether they are racist, in others, white characters learn about Indigenous history or historical events affecting Aboriginal people.

In ‘Oak Trees in the Desert’, the narrator, an elderly white woman, is the only white woman attending an international women’s conference against radioactive racism with many indigenous delegates. The story addresses the universal problems of uranium and nuclear testing and is the most political. At the end of the conference the narrator has enough courage to disclose that her late husband worked at Maralinga. In ‘Karko’, children on a school excursion learn about the Ibis man who carried his nephew’s body down the coast, his tears creating a series of fresh water springs in the sand. In ‘Some Yellow Flowers’, a young man tells his girlfriend about the Maria shipwreck and the subsequent massacre of the surviving white colonists by local Aborigines.

All stories are set in South Australia – where the author lives and grew up –, mostly in remote places near the coast or in the country and she evokes the landscape very skilfully. All are written in spare prose, often with poetic and rhythmic elements, contemplative in nature, which contributes to giving them a haunting quality, as her creative writing mentor Brian Castro says in comments quoted on the book cover.

The first story in the collection, ‘My Good Thing’, illustrates these elements strongly. This is how it begins:

This is my daughter’s country. That mallee sea with the undulating dunes and the rockholes where we take her back to camp. Twice a year at least, but sometimes more. This is her house, hear near the sea where the bay sparkles beside one window and the mallee grows straight up to the back door. This is the yard where she plays. These are the dogs, her friends and guardians. These are her dark brown eyes, her chubby bronze hand on my pink freckled arm. These are her father’s eyes, her grandmother’s eyes, back to the Dreaming, looking out of a face just like mine. Her expressions are my expressions. I carried her, but she comes from this land.

The final story in the collection, ‘Some Yellow Flowers’, is the novella and requires a patient reader to solve the puzzle as to who is who. It interweaves two couples whose paths intersect: one elderly with a first-person narrator addressing their beloved, one young who have to decide whether to marry, written in third-person. Those who persevere with the puzzle will be rewarded with an emotionally affecting story about the meaning of love and the potential conflict between love and individual freedom. It hones in on the author’s preoccupation with the theme of women’s lives and how to resolve that tension between love and individual freedom, especially if there are children – or potential children – in the picture.

With the exception of ‘Oak Trees in the Desert’, the story about the international women’s conference against radioactive racism, which reads in part like a list of biographies of the delegates, each story in Here Where We Live provides much room for reflection about our own lives and our reactions to climate change and – for those who are white – our attitudes to Aboriginal people. Equally importantly, each is beautifully written.

To keep readers engaged, single-author collections mostly vary in voice, theme, setting, character preoccupations, etc, but Willanski’s Here Where We Live does not. So while I recommend the book, it is best not read sequentially.

  – Annette Marfording


Annette Marfording is a writer, blogger and critic who lives in regional New South Wales. She was Program Director of the Bellingen Readers and Writers Festival until 2015. Her book Celebrating Australian Writing: Conversations with Australian Authorshttp://www.annettemarfording.com/celebrating-australian-writing/ features 21 in-depth conversations with Australian authors on central themes in their body of work, writing methods, central tips for aspiring writers and more. It is available in independent bookshops in Sydney and online at www.coop.com.au or http://www.lulu.com/shop/annette-marfording/celebrating-australian-writing/paperback/product-22192469.html. All profits from the sale of the book go to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation.

Here Where We Live is available from http://www.wakefieldpress.com.au/product.php?productid=1283



“The writer-narrator takes the reader by the hand”: Carmel Bird reviews ‘Napoleon’s Roads’ by David Brooks

Napoleon’s Roads by David Brooks (UQP, 2016).

napoleons_roads_david_brooksThirty years ago, I read a most wonderful collection of short fiction. I think I reviewed it. It was The Book of Sei by David Brooks. Since then, I have read most of David’s books. Reading Napoleon’s Roads was a bit like finding that, The Book of Sei had a glorious new compartment, to which I now had access.

On the last page of Napoleon’s Roads, the narrator says, that critics say the ‘writer’s’ books are “beautifully written, even haunting”, but that there is always some indefinable thing missing, an unspoken absence around which everything turns’. Note the ‘but’ in that sentence. It signifies that idea that those critics, are in some way, disappointed by, or afraid of, the ‘thing missing’. The stories of David Brooks can be read as turning on the mysterious thing, and many readers, myself included, celebrate the way the fiction is constructed around that thing. It’s death of course, un-named.

In the second, last story of the collection, ‘A Traveller’s Tale’, a narrator speaks directly to readers on the subject of how stories work. The tone is deliciously direct and instructive, and the story could be productively studied in fiction-writing courses. ‘I want you to think about that,’ says the narrator. The readers and the quiet voice are up close, as the narrator leads on to the moment when everyone must step out ‘into the wide world, the difficult terrain’ of the story which is ‘horrid, distressing, almost untellable’. Death, you see?

‘Is that what we came here for, to wander about in the shadowy streets of ourselves?’ These shadowy streets are the Dantesque internal and external pathways through which the fiction moves, the roads built by Napoleon’s men, the dreamscapes of the imagination, the ways to enter or to leave ‘the city’.

The first piece in the collection is one paragraph called, ‘Paths to Writing’. It signals the nature of what is to follow, invoking in poetic prose the hope that words can carry, and sometimes reveal, the deep information of the human heart. ‘A Traveller’s Tale’ contains a magnificent short discussion of the word ‘heart’. The heart is one of the ‘most durable organs of the body’ but the word is so often metaphoric; the centre of love, the heart that ‘in the human mind’ is ‘heart-shaped’. The narrator explains that, when the word is being used in the tale, the word ‘heart’ is an amalgam of the organ and the metaphor. So information, messages, move across the collection, holding the reader’s hand for the journey, sometimes letting go.

Threaded throughout is a signposting image of birds, those manifestations of the soul, harbingers of doom, messengers of hope. As I read, there seemed to be a lot of doves, but in fact when I counted, I found there were only four, plus one that was ‘almost dove’. That one stopped me in my tracks.

‘Lost Pages’ concerns a writer whose work constantly fragments and disappears. Here the storyteller has an idea of writing something ‘about The Language of Birds’, the medieval language of the troubadours. He doesn’t of course, but other characters in other stories see and hear birds, all kinds of birds. ‘Swan’ is a particularly elegant tale of longing, ending with the image of a man’s rumpled bed where in the morning, a ‘bird-like shape has formed itself’ among the sheets.

One of the most delicious (if I may, borrow the word from the restaurant review) stories is ‘Ten Short Pieces’. These tiny jewels flash across the reader’s mind like exquisite samplings of what might be said, or meant, or stated, or missed in the longer stories. The narrator-writer thinks of himself as ‘a man at a table in a workshop’, making a shoe, mending a watch, saying ‘over and over, what lines he has in the hope that one of these lines will run on, will spill over into something he has not yet imagined’. Now this is a description of how a writer works. Again, this little piece, consisting of only two sentences, is perfect for offering to students of writing. Not to mention, the pleasure of coming to the end of the long, second sentence, only to learn that the tools the writer finds in his cupboard might be ‘a piece of sheepsong or the end of a shower of rain, an owl.’ Note the last comma. Brilliant.

The word ‘sheepsong’ took me back to David’s 1990 collection titled, Sheep and the Diva – opening a doorway backwards into the apartment building of the work. Somehow, it does seem sometimes to be a vast building, or perhaps a city, through which the writer-narrator takes the reader by the hand. Dante again, I suppose. Sometimes, there is a burst through, into bright freedom ‘breaking through a veil of green words’, and sometimes (six times, actually) there is a dark image of a panther in a cage, pacing.

The story, ‘Napoleon’s Roads, begins with the panther, and the final story, ‘The Panther’, ends with the writer-narrator standing before a painting of a panther. Here, the collection ends:

‘I can see him there, in the shadows.
He does not look at me.’

I want to conclude by referring to the story, ‘Grief’, which is one, along with, ‘The Dead’, that is concerned, perhaps most openly, with mortality. This story ends with the effect of a man saying the Rosary at a funeral: ‘the fright and confusion become dignity, music moving through us in a kind of praise, making us instruments, wind, clay vessels, a kind of brooding bird, almost dove.’

-Carmel Bird

Purchase Napoleon’s Roads by David Brooks
Read a sample of Napoleon’s Roads

Carmel Bird is the winner of the 2016 Patrick White Literary Award. Her most recent books are the novel, Family Skeleton (2016) and the short story collection, My Hearts Are Your Hearts (2015).

Intensity and Focus: Annette Marfording Reviews ‘Griffith Review 54, Earthly Delights: The Novella Project IV’

Griffith Review 54, Earthly Delights: The Novella Project IV, edited by Julianne Schultz, Text Publishing

gr54-novellaAs the subtitle suggests, this is the fourth year in which Griffith Review has dedicated its annual fiction edition to the novella, ‘those stories’, as editor Julianne Schultz put it in her introduction to the first edition in 2012, ‘that are longer and more complex than a short story, shorter than a novel, with fewer plot twists, but strong characters. Condensed tales that are intense, detailed, often grounded in the times, and perfectly designed for busy people to read in one sitting.’ By undertaking its novella project, Griffith Review has made a significant contribution to the revival of the novella form. Seizure runs an annual Viva La Novella competition, publishing its first winner in 2013 and some individual short fiction collections now include novellas, such as Here where we live by Cassie Flanagan Willanski and Australia Day by one of the contributors to Earthly Delights, Melanie Cheng, which won the 2016 Victorian Premier’s Award for an Unpublished Manuscript.

From its inception, Griffith Review’s novella project has presented a mix of contemporary and historical fiction, of well-known and emerging authors. It has delighted readers especially with its novellas’ intensity, achieved in part as a result of their strong focus on character. It is that intensity and focus, I suggest, which makes these novellas linger in the mind long after they have been read the first time.

This year’s edition, entitled Earthly Delights, features five novellas selected from 177 entries, and all are contemporary.

In her novella ‘Muse’, Melanie Cheng focuses on an elderly man who grieves for his late wife Lola. Cheng hooks the reader in her first lines by displaying her skill at detail, simile and alliteration:

I’ve neglected her. Her ceilings are soft with cobwebs. Her garden is choked with weeds. Her fence leans, like buckteeth, out onto the footpath. She is getting old, and noisy. Like me, with my snorts and grunts and farts that catch even me by surprise. Her doors creak, her heating claps itself to life, and her pipes splutter up their rusty sputum.

The first person narrator is somewhat estranged from his daughter Bea. One night Bea brings her lover Edwina for dinner, and Edwina, an artist, sparks in him a renewed interest in creativity, and he joins a life drawing class. His focus on the model in turn propels his reflections about his late wife and his former lover. A moving story about family and an elderly man’s life and memories.

Graham Lang is a writer and visual artist who grew up in South Africa and Zimbabwe. His novella ‘A fulcrum of infinites’ explores the meaning of home, ownership and belonging. A terminally ill Aboriginal man, Saul, travels to the Australian outback to die on the land of his ancestors. He settles on the ground under the only tree he can find, close to the house of an elderly farmer who wants him to leave, especially after Saul explains that his ancestors once roamed this land. Lang’s story focuses on the changing nature of the relationship between these two men.

In its focus on an Aboriginal man, ‘A fulcrum of infinites’ does, however, raise the issue of cultural appropriation (http://www.annettemarfording.com/cultural-approriation/) which raged recently in response to Lionel Shriver’s opening address at the Brisbane Writers Festival. Regardless of where you stand on the issue of whether authors should be free to write from any perspective and point of view, for those who create an Aboriginal protagonist it is crucial to make him or her authentic, and I’m not sure whether Saul fulfils that criterion. Apart from that reservation, this novella is haunting and well written. Lang’s skills as a writer are particularly evident in his creation of a strong sense of place and in his development of the two characters through their dialogue.

Interestingly, Daniel Jenkins’ novella ‘Those boys from Jalaan’ gives rise to a related issue of authorial freedom. This is not because his novella is set in rural Oman – Jenkins uses his own teaching experience there to good effect, and his main characters are Australian and American teachers –, but because his two protagonists are women, one of whom is sexually assaulted. Despite a small niggle in that respect, ‘Those boys from Jalaan’ gives a good insight into the lives of expatriate women working in an Islamic country.

Although the quality of the writing is high in all these novellas, it jumps to another level with the utterly compelling novellas by Suzanne McCourt, ‘The last taboo: A love story’, and Stephen Orr, ‘Datsunland’, which at more than 100 pages is the length of a short novel. Both McCourt’s and Orr’s latest novels were longlisted for the Miles Franklin Award and both were on the respective lists of my top ten reads in 2014 and 2015 (www.rochfordstreetreview.com/2015/12/12/annette-marfordings-best-reads-of-2015/) respectively.

In Suzanne McCourt’s case that novel was her 2014 debut The Lost Child, in which McCourt excelled at creating the voice, world and wonder of a young child growing up in an environment of fear, poverty and her mother’s mental breakdown in the aftermath of domestic violence. In her novella ‘The last taboo: A love story’ McCourt shows herself to be equally masterful in immersing the reader in the inner and outer life of a woman in search for – and eventually reunited with – the son she gave up for adoption at birth. Her use of the rarely used second person point of view is wonderfully suitable because the directly addressed reader is pulled even more strongly inside the narrator’s emotional turmoil of grief, guilt, fear, joy and love.

How does a mother greet a son she has not seen for twenty-three years? Are there rules for such occasions? Accepted etiquette? There is a moment after he closes the door when you’re both standing in the entry hall with barely room to move, and neither of you knows what to do. Your face feels tight with shyness, your mouth dry. But there is a strange recognition pushing into your brain: you are looking at yourself; you are looking at Jim; why hadn’t you expected this? And suddenly you are in each other’s arms.

You can feel the focus, the intensity. And in terms of where she takes this mother’s love, McCourt shows herself to be as fearless as Peter Goldsworthy in his novel Wish in creating an utterly plausible result of overwhelming love.

Stephen Orr’s latest novel was The Hands: An Australian Pastoral (https://rochfordstreetreview.com/2016/05/19/the-politics-of-the-australian-pastoral-jonathan-dunk-reviews-the-hands-by-stephen-orr/). In that poignant and haunting novel Orr explored the impact of the drought on the family of a cattle farmer. His accomplishments as a writer were evident in his psychological insight into his characters, the sparkling dialogue between them, and the spare, vivid detail he brought to conveying the dusty, barren landscape. He displays the same skills in his novella ‘Datsunland’. This time the setting is urban and the relationships he explores are those between a teenaged boy and his father and especially between the boy and his guitar teacher at the private Catholic school which both of them loathe. Orr cleverly makes use of the ongoing child sexual abuse scandals, especially at private schools, to make the reader worry for the teenager’s safety as the relationship between him and the guitar teacher grows ever closer.

Earthly Delights finishes with a special gift to the reader: an extract of the novel The White Experiment which Cory Taylor was writing when she became too ill from her melanoma-related brain cancer to continue. The book Dying: A Memoir she wrote instead – in a few weeks – was published six weeks before her death and gained international acclaim for its power, courage and clarity. The novel extract is bittersweet because every reader will mourn the loss of this immensely talented writer even more while reading it.

 – Annette Marfording


Annette Marfording is a writer, blogger and critic who lives in regional New South Wales. She was Program Director of the Bellingen Readers and Writers Festival until 2015. Her book Celebrating Australian Writing: Conversations with Australian Authors http://www.annettemarfording.com/celebrating-australian-writing/ features 21 in-depth conversations with Australian authors on central themes in their body of work, writing methods, central tips for aspiring writers and more. It is available in independent bookshops in Sydney and online at www.coop.com.au or http://www.lulu.com/shop/annette-marfording/celebrating-australian-writing/paperback/product-22192469.html. All profits from the sale of the book go to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation.

Griffith Review 54, Earthly Delights: The Novella Project IV is available from https://griffithreview.com/

Teasing Threads – Sundry Film and Literary Criticism: ‘Traitor’ by Stephen Daisley

Chris Palazzolo reads Traitor by Stephen Daisley, Text, 2011

TraitorSome national mythologies cry out for re-examination, especially after they’ve been around for 100 years. One such myth is that of ANZAC, which last year marked its 100th anniversary. I can think of no better re-interpretation of the ANZAC myth than Stephen Daisley’s novel Traitor.

Time in this novel is very complex, but can be reduced to two absolute pasts; the closer, but still closed off past of 1940s rural New Zealand, and another, further back past of the Gallipoli campaign of 1915. Each of these pasts slip and shift into the foreground of the narration like shifting plates of memory and presence. The lapidary style of the novel gives a pebbly consistency to these plates, as if a life consists of tiny stones of poetic events and recollections that together in the course of growth and change begin to look fluid, like tectonic movements make solid rock look fluid. The big guns of Gallipoli set the plates in motion; their sound reverberates through the novel’s thirty year time span.

If one lays these pebbled plates out flat one can see that the presence is that of a farmer in New Zealand working his cold paddocks. Solitary, largely avoided by his neighbours, he is harassed by military police because he was court martialled for desertion in the First World War and so is seen as a security risk during the Second. The memory is of the circumstances that led to his desertion 30 years prior; as a young soldier in the ANZAC – a shepherd boy in uniform and with a gun fighting in a war he knew nothing about – he befriended, while on sentry duty, a maimed Turkish doctor who was a POW and tried to set him free, but was captured, court martialled and instead of being shot sent to the next worst thing, bomb disposal in no man’s land on the Western Front.

The memories of what he did, and what he lost, are what sustained him in the terrible decades of loneliness and ostracism that followed. These memories go to his motives. This is the central mystery of the novel; why did he set the enemy doctor free. I would summarise it this way – moved to pity by the doctor’s suffering, enchanted by the doctor’s Sufi words, his mind pummelled to a perpetual present by non-stop bombardment, the young shepherd soldier turned to god. His foolish act on this conversion meant surrendering himself to the harshest judgement of the world of nations – treason. The nation brought the full weight of this judgement to bear on him and crushed his sovereign subjectivity, but in the process saved his soul which, freed by the act of love (setting the doctor free) was purified by the abnegation that followed. The love meant more than just treason. It was also a breach of faith which can only be described as apostasy; the act and the love which motivated it effectively amounted to a conversion from one native faith of nation and people to a higher faith of God of all humanity (conversion is always to a higher faith).

From the perspective of a military mythology, the soldier is a weak-minded fool, and the non-military purity of his motives count for nothing in that judgement. But the ANZAC myth is unique among military myths in that, despite attempts to jingoise it, it remains a negative military myth; first of all, it commemorates a defeat; and second, it honours the Turkish defenders. But this is because ANZAC is not a military myth at all. It is, in fact, a tragic strophe in a pastoral epic. The Gallipoli campaign echoes deeply in the Australian and New Zealand psyches because it melded so poetically into the long pastoral eras of those countries; geopolitical events as mysterious to the Australasian mind as the inner workings of the seasons suddenly causing the deaths of thousands of young men; an event so inexplicable it seemed like a catastrophe of nature. The mythology is wide open to metaphysics. Traitor subverts many received notions of ANZAC, but without ever diverting from a logic intrinsic to it; mateship elevated to the love of an enemy soldier, not out of a desire to see that soldier’s country win, but out of love of his godliness. Where in the myth of Agincourt for instance would there be room for an English soldier to desert with a Frenchman? No matter how pure his motives might be, Agincourt is a glorious myth of victory for the English, so his actions could only ever be conceived of as treasonous. By following rigorously the trajectory that the ANZAC myth points towards (and which no other novel has ever done) Traitor moves us beyond nations and peoples and even histories to an event of cosmic significance; the making of a Holy Idiot.

– Chris Palazzolo


Teasing Threads is Chris Palazzolo, novelist and poet, editor at Regime Books in Perth, radio host on 6EBA FM North Perth, and was, until recently, manager of one of the last video shops in the world.

Traitor is available from https://www.textpublishing.com.au/books/traitor

New Shoots Poetry Prize banner 2


Teasing Threads – Sundry Film and Literary Criticism: ‘Umbrella’ by Will Self

Chris Palazzolo feels his way through Umbrella by Will Self, Bloomsbury, 2012

UmbrellaRoland Barthes makes the distinction between the ‘readerly’ text and the ‘writerly’ text – the readerly text, which is the kind of text we encounter most commonly in everyday life, is where transparency of meaning is what all of writing labour is devoted too. Newspaper prose is the perfect example of ‘readerly’. When we skim a newspaper article, we get no sense of the industry that has gone into its production, neither the physical labour of writing the raw copy, from research, note taking, and 3am keyboard bashing, to the yanking and twisting of that raw copy into grammatical sentences that flow clearly and legibly – the text is ‘readerly’ because ease of reading and the transparent and limpid conveyance of meaning from text to reader’s mind is what the whole industry is about.

The ‘writerly,’ on the other hand, are those rarer, usually poetic as well as modernistic and experimental prose texts, where the labour of writing demands a more equal share of labour on the part of the reader. James Joyce described the ‘writerly’ when he said a novel should take as long to read as it took to write (it took him 7 years to write Ulysses, and took me 14 months and a considerable chunk of a scholarship from Murdoch University to hack my way through it – writerly indeed! I felt I had to ‘write’, that is to say inscribe into my brain, every word of that book, before it yielded meaning).

Will Self’s Umbrella is such a book, which is to say, its mysteries are not accessible to the casual reader. Nonetheless if one is prepared to put in the effort (in my case a kind of six pages forward, four pages back kind of reading, so that with each session I would progress two pages) it will open up. The challenges it puts in your way are features such as no chapters and no paragraphs so the book is one exhausting block of text (there are paragraph-like indentations every ten or twenty pages or so, but they’re not really paragraphs because many of them are continuous sentences), and sudden shifts of subjectivity which are also often in the middle of sentences. In the broadest sense it is about the pot-bound nature of institutionalised memory; the memories centre on a patient in a specialised hospital, and how those memories, both the patient’s and others connected to the patient, are tangled together.

Because the book is one unbroken roll of text we can think of its memory scheme as pleats of fabric folded over and tangled in to form a kind of rabbit warren of funnels leading to chambers and gaps of lost time. If I was to iron out that fabric in order to put all of its events into the proper (chronological) order, the story would look like this – London, 2010, the disgraced and pensioned-off former psychiatrist Zachary Busner, takes a bus trip down to a new block of swanky apartments built on and around the site of the hospital where, in 1971, he conducted the experiments that got him struck off the register. Those experiments involved the use of a powerful hallucinogenic drug called L-Dopa to revive patients made catatonic by encephalitis lethargica. One of the patients, Miss Audrey Death, had been in the hospital since 1920, but when revived her memory and language was so clear it was as if the fifty years of catatonia had been no time at all (she remembered, among other things, all the factories she worked in before she was hospitalised, including a munitions factory and an umbrella factory). Nonetheless, something had happened during her hospitalisation; her sensory deprived subjectivity had found, through a hole of what can only be described as familial and race memory, passageways to the contemporary experiences of her two brothers, both of whom in different ways, were destroyed by the First World War.

The hospital is the ruling sign of this book. It is both a setting for all the crucial action, and a metaphor for the crabbed-in depth memories its very walls induce in its residents. And rabbit warren is the way a nurse once described Royal Perth Hospital to me. This aging facility, over a century old, has had so many additions to it; new wards, new passageways linking wings, which themselves were added to and modified decades later, that the hospital has become a labyrinth of imperfectly matched styles, steps, slopes and entrances to other entrances, each bearing the imprimatur of rational trends and assumptions current at the time of construction. This strange, anachronistic, four dimensionality serves a single purpose; the containment of sickness, its cure, or ease of death, onto the body of the patient. But the patient’s subjectivity is another rabbit hole within this warren. Friern-Barnet Hospital, where Audrey Death resides and Dr Zach Busner conducts his brilliant and career destroying experiments, is a kind of hermetic container of personal and racial suffering (its patients are all Jews). Like Royal Perth Hospital it has that rabbit warren structure of ad-hoc additions. Contained in the middle is the warren of Audrey Death’s memories, and, confoundingly, her communings with her brothers even after they’ve died. Where does her subjectivity stop and theirs start? What wall was knocked out, what passageway, what entrance opened up deep inside her mind that led to the infinite interlocked chambers of her brothers’ subjectivities? This is the deepest mystery of all.

– Chris Palazzolo


Teasing Threads is Chris Palazzolo, novelist and poet, editor at Regime Books in Perth, radio host on 6EBA FM North Perth, and was, until recently, manager of one of the last video shops in the world.

Will Self has a website http://will-self.com/

New Shoots Poetry Prize banner 2

Powerful and Extensive: B. J. Muirhead Reviews ‘Death Fugue’ by Sheng Keyi

Death Fugue by Sheng Keyi. Giramondo 2016

DeathFugueSheng Keyi’s Death Fugue is a novel which deals with political and social freedom in the face of government lies, control and violence. Despite this, it is a deeply compassionate and personal novel which focuses on the manner in which large, socially and personally traumatic events permeate lives over time leaving them, perchance, with little or nothing to say that can provide reprieve from past events and the life they now live. It is saved from being mere political rhetoric by focusing on one man, Yuan Mengliu, a surgeon in the capital city Beiping in the fictional country of Dayang, neighbouring China. Yuan is a good surgeon, but he is disconnected from his patients to the point that he usually doesn’t know or take any interest in the name of the people whose bodies he is cutting into. What he does take interest in are women: he is an unashamed womaniser who is “convinced that, once stripped of clothing, all women would go back to their true state. The body could not lie.” The opening of the book explains this, and sets the personal context for the story:

Those who have suffered the mental strain of life’s vicissitudes often end up by becoming withdrawn. Their earlier zeal has died; their beliefs wander off like stray dogs. They allow the heart to grow barren, and the mind to be overrun with weeds. They experience a sort of mental arthritis, like a dull ache on a cloudy day. There is no remedy. They hurt. They endure. They distract themselves in various ways, whether by making money, or by emigrating, or by womanising. Yuan Mengliu fell into the last group.

How and why Mengliu became the distant, almost uncaring surgeon and womaniser is the subject of this book, which places the purely personal in the context of a political story which begins with the appearance of a pile of shit in Round Square.

…it was a dark brown lump smelling of buckwheat, soft in texture, and standing nine stories high. It’s bottom layer was fifty metres in diameter. It’s structure was like that of a layered cake, narrowing to a relatively artistic spire at the top.

Needless to say, the appearance of the pile of shit in the centre of the capital, close to the Wisdom Bureau (the National Youth Administration for Elite Wisdom), where Mengliu worked in the Literature Department, caused a public uproar. The shit was removed quickly, and the government offered the completely irrelevant explanation that it had been gorilla shit, as proven by DNA tests. The Tower Incident, as it became known, lead to mass public demonstrations and to the violent crushing of the demonstrators with tanks, bullets and disappearances. Most of this information is offered in the opening two chapters, and sets the scene for Sheng’s aim of trying to talk about the after effects of the events in Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. Indeed, the protests in the book are an accurate recounting of the Tiananmen Square protests and their end in the massacre of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people. With an opening and context such as this, it might be expected that the book would focus on the protests and have an explicitly political agenda, but this is not the case in any expected manner. Rather, the story focuses on how Mengliu met the love of his life (Qizi) in the very first protest march, then lost her, presumed dead, and ceased being a poet in order to become a surgeon. Most importantly, it deals with his inability and unwillingness to write in order to produce political propaganda. Much of the story occurs in a land known as Swan Valley, whose residents and spiritual leader attempt to coerce Mengliu into writing poetry again, to celebrate the beauty, the perfect society that has been created on scientific and political principles of equality, peace, prosperity and other lies. Mengliu’s trip to Swan Valley occurs twenty years after the Tower Incident and the suppression of the protests which followed. Every year Mengliu searches for Qizi—he is convinced that she is still alive, and his love for her haunts him. He is in a small sail boat, floating in the ocean, when a storm rises:

The maddened clouds surged together, twisting in a fury into one great pillar that towered over the lake and drew it up into a funnel, leaving a spinning whirlpool at its centre. The sail, caught in the winds, began to flap violently, and everything turned black before Mengliu’s eyes. Both his body and his consciousness were sucked into the great black hole.

When he wakes, he is in a forest through which he must struggle before encountering peaceful and friendly wild beasts, before arriving at Swan Valley, where he stays until he learns the truth of himself, and returns to the sail boat from which he is rescued by the local people he had been staying with. It is only at this time that it becomes apparent that his journey has been a psychological fugue, an hallucination which brought him back to himself as a poet and protester who refused to protest, even if he never writes again. There is much, so much that I haven’t mentioned, particularly about Qizi and her various incarnations in Mengliu’s life, but this is to be expected when reviewing a large book. Ultimately, it is a book about personal and social survival which, for Chinese and non-Chinese readers alike, encompasses much more than the fictional recounting of the Tiananmen Square protests. It would have been easy to make this a depressing or nihilistic book, but Sheng has avoided this course, to the great benefit of her message. It is, however, occasionally frightening, simply because it is quite easy to recognise many aspects of the contemporary West in the nanny state of Swan Valley—although, fortunately, sex is not illegal here, as it is in Swan Valley. It also is, unusually for a novel with such serious intent, easy to read and very entertaining, full of laughable situations, ideals, frustrations and very human compassion for those who have become dispossessed from themselves. Because this is the case, it is a book which should be, and deserves to be read widely. My one caveat is in respect of the symbolism that Sheng relies on. It is powerful and extensive, from the tower of shit and the inadequate government explanation, to Qizi, who ceased being Mengliu’s lover and became the leader of the protests, thus standing in place of the Styrofoam and plaster statue—the “Goddess of Democracy”—that was erected in the final days of of the Tiananmen Square protests. Many symbols and references are likely to escape an English reader, however. In Swan Valley (the name of which may be symbolic of something I am unaware of), for example, it is explained that a young chef

…holds in high esteem the chef who butchered oxen for King Hui of Liang…Everything is an art. Does its beauty match that of a good poem?

The reference here is to a passage in Zhuangzi, Chapter Three, and the teaching of following the course, or tao, in order to nourish one’s life. Whilst this reference is likely to be well understood in China, it is sheer happenstance that I am aware of it, its source and some of its meaning. That there are many other references and contexts which would expand the meaning and effect of the writing is obvious, and I fear that I have missed much of Sheng’s intent as a result, even though the most potent symbol—Mengliu’s silence, his refusal to write poetry again—cannot be missed. None the less, even if Western readers fail to grasp much of the cultural symbolism, Death Fugue is a book full of easily understood ideas and situations, focused around the Hero’s journey, which is the basic structure of the book and of Mengliu’s trip to and time in Swan Valley. A note at the back of the book informs us that the translation and publication was made possible by a philanthropic gift, from Mr William Chiu, to the University of Western Sydney Foundation Trust. This gift has been well repaid with this translation and publication, and I hope it is further repaid by the readership which the book deserves.

– Bruce Muirhead


BJ Muirhead is a writer and photographer living in rural Queensland. He has published online and in print journals, and was included in an anthology of Queensland poetry (1986). He has published art criticism and was photographic reviewer for the Courier-Mail newspaper in the 1980s. His writing and recent exhibitions, Primary Evidence (2011) andFlesh (2014), continue his lifetime interest in the human body and its relation to the inevitability of age and death. He can be found athttp://bjmuirhead.wordpress.com  and http://inaforeigntown.wordpress.com.

Death Fugue is available from http://www.giramondopublishing.com/fiction/death-fugue/

Edging Towards a Rendezvous: Mike Coppin Reviews ‘From Now On Everything Will Be Different’ by Eliza Vitri Handayani

From Now On Everything Will Be Different by Eliza Vitri Handayani  Vagabond Press, 2015

from now onJulita, a feisty photo-journalist, strains against mainstream society’s strictures, occasionally using her tee-shirt as the page on which she expresses her revolt. Eliza Handayani, creator of the character Julita, felt impelled six months ago to have her own tee-shirt printed with text from her recent novel, in order to protest the official blocking of its launch at a writers festival in Indonesia. The authorities’ action alone would make this book of interest, but it is well worth reading on its own merits as an engaging novel from a new talent.

From Now On Everything Will Be Different traces the relationship between two young spirits yearning to be free. We are introduced to Rizky as a thirty-something doctor as he prepares to catch up with Julita for the first time after a period of years; he has just received at letter from her, asking to meet. The twin threads of Rizky preparing/travelling to meet Julita and vice versa comprise a core strand of the novel.

We next see them as high-schoolers in Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital, getting into strife because of their unconventional values. Their story is picked up again in 1998, a time of groundswell unrest against the government and the established order – and the last year I lived there, as it happened. Here the themes of their resistance to social and political norms, together with their individual struggles to find freedom and identity in their personal lives, are more firmly established, forming the double motif that provides the book’s focus. The novel progressively delves back into different periods of the pair’s lives, so that we gradually learn more about them and their evolving relationship.

The characters of Julita and Rizky are well drawn, both being likeable but with flaws and foibles. Their efforts to achieve workable lifestyles, ones that somehow reconcile their Bohemian beliefs with mundane realities, are for the most part pursued separately, and circumstances dictate that their relationship is expressed mainly through phone calls, text messages and letters. Rizky is the comparatively less assertive of the two in terms of breaking free and wears the cost of that, while Julita takes a more non-conformist route, with its own attendant price. She is far more adventurous in her love life than middle-class Javanese women are expected to be.

Perhaps reflective of the pair’s personalities are the boxes each keeps. Rizky keeps a ‘Box of Essential Memories’ (backward-looking), whereas Julita maintains her ‘Box of Unfinished Projects’ (forward-looking, to an extent). Whatever, their pains are palpable and one aches for them. Julita, especially, suffers from a sense of enduring disappointment in life until achieving a degree of perspective.

Their personal struggles take place against the backdrop of the Indonesian nation’s own struggle to forge a reformed society after the easing out of the quasi-dictator, Suharto, and the social order that went with him. This process was accompanied by acts of mass violence that could break out at any time; these occur ‘off-stage’ in From Now On, but add an element of edginess to the story. This backcloth is in no way intrusive, and it won’t harm your enjoyment of the novel if you have no knowledge of the politics or culture of the place.

This leads us to the blocking of the book-launch at the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival in Bali. It wasn’t literally a banning: the local police simply told the festival organiser that the whole show would be shut down if she didn’t cancel any functions that mentioned the government-sanctioned mass killings of 1965 (which had over a million allegedly communist victims). The organizer put up a brave resistance before complying, but then publicised the incident to draw attention to the very thing the authorities didn’t want in the limelight.

What exactly had Eliza written in From Now On Everything Will Be Different to incur official displeasure? Here’s the relevant extract: “The actors asked him what new plays he wanted them to mount, now they could perform whatever they want – perhaps something about the ’65 mass murders…” And that’s it; there’s not another mention in the whole novel. Maybe Eliza is correct in suggesting that her book was “dragged into the 1965 paranoia wave”. Undaunted, she continues to promote her book, saying that it’s important to never be afraid.

Back to the novel as literary work. It is longer than the Indonesian-language version published in two years ago, as Eliza added more background to aid the understanding of foreign readers, plus modifications based on feedback from the earlier version. This is not the author’s first novel. As a teenager she wrote a book, but was so unhappy with it she didn’t tackle another novel for a decade. What we have now is the work of a more mature talent.

There are two minor issues I’d raise about the book. First, there are a few slips of grammar, but not to any distracting extent. More of a bother is occasional lack of clarity about exactly where we are time-wise, as the jumps forward or back in time are not always clearly indicated. Editorial guidance could have easily fixed this, using double-line breaks or centred asterisks.

That said, From Now On Everything Will Be Different is an intriguing novel with two endearing main characters, even when you feel like giving them a slap to wake up to themselves. Though they are probably not people I’d want to be besties with, as they edged slowly closer to their rendezvous, I couldn’t help feeling the tension and had to resist flipping to the end to see what happens. You should resist, too.

I recommend this novel to anyone who likes a well-written read about characters you can care about, and especially commend it to those with an interest in new writing coming out of Southeast Asia. Whether, as Manneke Budiman suggests, it represents “a new dawn of the Indonesian novel” is – I suspect – too early to call. It is, however, a real advance on a lot of literature from that country in that it enters deeply inside the hearts and minds of its protagonists, and in that it explores moral issues more fearlessly than her compatriot writers usually do. Perhaps that was another reason Eliza incurred the wrath of the authorities.

Now just short of thirty, Eliza is married to a Norwegian and divides her time between Oslo and Jakarta, where she is involved with InterSastra, an organisation she set up to promote literary translation. She’s definitely one to watch and I look forward to her next offering.


Postscript: I have followed the Indonesian custom of referring to a person by their first name rather than their last.

 – Mike Coppin.


Mike Coppin is the author of Shadow Chase, a novel set in Java, where he taught English for five years. He has had articles and book reviews printed in Inside Indonesia, Rural Society and other publications. He can be found at www.mikecoppin.wordpress.com

From Now On Everything Will Be Different is available from  http://vagabondpress.net/products/eliza-vitri-handayani-from-now-on-everything-will-be-different

“It takes time and patience to be a good detective”: Annette Marfording reviews Detective Work by John Dale

Detective Work by John Dale. Xoum 2015.


John Dale is a Sydney based author of three previous novels and a novella, as well as of non-fiction including essays, the memoir Wild Life about the fatal shooting of his grandfather in Tasmania. His award-winning book Huckstepp, about the former prostitute and whistle-blower about police corruption Sallie-Anne Huckstep who was found dead in a lake in Centennial Park, is probably is best-known work. Judging by his body of work, it is fair to say that crime and police corruption are of major interest to him.

And so it is in Detective Work, his latest novel. Young protagonist detective Dimitri Telegonus and Detective Senior Constable Gale Ryan are part of a new task force which re-investigates serious unsolved crime. Their assignment is the unsolved disappearance of 21-year-old escort Renee Summers in 1994. During the course of their investigation they re-interview Summers’s friends, her former boyfriend, the escort business managers and the last known client she had visited, one Gregory Samsa. Samsa has always been the prime suspect, but nothing could ever be pinned on him. After he vanishes, their search for him leads them to Tasmania, including Bruny Island where Telegonus’s mother lives.

Dale opens the novel skilfully, introducing the protagonist as an insomniac on one of his regular night drives through Sydney. The beginning of the second paragraph reads: “He crossed into Double Bay with the wind blowing at his tail lights, eyes fixed on a lycra-clad jogger, checking out the man’s sweating face. Not that he expected to find him here…” And immediately the reader is hooked with the suspense of who this man is he’s searching for and why is he searching for him.

As a teacher of creative writing at UTS the author is likely to tell his students about the essence of conflict in the creation of drama, and the novel is full of it. Telegonus knows that Ryan, who is in his fifties, “had worked Major Crime South West at a time when the Commanding Officer … was found guilty of seventeen counts of corruption.” The protagonist’s pairing with a senior officer whom he suspects of being corrupt himself immediately sets up one such conflict. Furthermore, there’s discord between the two detectives, not only about the direction their investigation should take, but also in terms of their personalities. Ryan thinks Telegonus is stuck-up, telling him, “Rule number one. Detectives don’t read books,” when Telegonus links Samsa’s name to Kafka’s Metamorphosis. Telegonus thinks Ryan is an ogre because of his stream of racist and sexist comments.

Most other conflicts are internal ones: Telegonus finds an envelope with money on his desk, which creates the dilemma whether to report it; he wonders whether to continue his relationship with his academic girlfriend; he has a fraught relationship with his mother; and when the investigation stalls, he fears he is incompetent, and the bosses threaten to pull the plug.

The novel is written from the third person point of view of Telegonus as the protagonist, which works well to show his internal conflicts. Both Telegonus and Ryan are complex characters and the author uses quick brushstrokes and dialogue effectively to enhance characterisation. Here is one example involving Ryan when they are told to work together early on in the novel: “Ryan lumbered over to him. ‘You the Greek kid, right?’” The verb ‘lumbered’ suggests Ryan’s body type, ‘Greek’ suggests Ryan’s prone to stereotype, and ‘kid’ could imply a patronising attitude or at the very least suggests that he thinks he’s got to teach Telegonus how to do detective work. This is reinforced a few pages further on, immediately after he’s told him that detectives don’t read fiction: “Well, when you do this shit, you gotta do a lot of things right. You have to be a first-rate interrogator, you have to be articulate in court, you need to gather evidence, all the forensic stuff. You gotta work the street. You gotta work the phone. It takes time and patience to be a good detective. There’s set rules. You can’t learn them sitting in an office comparing the name of a suspect to some character in a book. Muster up, son, we’re going for a drive.”

Another plus is that John Dale’s Australia reflects the multicultural and multi-class society in which we live, which is still rare among non-indigenous Australian writers – Christos Tsiolkas and Maxine Beneba Clarke being two notable exceptions. Furthermore and crucially, he does not adopt a painting-by-numbers approach to crime fiction, and indeed dispenses with the formula in one critical respect. The protagonist’s girlfriend’s work as an academic gives him the opportunity to fling some barbs at academia – something that this reviewer and former academic particularly enjoyed.

The one aspect of John Dale’s writing that did not impress this reader was a sense of place. A focus on naming suburbs and landmarks does not evoke place; that requires imagery provided in vivid detail. But it is a rare author who excels at all aspects of writing, and Detective Work is definitely a novel that I would highly recommend.

 – Annette Marfording


Annette Marfording is a writer, broadcaster and critic who lives in regional New South Wales. She was Program Director of the Bellingen Readers and Writers Festival until 2015. Her book Celebrating Australian Writing: Conversations with Australian Authors features 21 in-depth conversations with Australian authors on their books, central themes in their body of work, writing methods, central tips for aspiring writers and more. It is available in independent bookshops in Sydney and on the NSW Mid-North-Coast and online at www.coop.com.au or http://www.lulu.com/shop/annette-marfording/celebrating-australian-writing/paperback/product-22192469.html. All profits from the sale of the book go to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation.

Detective Work is available from http://www.xoum.com.au/shop/detective-work/


A Slow Dance: Shane Strange Reviews ‘Moments’ by Subhash Jaireth

Moments by Subhash Jaireth Puncher and Wattman, 2015

MomentsSubhash Jaireth has produced an increasingly rare thing in Australian prose fiction: a book that is both unashamedly intellectual and international in scope without succumbing to the awkward reverence that sometimes mars Australian writing. This is not to say that Moments is impenetrable or experimental (gasp!). On the contrary, it is a seductively written collection of stories that reimagines the lives of (mostly 20th century) prominent thinkers and artists through a series of vignettes. These are equally at home on a train to Leningrad as a rock formation in the Kimberley—equally up to the task of retelling the tragedy of an indigenous massacre as the horrors of Pinochet’s Chile. And yet the stories are subtle enough to make each tragic moment (and there are many, of varying degrees) uniquely felt. But this isn’t a book of sturm und drang. It’s a quiet book: a whisper; a slow dance; a growing realisation.

The success of these stories relies not on a pyrotechnic style, or what Raymond Carver called ‘cheap tricks’, but on a deft focalisation technique that takes the glare away from a story’s  central subject (and their often well-rehearsed biographies) to rest upon tangential characters who have a certain connection, or particular way of seeing the subject. This in turn reveals that subject as an effect on someone else— a ripple in time and place if you like.

Take, for example, the wonderful pair of stories that form the central part of the collection. In ‘The Electric Dress’ conceptual performance artist, Atsuko Tanaka, is portrayed in her older years,  living out her days in the Japanese countryside far from her beloved Osaka.  Her health (mental and physical) is strained. She is tended by her husband Akira, and sometimes a young relative, Hiroshi. Into this mix comes a conceptual artist from India, Amrita, on a pilgrimage to meet the creator of the seminal performance  piece: ‘Electric Dress’. What we learn through this encounter is not only the tenderness of the relationship of the older couple, or —in reflective passages —Tanaka’s ground-breaking work, but also a rumination on ageing and the artist, the capacity of performance art to incorporate the body in its expression, and for that expression to be truly novel.

It’s companion story, ‘Dance is like water’, is also of the body, and puts its central figure, Merce Cunningham, even further into the background. Here the narrator is Visnu, an Indian mathematician estranged from his despotic  father, who runs a traditional dance studio in Madras. Visnu reflects on his enduring love for Lara, a young South American dancer who he meets in 1972 in New York. She is studying with Merce Cunningham. Visnu visits Lara at one of Cunningham’s classes and becomes entranced by the older dancer:

He was wound up like a spring ready to uncoil at any moment. When it came, the moment was utterly magical. I have never seen anyone so wonderfully animal-like: the sheer agility, the ability to turn unexpectedly, to leap high and float in the air as if he had wings and then land with immaculate ease, precision and grace.

This is all we see of Cunningham, whose impression Visnu carries with him through his love for Lara as they tour with her political dance troupe through Chile and the tumult of General Pinochet’s coup.

These echoes and reflections form a prismatic structure that seed impressions throughout the collection as characters appear and reappear.  However, the central concern of the collection seems to me to be a fascination with the making and effect of art in its various forms.  The technique of the stories seems to undermine the idea of the ‘great people’ of art (these are after all ‘fictional autobiographies’), while refocusing on their work and its influence. And this influence is often surprising.

In the penultimate story, ‘Quartz Hill’, a fictional Chinese photographer, Li, is taking photos of Alice, a young Australian dancer. In these opening passages, the story lingers on the fragile, but deep, collaborative bond between photographer and subject. Later, Li writes to Alice to tell of the deep significance of a painting by Paddy Bedford she has come across on the internet. Li decides to use this as an excuse to visit ‘the land of her grandmother’: Hall’s Creek in the Kimberley, also the home of Bedford, where she visits the site that is the subject of the painting to uncover its brutal history. Here, Jaireth is able to weave an indigenous massacre; the art of Paddy Bedford; the ephemeral nature of photography, and family, and history, and truth, into a satisfying, understated grandeur that easily inserts Australia and Australian culture into a broader global narrative without appearing deferential. The book is filled with these moments, and it left me very glad to have read it.

 – Shane Strange


Shane Strange lives in Canberra. His writing has appeared in various print and on line journals, including Overland, Griffith Review, Burley and Verity La.   He is currently studying at the University of Canberra, where he also tutors and lectures in Creative Writing.

Moments in available from https://puncherandwattmann.com/books/book/moments

Professor Jen Webb’s launch speech for Moments was previously published in Rochford Street Review https://rochfordstreetreview.com/2015/11/06/depth-surface-jen-webb-launches-moments-by-subhash-jaireth/