Far easier to summarise the contents, recapitulate the blurb, describe the author’s reputation, or examine the author’s politics in a thinly veiled op-ed—is he or she ‘one of us’? After all, the author might be reviewing us one day, or perhaps already has. In which case, it may, of course, be payback time. (Gideon Haigh in ‘Feeding the Hand that Bites’)
1) Summarise the contents
Kill Your Darlings, the First, is a collection of non-fiction, fiction, reviews, and one lengthy interview. The non-fiction ranges from the opinionated ‘Feeding the Hand that Bites’ from Gideon Haigh, to introspectives from Tracy Crisp and Paul Mitchell, and wit from Justin Heazlewood and Clementine Ford. Georgia Gowing’s ‘Talk Derby to Me’, a romp around the roller derby circuit, is the most informative of the pieces on offering, but what the others lack in encyclopaedic content, they make up for sass.
Some of the reviews are microscopic, some are not (like Anthony Morris’ dedication to The Wire), there’s a Ricky Lee cartoon from Oslo Davis, and the interview with Sarah Waters examines the historical genre as well as the usual writing process.
Fiction is honed to a dark edge, which is unsurprising for a literary journal titled ‘Kill Your Darlings’. ‘Theories of Relativity’ is particularly commendable. It rocks. It’s awesome. Yeah. I have never watched an episode of Beavis and Butthead, so I am going to stop here.
2) Recapitulate the blurb
Um. There’s an inkblot. And a whole bunch of names like Gideon Haigh, Emmett Stinson, Kalinda Ashton, Chris Flynn…
Apparently such names speak for themselves, though, to be fair, I believe name-dropping is commonly practised by literary journals.
3) Describe the author’s reputation
Why bother when you can quote author bios? i.e. ‘Patrick Cullen’s book, What Came Between, includes five stories published in The Best Australian Stories between 2005 and 2007.’ Bios are much more fun to regurgitate, especially when they reveal quirky phobias or the number of pets the author has.
In truth, I was disappointed by Kill Your Darlings’ selection of author bios. Apart from Clementine Ford’s ‘writes from the comfort of her bedroom while daydreaming of bearded men’, they had the creativity of a stapler. This must be rectified!
4) Examine the author’s (editors’) politics. Is he or she ‘one of us’?
Do I know any of these editors? Not really. That was obvious when I turned up at the launch, and found myself pressed against a whole lot of bodies I didn’t have names for.
If I write a really nice review, will they publish my work? Most likely…not.
Why am I writing this review? To make me read another lit journal. (And it worked, didn’t it?)