Letters to the Editor: Disgruntled about Fading Twilight

Dear esteemed debaters for Team Bella and the Anti Sparkly Vampire League,

I have listened to your arguments in regards to a ‘fading Twilight‘. They have been informative. For instance, I never knew that President Bush had pushed for sexy abstinence programs in American schools: ‘not only should you not have sex, but you should be sexy at the same time’ (Jeff Sparrow). Nor did I realise that many boys consider porn ‘educational’, that one in three teenage girls have been coerced into sexual acts by their boyfriends (Van Badham).

You’ve used smutty humour such as ‘sub-zero penises’, and ‘frozen sperm’ to point out that ‘promotion of abstinence…is outdated, out of touch, and insulting to women’ (Chris Flynn), and accused us of literary snobbery (Kate Forsyth) and Stephanie Meyer of bad prose (Ben Chandler) . You’ve even brought up my favourite topic of the month, Mr Joss Whedon, via musings on Angel/Angelus, a real vampire (Ben Chandler).

But only one argument came close to the debate topic, ‘Fading Twilight‘, and that was the number-crunching. Nineteen thousand Breaking Dawns being sold per week (Bec Kavanagh)? That’s suggestive of a here-to-stay phenomenon. If only you had produced evidence of unmitigated sales as well, instead of making vague references to the New York Times Best Seller lists, we might have all been convinced one way or another.

Unfortunately, you did not, and as a result, the debate on ‘Fading Twilight‘ had strayed completely off topic. Come on. Who cares if Edward’s a prude? Or how male-dominated the publishing industry is? And why on earth are we talking about ‘pink icypole penises’?

Instead, we should have been examining Twilight’s continuing impact on its readers and the rest of society. Has it improved the literacy rate in children and adolescents? Has it affected reading patterns? Kavanagh mentioned increased sales in Wuthering Heights; that’s a good start. Has Twilight become set texts in schools that promote abstinence? Has it been duplicated by other writers (YES), adapted for film (YES) and graphic novels (YES), and parodied (YES)? These are the questions that need to be answered in a debate about the staying power of Twilight. That little girl in the audience might have been laughing at your jokes but even she wasn’t convinced by the pointless rhetoric.

See, that’s the thing, esteemed debaters from Team Bella and ASVL. This debate was part of the MWF’s Schools’ Program. We’re supposed to be teaching kids how to make a proper argument, instead of teaching them bad habits. ‘So long as you’re eloquent, the devil may care’ is what they’ve learnt today, thanks to you. You should be ashamed of yourselves.

From,

Disgruntled

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MWF Multiple Choice Quiz

Are you a Wannabe Writer? Or are you Too Cool for School? Maybe a Festival Virgin? Take Thuy Linh’s quiz to find out your MWF* punter personality**.

1) Other than the Melbourne Writers Festival, you like hanging out in the city because of its

a) literary events at the Wheeler Centre

b) high-end shopping

c) graffiti hotspots and laneway bars

d) free breakfast bar samples that they give out at Melbourne Central Station

e) City Circle Tram

2) When you picked up your copy of the Melbourne Writers Festival 2010 Program, the first page you flipped to was

a) page 25 – Workshops

b)  page 13 – Food and Wine

c) page 8 – Music and Performance

d) page 6 – Free at the Festival

e) page 3 – Welcome

3) On page 5, you find out that Joss Whedon is coming to MWF, so you

a) wonder if he will have any writerly advice to impart.

b) buy tickets and book a dinner at Flower Drum before the event.

c) smirk because you heard about Joss via Twitter like an ice age ago!

d) put your beloved Macquarie on eBay. You love your Macquarie, but you love Joss Whedon more.

e) turn up at the wrong event.

4) On page 12 of the program, you notice that Peter Temple has won the Miles Franklin for his novel Truth. The first thing that pops into you head is:

a) ‘Where’s my pen? I’m inspired.’

b) ‘I should buy that from Readings. Or an iPad. Or maybe an eBook version of Truth and an iPad.’

c) ‘Pfft. Awards are for lemmings.’

d) ‘I hope my library stocks that.’

e) ‘Is Peter Temple a Masterchef contestant?’

5) You’re attending/not attending the pre-MWF-festival event with Bret Easton Ellis because

a) his books are some of the finest examples of postmodern literature

b) it only costs $20

c) he’s a rockstar

d) it costs $20

e) you didn’t realise it would sell out until it sold out

————————————————————————————

If you’ve answered mainly

  • As, then you’re a Wannabe Writer. The Wannabe Writer attends writing workshops and correcting other people’s spelling and/or grammar. In fact, you’re correcting my grammar right now.
  • Bs, then you’re a Cash Cow. All the other personality types will be trying to milk you for the entirety of the festival.
  • Cs, then you’re Too Cool for School and own that Threadless Tee, ‘I Listen to Bands That Don’t Even Exist Yet’. <insert cool exclamation here>
  • Ds, then you’re a Centrelink Bum. You have three bucks in your bank account to last you until next Thursday, making you fully appreciate the free things in life.
  • Es, then you’re a Festival Virgin. (Awww. We were all virgins once.)

*If you’re wondering what MWF stands for, congratulations. You’re Personality Type E, Festival Virgin.

**No stereotypes were harmed in the making of this post.

Melbourne Writers’ Festival 2010 Program Launch

I always miss out on these things because nobody ever tells me about them (until afterwards of course) so I thought I’d tell you. MWF’s 2010 program comes out in The Age on Friday, but people can get a sneak peek on Wednesday, midday at Beer DeLuxe. As per usual, I am working, so I will not be able to make it. But I thought I’d point you out to this rather special MWF event with Bret Easton Ellis. I’ve only read one Bret Easton Ellis—the one that’s sold in a plastic wrapper—and now have nightmares about rats eating vaginas, but it was very good in terms of postmodern technique. And here’s another something for all you Bret Easton Ellis fans out there…

Review: Ampersand Magazine’s Issue Two (aka ‘Janus Faces’)

I picked up this pocket-sized magazine with its ‘Penguin novel gone wrong’ cover not knowing what to expect apart from ‘good’.

It was better than good: I actually enjoyed all of it, even things I usually fail at like visuals and poetry.

The illustrations peppered throughout the magazine range from outsider art to portraits from military hospital archives to tourist pics of the Mexican-American border. There are various time travel advertisements by Simon Greiner that are interspersed with real ads, nicely complementing the text ‘A Time Traveller’s Guide’.There’s also a particularly disturbing series of ‘found photos’ by Erik Kessels, following one woman over several decades. In each photo, she’s holding the same pose, eying her target while staring down the barrel of her gun.

Erik Kessels' 'In Almost Every Picture: Found photographs of Ria Van Dijk, 1936-2008', published in Ampersand's Issue Two (Autumn 2010)

In terms of words, Ampersand Magazine is mix of non-fiction and the nonsensical. Its non-fiction reflects on fascinating subjects such as interstellar messaging, facial surgery in the early twentieth century, the invention of inflatable costumes, and the Rapture. Sometimes, I felt like I was reading a collection of How Things Work for adults. Of particular note, I thought, was Lisa Pryor’s ‘Twin Cities At War’. Tightly written, Pryor’s reflections, comparing and contrasting Australia’s and America’s insularity and the illegal immigrant situation, overturned my ennui towards ‘travel narratives’: it’s a highlight in a selection of very strong non-fiction pieces. Have I mentioned the review by Christos Tsiolkas…?

Nonsensical pieces are printed in portrait rather than landscape format: some playful poetry, a eulogy written in the first person, and a violent Bollywood soap-opera. There’s also an ‘Adventure Story’ by Jazz Andrews that comes across as veering left of normal. Think penises imprinted into tubs of ice cream.

Throughout Ampersand, there are rewards for the observant reader. Briohny Doyle’s footnotes are not to be glossed over: ‘Check out the Left Behind series of post-Rapture Christian bestsellers by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins’ and ‘Mum was right! Apart from Hobart, Melbourne is the most irrelevant city on Earth!’

The Ampersand index is often poetic:

life,

as affirmed by points of cruelty, 133

as a train wreck 52

as conveyed through a biopic, 29

as degraded by forms of cruelty, 133

as improved by moving to a first world country, 40-1

as scarred forever by seeing a naked man smoking and holding a knife in the supermarket ice-cream section when you are a kid, 105

that grief makes a warren under it, 51

And I had a giggle when I spotted the note under Abhishek Chuadhary’s bio: ‘Ampersand received this unsolicited submission from Chaudhary and was thereafter unable to get in contact. *Ampersand is not officially outsourcing content* – Ed.’

Anyhow, I am now approaching the 500-word mark. This review is getting hairy. I always preferred short and sweet rather than long and unkempt, so it’s time to cut it.

Ampersand is like a compact Lifted Brow. There’s a wonderful miscellaneousness to it. There’s also a willingness to look beyond geographical borders; the writing isn’t limited to purely Australian concerns or the Australian literary scene, which is rare for a local journal. Three cheers to Ampersand. Or three f@$%s for free, whichever you prefer.

(Mock) Review: Kill Your Darlings Issue One

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?)

The Kill Your Darlings 'blurb'

I can see how tagging might be fun…

 

'CONTRIBUTORS WANTED.' The Lifted Brow's fake rental ad @ Deakin Uni. (22/10/09)

'CONTRIBUTORS WANTED.' The Lifted Brow's fake rental ad @ Deakin Uni Burwod. (22/10/09)

Hi, my name is The Lifted Brow and I live in the DUSA Bookshop. I’m looking for some contributors to partake in my awesomeness. I like new art, music, and writing, and am friends with cool cats like Michaela McGuire, Kes, Ben Law, Mel Stringer, Spiral Stairs, Heidi Julavits, The Lucksmiths, and Neil Gaiman. If you do fiction, non-fiction, poems, incidental art, comics; if you’re Australian and rad, check out my pad at www.theliftedbrow.com.

Because I failed to bring home the Deakin bacon

I lied. Things don’t happen in Burwood (except for op shops—the Burwood East RSPCA op shop is the best). 

Since I am unable to report back on Words@Deakin, I thought I’d link to Stop Drop and Roll’s article on royal-family inbreeding, ‘Hapsburg Cubed: How to get a severe disfigurement named after your family’.

I’ve also finally uploaded Josephine Rowe’s performance of ‘Fast’ from The Lifted Brow Issue Five launch for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy.