What do our choices (our likes) – as writers now, as makers – say, if anything, about how we see the world? In other words, do preferences around style speak to the ontologies to which we subscribe, knowingly or not? Does style (in the broadest sense here) betray our most pressing existential worries, our particular way of squirming and daring? And, as an upshot, does what we experience as the spoken or unspoken rules of writing (or of particular writing enclaves and positions on writing) have anything to do with power and politics?
What did Christina Stead see when, in 1930, she left Paris – largely to avoid meeting the mother-in-law of her de-facto partner, William Blech, who, awkwardly, was married to someone else – for Salzburg, Austria, in order to attend a festival devoted to the work of Mozart, that city’s most famous son? The Salzburg Tales, published four years later, was based largely on her time there, and that book’s first word discloses to us in terms that could not be more literal what Stead saw when she arrived: ‘Salzburg’.
While my generation grew up with 50 choices in the yoghurt aisle and encouragement of our individuality and personal freedom, we also grew up with the message of Disney films and romcoms and every manner of heteronormative texts which promised a particular ideal, that one day you would make the choice and would commit fully and become everything to one other person.
Comic books, above all, trade in a kind of closed door policy – the long unknowable road of past narrative, which at this point in comic book history resembles a mirror now shattered into millions of shards. Back stories, alternate histories, side issues, spinoffs, retcons. At some point when writing anything like this there’s always a question you ask yourself: how much comic book lore do I discuss?
Neuroscientists have recently argued that when we remember something, we’re not recalling the original event, but the last time we remembered it. Each remembrance is an extra level of remove, spinning us further away from our actual lived experience. Eventually, what we remember might very well not resemble the experience at all… Within this framework, there are clear and understandable reasons why we remember things differently to those around us, aside from subjective experience. But how does this work when we’re referring back to solid ‘evidence’ while doing the remembering?
‘The surge of technology into our lives hasn’t replaced what we used to do with our time – it’s on top of it, so I’m forever hearing from people who only get to read novels on holidays now. And there, perhaps, is where the novella comes in. It goes deep, but it doesn’t go long. It offers some of the commitment and satisfaction of a novel, but it’s the length of an evening or a domestic plane flight. If the novella didn’t exist, this would be a great time to invent it.’
I hate answering questions about Indian culture from well-meaning colleagues or friends in case I get it wrong, and I constantly feel like other Indians who work with me are judging me for what I wear, or say, or do. I know that these insecurities are internally driven in a large part, but the process of becoming Australian has scoured away at my Indian-Fijian origins, and it’s difficult to imagine ever really owning either identity.
Write a 500-word fragment of fiction about a happy couple who try to solve a simple mystery. Tell us the story from the point of view of only one member of this couple. Maybe they’re in the early bloom of love, or maybe they’ve been together quite a while. The fact that they’re in love and relatively happy is not what concerns this piece of narrative, but the way these two people (man and man, woman and woman, or woman and man) work together is crucial to the resolution of the problem at the heart of the story.
By now you’ve probably heard about Nick Earls’ Wisdom Tree series. Five novellas released each month from May 2016. All individual, all linked in subtle and intriguing ways…
Here’s a sneak peek at No. 3, out next month.