Ultimately, by dismissing student activists as being intolerant snowflakes, commentators can avoid engaging with the arguments that these activists make. These are arguments that the commentator might disagree with, that they might find unsettling, that they might … well, be triggered by. The commentator can also avoid acknowledging (much less trying to rectify) social inequalities.
The audiologist might ask you how you feel about spending three grand on a set of hearing aids, and you might tell them you intend to explore other options, such as getting more of your sonic satisfaction from words. To find a new way of appreciating sound without bothering my ears, I began to assemble the list of what might be called Sonic Fiction, the Literature of the Ear, or the Noisy Novel. And Marlon James’s A Brief History of Seven Killings, a novel saturated with sound and explicitly concerned with hearing and listening, comes very close to taking the title of ‘the noisiest novel ever’.
The benefits of women taking and using their authentic voices to tell their stories from a place of authority are far-reaching and largely very positive. But when we box women writers into a selective space that disallows exploration of themes, subjects, and topics outside of memoir, we open the door to women writers only to shut them into the foyer.
How we approach a short story, any story, influences our interaction with the text, where pre-reading judgements affect the intercourse between the author and reader. My approach to this collection was of a reader expecting to notice characteristics of the archetypal short story. As I immersed myself into the act of reading, I experienced subtle and then significant movement from being resistant to being enticed by the author’s voice and style.
Davis has been called, dismissively, ‘a writer’s writer’s writer’, which gives the impression that her work exists somewhere on the ethereal edges of what can be enjoyed by the average person. It’s true that Davis’s prose is often very close to poetry in its meticulous attention to the verbal. But to dismiss this kind of writing as gratuitously abstruse, available only to other writers, is to ignore the true gift that Davis gives us in her work: the gift of noticing, or ‘vigilance’, as one of her Booker-prize judges called it.
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’.
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?