Waiting, waiting… I’m waiting on a call from Western Australia for a freelance story I’m researching… it should have come an hour ago, but as they’re 3 hours behind in Perth, I could be here a while (raps fingers). Not to flick the gift horse’s tonsils or anything, but this is a tiny story, a mere 500 words, and it’s requiring lots more work than it’s worth. You get that, but it’s not ideal.
Three things while I’ve got the chance: award-winning short story writer, novelist and (I can attest) workshop Wonderwoman Cate Kennedy is the editor of this year’s Best Australian Stories for Black Inc. Judging from her lively conversation with Ramona Koval on yesterday’s Book Show, this collection is a doozy. Cate received hundreds of entries in the open call for submissions, more evidence (as if we needed any) that short story writing and writing in general is alive and well Down Under, something I celebrate even as it makes my own writing life a damn sight harder.
I was planning to buy a copy anyway, even before realising I know one of the featured authors, but now I’m especially looking forward to it. I did my PhD alongside Joshua Lobb, and not only is he a supremely talented little bastardo, he’s also one of life’s good guys, and I am delighted he’s cracked Cate’s final list. I can’t wait to read his story. Now a lecturer in the Faculty of Creative Arts at the University of Wollongong, Joshua is an A.S. Byatt expert as well as a theatre nut. I saw his play Wilde Tales performed at the Belvoir St Theatre – a radical reimagining of Oscar Wilde’s Fairy Tales – and I know this story, ‘I forgot my programme so I went to get it back,’ is going to be just as funny and original and true. He’s a delightful writer and all round top human being, and I’ll report back with the verdict on his story once I get my grubby paws on a copy of the collection.
The second thing is the rumoured imminent demise of the print version of Meanjin, one of Australia’s longest running and most well-regarded literary journals. All plans remain unconfirmed, but persistent whispers suggest outgoing editor Sophie Cunningham decided not to renew her contract not only so she could focus on her own writing (Cunningham being a respected novelist in her own right), but because she wasn’t much enamoured with the idea of steering a purely digital ship. Can’t say I blame her – it’s great that so much quality writing is available online, but nothing comes close to the real thing. Online journals are brilliant for research and interest purposes, but I don’t love curling up on the couch with my computer, and I never will.
Finally, back to the Book Show, the book being read on the First Person segment at the moment is Black Like Me, by John Howard Griffin, the harrowing non-fiction account of journalist Griffin’s experience during a six-week, drug-induced transformation into a black man for the purposes of researching life in the racially segregated South of 1959. It is largely horrifying – some of the white men who pick up the hitchhiking Griffin are so unspeakably ghastly that I was choking back sobs by the end of today’s reading – with only occasional glimpses of decency. It is actually impossible for me to inhabit the minds of these people who were so full of baseless hate for their fellow human being – I just can’t begin to access their ugly thinking – but it is an incredible story, absolutely unforgettable, and it should be required reading everywhere.