The Lost Art of Room Travel

9780987596505_p0_v1_s260x420by Jennifer Barrett
Koala Cove Press, 2013

In 1790, a Frenchman by the name of Xavier De Maistre claimed to have pioneered the art of room travel; he explored his bedroom for the 42-day duration of a house arrest sentence he received for dueling. Over two centuries later, an Australian by the name of of Jennifer Barrett tried De Maistre’s unusual mode of travel for herself, embarking on a journey around her study. Her personal observations of the various objects she encountered soon developed into deeper meditations on the wider issues and ideas that arose from them. The result is The Lost Art of Room Travel—a collection of nine narrative essays that navigate ideas including imagination, travel, and nostalgia, in a voice that is, by turns, serious, comic, and even surreal.

An excerpt:

One  day while searching the T.V. channels for something interesting, I found that a Magnum P.I. re-run was on, the first time I had seen an episode since they were originally aired in the 1980s. As I settled down to watch I thought it would probably be a bit cringe-worthy, as many television series from that era are when re-visited. Although I had been a huge fan of the Magnum episodes, I wasn’t sure whether they would hold the same appeal decades later. However, somewhat to my surprise, I really enjoyed it. The episodes, which aired a few days a week, became something to look forward to. For the brief time it took Magnum and his friends to “save the day” I was transported away from the constricted confines of my house and deposited into the tropical beauty of Hawaii. The fact that the leading man, played by Tom Selleck, was very easy on the eyes may have added to the show’s attraction, but I admit nothing…

[One] reason the Magnum episodes appealed to me was that I had originally seen them when in my early twenties, so at a subconscious level I was connecting with my youth again while watching them. That’s presumably why nostalgia is such big business, with re-runs of the shows from the 70s, 80s, and 90s, and clothing from previous decades coming back into vogue. People who were young when the originals made their debuts are reminded of their youth.

 

Verge 2012, Inverse

Verge 2012Edited by Samantha Clifford & Rosalind McFarlane
Monash University Publishing

Verge, started in 2005, is Monash University’s annual anthology of creative writing. It features work from Monash University’s writers and poets alongside works from some of Australia’s notable writers. Edited by Samantha Clifford and Rosalind McFarlane, this year’s edition of Verge is concerned with boundaries and writing against and beyond them. Writers for this issue were asked to consider the idea of “inverse” in their work. (adapted form back cover)

Two women cloaked in black burkas superimposed over a collage of yellow carnations is the first image that appears in this issue. Created by Stephanie Yap,  the geometric lines, as they clash with the curved lines of the women’s figures, create an illusion of depth. The final image in the issue is an abstract painting by Jenny Luong, titled “Inverse.” Both pieces highlight the notion that between one thing and its inverse exists a boundary that is as concrete as it is permeable.

The poems and prose in the issue expand on this notion. In the middle of the issue is a short comic by “Rouge et Noir” by Bruce Mutard. The story Mutard tells is of racial conflict amongst military men and gender roles in the public sphere and how these conflicts manifest themselves during a night out on the town.

Lines for Birds

poems and paintingspoems & paintings
by Barry Hill & John Wolseley

Lines for Birds is the result of a collaboration between painter John Wolseley and award-winning poet Barry Hill. The book follows the flight paths and habitats of birds, from the Victorian Mallee to the forests of South East Asia, to Japan and the south of France. (Publisher’s Description)

Barry Hill grew up in a coastal, Melbourne suburb in Australia, and since childhood has had a fascination with birds. He writes, “The whole experience of heading west on foot, out across those paddocks miles from the built up area, was inseparable from a sense of being as free as the hawks above us. Fragility and wildness—that’s how birds penetrated me as a kid.”  John Wolseley was born in England and spent much of his childhood outdoors among native birds and eventually migrated to Australia where, as he puts it, “birds and their songs followed me in a succession of homes and campsites in the scrub.”

(Taken from the back cover: “When a bird arrives, quite literally, into our space, it constitutes a burning moment in time, one which instantly seems to possess a memorable vibration. Birds have a natural, real presence. It is unqualified. That is their power. At the same time, their presence is constantly mediated by our culture, which sets off other vibrations, including spiritual ones.”)

The Long Road: A Novel

by Kim In-Suk
MerwinAsia, 2010

The Long Road is a short novel that examines the processes that caused idealistic young Koreans to depart for overseas during the 1990s in the wake of their experiences under Korea’s darker days of military dictatorship in the 1980s. The story centers on a trio of men: Han-Yeong, who although initially attracted to the freedom that Australia seems to promise, comes to feel increasingly ambivalent about his life there; his brother Han-Rim, a former minor singing star who fell afoul of the authorities in Korea for a song seen as critical of the government; and Myeong-U, who had been a student activist in Korea and develops psychological difficulties during his time in custody for protesting.

Winner of the 1995 Hanguk Ilbo Literary prize, The Long Road is the sole work of Korean literature in English that treats the Korean diaspora experience in Australia. (Publisher’s description)

Kim In-Suk is one of the most prominent of Korea’s new wave of female writers born in the early sixties. Recipient of numerous prestigious literary prizes, she is also one of the few writers to deal extensively with the Korean expatriate experience.

Candy: A Novel of Love and Addiction


By Luke Davies

Ballantine Books, 1998.

Like Trainspotting, Candy depicts heroin addicts in a British subculture, but it is set in Australia, not Scotland. “Candy” is the slang name of the unnamed narrator’s two great loves: his girlfriend and heroin. He introduces her to the drug, and they descend from being high on life, love, and drugs, to being shamed through prostitution, crime, addiction, and recovery. With no character background, the book reads as a string of scams to score money and heroin: some hilarious, some desperate, and some both at once. One scam starts when they answer a ringing public phone that the caller mistakenly believes is a suicide prevention line. Candy and the narrator are ruthless but human; their likableness and the immediacy of their dramas make them sympathetic even when pathetic. The writing is lean and strong but offers no resolution. Although that reflects junkies’ reality, sometimes the pacing is jarring as the characters take action long after the audience is ready. Still, the good writing, realistic portrayal, and affable characters plunge readers into the junkies’ world, safely returning them with veins intact. (Booklist)

Luke Davies was born in Sydney in 1962. He is currently on an Australia Council writers’ fellowship and has worked variously as a teacher, journalist and script editor. Luke Davies’ collection of poetry Absolute Event Horizon was shortlisted for the 1995 Turnbull Fox Phillips poetry prize.