Skip to content

Questions, questions, questions. Also some music.

I’m going to put together a roundup of reviews and articles about Clade soon, but in the meantime I’ve done a pair of Q&As you might like to check out. The first was for Penguin, and you can read it on their website; the other was for the fabulous Angela Slatter’s blog.

And while it’s not about the book, I’ve also just done a little thing for Zena Shapter about the music I’ve been enjoying recently. You can read the whole thing over on Zena’s blog, but because I wrote it a couple of weeks ago I didn’t include two things I’ve been loving in the past little while. The first is Israeli singer-songwriter Asaf Avidan’s fabulous album, Gold Shadow, which rather like Angel Olsen’s excellent Burn Your Fire For No Witness, looks back to the 1960s and beyond for a series of sounds and production techniques which manage to sound both retro and completely contemporary. And the other is The Beatles’ fourth album, Beatles For Sale, a record I was convinced to go back to by Jonathan Gould’s enthusiastic discussion of it in his biography of the Fab Four, Can’t Buy Me Love (which I’m planning to write something about on the weekend). For various reasons I’d come to accept the line that it’s an album born of exhaustion and creative burnout, a trough between the high points of A Hard Day’s Night and Help, but having listened to it again I’ve realised it’s actually much more interesting than I’d given it credit for, not just because original songs like ‘No Reply’ are so terrific, but because the choice of covers implies a fascinating conversation with their various influences and antecedents (and also, I suspect, prefigure the engagement with music hall and other, older forms on albums like Sgt Pepper).

Aurealis Awards!

aurealis-awards-finalist-high-resA little after the fact because I’ve been in Adelaide for Writers’ Week, but last Friday saw the release of the finalists for this year’s Aurealis Awards, and I’m delighted to say my story, ‘Skinsuit’, has been shortlisted for Best Horror Short Story alongside stories by Deb Biancotti, Kirstyn McDermott, Garth Nix and Angela Slatter.

You can read the full list of finalists on the Aurealis Awards website, but suffice it to say there’s a lot of brilliant stuff on the various shortlists. And while the story isn’t online, if you’re in Australia you can read it by picking up a copy of #137 of Island Magazine

The winners are announced in Canberra on 11 April and tickets to the ceremony are $40 until 11 March and $50 thereafter. In the meantime my congratulations to all my fellow finalists, in particular Deb, Kirstyn, Garth and Angela, and thank you not just to the team at Island for publishing the story, but to the judges and organisers for making the awards happen in the first place.

Update: you can now hear Jonathan Strahan, Tehani Wessely, Alisa Krasnostein and Seán Wright discussing the awards and the various shortlists on a special episode of the Coode Street podcast.

Upcoming Events: Gleebooks, Stanton Library and the Wheeler Centre and Readings

bees1

I’m about to head off to Adelaide Writers’ Week, but excitingly I’ll also be doing a series of events in Sydney and Melbourne over the next month.

The first is on at 6:00 for 6:30pm on Thursday 12 March at Gleebooks, where I’ll be in conversation with James Tierney. If you’re interested you can read James’ incredibly generous review of Clade over at Kill Your Darlings, otherwise you can book tickets by calling 02 9660 2333 or via the Gleebooks website.

The second is at Stanton Library in North Sydney at 1:00pm on Tuesday 17 March. Again you can book tickets by calling the library on 02 9936 8400 or through their website.

Later in the month I’ll be appearing at two events in Melbourne as well. At 7:15pm on Tuesday 24 March I’ll be appearing at the Wheeler centre with Jane Bryony Rawson, and Alice Robinson on a panel about ‘New Dystopias: Climate Change and Fiction’. I’ve not read Alice’s book yet but I’ve read Jane’s, A Wrong Turn at the Office of Unmade Lists and it’s a terrific book that grapples with the questions of climate change and how you might write about it in innovative and very creative ways, so I think it’ll be a great evening. Tickets are free and can be booked through the Wheeler Centre website.

And finally, on Wednesday 25 March I’ll speaking at Readings Carlton at 6:30pm. Tickets are free and available via the Readings website.

If you’re in Sydney or Melbourne it’d be great to see you at one of them. If not I’ll have some news about events elsewhere soon. And hopefully I’ll get a few other things up here sometimes soon.

 

 

 

Dymocks Podcast

Just a quick note to say that if you’re interested you can catch me chatting about Clade and associated subjects with Tonile Wortley on the latest Dymocks podcast. I’ve embedded the podcast below, but it’s also available via the Dymocks website.

 

Geordie Williamson launches Clade

You can now watch Geordie Williamson’s characteristically generous and thoughtful speech at the launch of Clade at Better Read Than Dead Bookshop in Newtown last week. My heartfelt thanks to Geordie, the team at Better Read Than Dead and everybody who came along for making it such a special event.

Yoko Ogawa, Revenge: Eleven Dark Tales

RevengeTowards the end of ‘Afternoon at the Bakery’, the opening story of Japanese author Yoko Ogawa’s slim but mesmerizing volume, Revenge, the narrator describes the discovery of the body of her late son, who suffocated after crawling into an abandoned refrigerator.

“He’s just sleeping,” she says, refusing to believe he is dead, “He hasn’t eaten anything, and he must be exhausted. Let’s carry him home and try not to wake him. He should sleep, as much as he wants. He’ll wake up later, I’m sure of it”.

It’s an exquisitely unsettling moment, and not just because of the way it plays upon our deep-seated sense of the strangeness of death, its closeness to life, but because of the way it evokes a particular sort of psychological instability, reminding us of how easy it is for our minds recoil from reality and take refuge in fantasy and denial.

Yet it might also serve as a microcosm of the emotional landscape and method of the book as a whole. For as becomes clear when the image of the abandoned refrigerator recurs to deeply disquieting effect in the book’s final pages, the stories in Revenge are not so much a collection, or even a suite or sequence, but something more closely resembling a set of uncanny matryoshka dolls, each nestled inside the last like the dead boy folded into his refrigerator.

For many readers this sort of metafictional gameplay will probably be reminiscent of Murakami, in particular his sprawling opus, 1Q84, with its worlds within worlds and floating cocoons. But where Murakami’s fiction is characterised by the tension between the curiously bland, almost affectless, prose (and its digressive fascination with cooking and running and whatever else seems to take its author’s fancy) and its surreal elements, Ogawa’s draws much of its power from somewhere considerably darker, the almost preternatural clarity of the prose belying the profound cognitive dissonance that lies at the heart of many of these stories.

Sometimes that dissonance reflects a disengagement from reality, rather as the calm words of the narrator of ‘Afternoon at the Bakery’ offer an unsettling suggestion of a mind both rational and profoundly disturbed, a quality that is repeated in ‘Old Mrs J’, in which the slightly-over-familiar landlord of the neighbour turns out to have murdered her husband and buried him in her vegetable plot, an act that has led, in one of the book’s more disturbing images, to crops of carrots resembling human hands (apparently the carrots are “plump, like a baby’s hand, and perfectly formed”).

Elsewhere though it takes other forms, as in stories such as ‘Welcome to the Museum of Torture’, in which a young woman abandoned by her boyfriend (whether for her disturbing affectlessness or for her interest in a nearby murder is never entirely clear) finds herself fascinated by the exhibits in the titular museum, or ‘Lab Coats’, in which a young woman with a crush on her co-worker hears her shocking confession (the story ends with the unnerving image of a tongue lolling out of the pocket of a used coat. “It’s still soft,” the narrator says. “And maybe even warm”).

As the repeated images of bodily mutilation and death suggest, much of the power of the stories in Revenge lies in their capacity to articulate anxieties that are usually suppressed. And certainly the book is at its strongest when it is exploring repression and sublimation, rather than in more deliberately surreal moments such as ‘Sewing for the Heart’, in which a bagmaker is commissioned to make a special bag for a woman whose heart is outside her body.

Yet in many ways what is most striking about Revenge is the way its nested imagery echoes and recurs, weaving a web of implication that is as suggestive as it is disturbing, and giving shape to a world in which the line between reality and our most morbid imaginings is never entirely clear.

‘The Changeling’ Included in 2014 Locus Recommended Reading List

Issue02_499x648As usual the February issue of Locus Magazine includes its annual Recommended Reading List, covering books and stories published over the previous calendar year. Compiled by the magazine’s editors, reviewers and a panel of outside critics, it always makes for fascinating reading, and this year’s list, which includes a number of books and stories I have read and would heartily recommend (David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks, Garth Nix’s Clariel, Adam Roberts’ Bête, Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor, Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Sword, William Gibson’s The Peripheral) and a number I haven’t but I’m looking forward to a lot (Rjurik Davidson’s Unwrapped Sky, Ben Peek’s The Godless, Nina Allan’s The Race) is no exception.

At a personal level though I was delighted to discover my story, ‘The Changeling’, which was published in Jonathan Strahan’s Fearsome Magics (which also gets a mention in the Recommended Anthologies list) included in the list of Recommended Novelettes.

You can read the full list of recommended books and stories over at Locus. And if you’d like to read ‘The Changeling’ you can pick up a copy of Fearsome Magics (which also features stories by Garth NixKarin TidbeckKaaron WarrenFrances HardingeIsobelle Carmody and a bunch of other excellent people) from online and bricks and mortar retailers or through your favourite ebook retailer.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,854 other followers