Australian Fiction

May 2019

Practical Cataclysms: Sisters of No Mercy and Highway Bodies

'Speculative fictions like Sisters of No Mercy and Highway Bodies can help us to think in new ways about trans lives and families... They show that the infinitesimal choices of solidarity are ultimately life-saving: we can find meaning and security in the sharpened looks of our peers, in knowledge sharing and maneuvering and organising, and in self-belief.'

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The SRB is an initiative of The Writing and Society Research Centre at Western Sydney University

April 2019

Orphans of Empire: Saudade by Suneeta Peres da Costa

Towards the end of the novella Saudade, as the now teenage protagonist Maria-Cristina, the daughter of Goan immigrants in Angola, sits facing the Mozambican family servant Caetano on the eve of Angolan independence, she realizes that they are both ‘orphans of Empire’. The author, Suneeta Peres da Costa, has given us an evocative language for understanding the liminality of these two characters. They are both orphans or soon-to-be orphans, and also abandoned as Portuguese colonial rule crumbles in the 1970s.

When The Manuals Fail Us:
Exploded View by Carrie Tiffany

the manual also represents a system of knowledge, an empirical way of looking at the world, or at least one small part of it, that is rational, logical, complete. It’s a diagram and a schemata, everything accounted for and with a purpose, function, and means of repair. And it’s a system of knowledge that falls down entirely when the narrator tries to transfer it to her wider world – because a family is not an engine, where ‘everything is straight. Everything is clean’, all the parts are ‘gilded, all snug up, side by side’. The parts don’t fit together perfectly, and they don’t add up to something that runs smoothly and well.

Running Man: Coach Fitz by Tom Lee

Lee is by turns satirist and survivor of the New Victorianism. On a jog through Woollahra’s Trumper Park, Tom dreams conventional dreams of a house in the bush, a place for he and a loving partner to raise ‘a number of virile and sensitive children’ with landscape needs of their own. The middle-class dream is out of reach for now, but his religious devotion to physical fitness is the means by which he dreams it. He doesn’t just display the idea that ritual exercise on an organic diet is morally good, he believes it is spiritually good. Wellness, as we now call it—or sell it—is a condition devoutly to be wished, the hard-earned product of what Coach refers to as ‘lifestyle ambitions of a more enduring nature.’

Spooks and Plants:
on the crime fiction of Michael Wilding

'Back in the 1970s Wilding’s column for the alert, even radical, Nation Review was entitled ‘Paranoia’ and delved into possible modes of contemporary thought-control, even at times suggesting material was being ‘planted’ upon authors like himself. In the crime novels the detective Plant seems like his author’s own implantation, not just as the source of a reviewers’ joke, but a seed from which information might slowly burgeon before the reader’s eye.'