In the heat of this unfolding crisis, vice-chancellors accidentally reveal the underlying logics of the spreadsheet. Budgets must be reduced, savings must be made; they tell us this as they consult the spreadsheet that surrounds them like a moat. The spreadsheet contains hard data, raw data, objective truths, they say. The numbers don’t lie. But the document is as much an operation of judgement as it is one of fiscal analysis; the spreadsheet obscures as much as it reveals.
Money is like shit, Richard Flanagan said, before publicly donating his prize money to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation. I like this statement. But I also know Flanagan wasn’t working in a call centre when he made it, was already a Booker Prize winner, probably living somewhere nicer than a unit with black mould and dripping fixtures. Which begs the question: at what point does the smell become offensive?
Show Me Love
One of my main self-appointed tasks was tidying Mum’s room, a perpetual mess filled with sewing material and teaching resources and our school newsletters from kindergarten. I told myself I wanted her to be able to use the room now that she finally had time. I oscillated between my own rubric for what to keep and what to throw out and what I supposed Mum’s rubric to be. Sometimes Mum would stand watching me, rescuing the papers I put in a recycling pile. Turns out I wasn’t practising care or spending time with Mum; I was further wresting control away from her. Eventually I shut the door and left the room only slightly less messy than before.
The me that writes the first fragment of a piece is different in significant ways from the me who decides, at some more or less arbitrary point months or years later, that the collection of scrawls and scribbles across multiple notebooks constitutes a first draft, and sets the whole thing aside to mellow and ferment in the cool of a desk drawer
Between 1935 and 1939, the Federal Writers’ Project – an initiative funded by the Works Project Administration under the New Deal – provided employment for some 6000 jobless writers. Today, as stunned authors in Australia and around the world come to terms with the economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, that experiment deserves reconsideration.
Trapped in Negation
I am well aware that academics have been complaining about managerialism and lamenting the fate of the humanities from time immemorial. But I can’t recall a time when the discipline of literary studies, in particular, has seemed as besieged and vulnerable as its does at present.
The fires that are burning across Australia are changing this place, quite possibly forever, and with it our natural, social, cultural, and political narratives. The fires are writing new stories into the very rocks and soil of our land, this land that has always had stories engraved in rocks and soil, this always-was-always-will-be Aboriginal land. Our newest story is pyrogenic. Born of fire, it will throw green shoots out from blackness. It must.
The gym is seen as antithetical to writing and intellect. The body doesn’t write, or if it does, it does so in another language. I don’t relate. I do most of my good writing at the gym, feeding off the extremities and horniness that gym contains.