Over the last two years, the capacity to manage mood has been monetised through the sharing of fake news and political feeds atuned to reader preference: you can also make people happy by confirming their biases.
A Kafkaesque conundrum I Matthew* is getting agitated. There are eight of us sitting around a large, rectangular table in the Melbourne Social Equity Institute’s meeting room in Carlton, with four others joining in by video from the Northern Territory and New South Wales. It is the second advisory board meeting for our interdisciplinary research project on unfitness to plead laws. Matthew is part of the Voice at the Table project, which aims to increase the number of people with cognitive disabilities on advisory boards and committees across Victoria. He joins an advisory board populated by lawyers, psychologists, representatives […]
There was a farmer who lived in the nineteenth century on the Currawong Creek, about 20 minutes as the crow flies from me in southern New South Wales. His name was James Roberts and that name should be known in Australia but it is not. Roberts lived in a big stone house, which in the style of the times hid its occupants from the hard Australian sunlight. He was born in 1812, the son of a pardoned convict called William, who made his living building roads. James was one of the first white settlers in the district and subsequently squatted […]
Within those 94-year-old walls of Wesley College at the University of Sydney, 200 students gathered to commence the semester in the waning days of summer 2011. We jostled in from Brisbane, Narrandera, Orange, the Northern Beaches and Melbourne, bringing with us our daddy issues and eating disorders, our addictions and attention deficits. My peers slung questions such as ‘what was your ATAR?’ and ‘what school did you go to?’ along the dining table. We freshers were assigned to the table closest to the double doors, further from the stage and the ‘high table’. Wesley College was established in 1910 as […]
I think we all have empathy. We may not have enough courage to display it. —Maya Angelou When my daughter was two-and-a-half, I took her to her first movie. She was princess-obsessed at the time and I had bought tickets to The Little Mermaid. I knew this was ambitious—toddlers are not known for their capacity to sit still for 90 minutes. I had anticipated a short period of awe, quickly superseded by an ants-in-the-pants restlessness. What I had not expected was to hear her wailing by the end of the first song. But a few minutes after Ariel began lamenting […]
At the 2017 Brisbane Writers Festival, I sat on the ‘Australian Heroes’ panel with First World War historian Martin Crotty, Rebe Taylor, author of Into the Heart of Tasmania, and Crotty’s colleague, University of Queensland historian Geoff Ginn. ‘We are in an iconoclastic cultural moment when it comes to grand figures on pedestals,’ Ginn said. ‘There are pressing thoughts on the nature of heroism and stereotypes of heroism.’ It was a small audience—my publisher consoled that by 5.30 pm most have gone home or to the festival bar. We talked about a range of topics from the Anzacs, Henry and […]
Australian cities, suburbs, regional centres and towns are replete with memorials to European men responsible for the murders of countless Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
‘I’ll have the avocado salad,’ she says to the waiter with the understated grace that is a trademark of her Miles Franklin Award–winning prose. A passerby wouldn’t guess it, but this woman, who chose the avocado salad after seriously contemplating the mushroom risotto, has just released her seventh critically acclaimed novel. And this time, just like her decision not to add the poached chicken for an additional $4.50, it comes with its share of controversy. Her latest tome, which tackles the difficult topic of government censorship, has been banned in six countries. Naturally, I decide to address the elephant in […]
Five years before King Kong mounted the Empire State clutching ‘golden woman’ Fay Wray in his car-sized mitt, director Merian C. Cooper rehearsed his abiding theme of savagery versus civilisation in a half-forgotten masterpiece of silent cinema. The 1927 film, co-directed with cameraman Ernest B. Schoedsack, is titled Chang: A Drama of the Wilderness. Every bit as edgy as King Kong, with considerably more charm, it’s a documentary-style fable about things that go wrong when we invade the wild. The beast at the heart of the tale—more menace than monster—is an elephant, for which the Thai name is chang. Chang […]
Beverley Farmer, The Seal Woman (1992) I’ve been thinking about Beverley Farmer’s beautiful, aching book The Seal Woman again recently because I spent some time last year on the surf coast of Victoria, alone in a house on a hill above a beach, red-rocked and windy and wild—the same kind of landscape that Dagmar, the book’s protagonist, inhabits. Dagmar is Danish, but has returned to Australia, to the coastal town where she spent her honeymoon 20 years ago, to mourn her husband, who was killed recently in a shipping accident in the North Sea. Dagmar is housesitting for the friends […]
As delivered by Julie Koh Mark Twain once declared that the sole function of a writer is to tell the truth. And yet many of the world’s noblest storytellers—the consciences of our nations—have sadly gone unrecognised in their own lifetimes. With this in mind, we have gathered here today to announce the winner of the inaugural Paradox Prize—an award recognising the best unrecognised book of the previous year. It is a pleasure to be here at the State Library of New South Wales on this fine December evening. Many thanks to Meanjin, which has generously sponsored this ceremony. The Paradox […]
Audio: As read by the author on Narratives, a Meanjin podcast. I sat on the bed, staring at the phone like it had fangs about to dig into my skin. My cousin’s name was lit up like a flag. Dread pulsed in my chest. Here came the conversation I’d been avoiding for more than a decade. He now knew I liked sucking dick. I flicked my thumb over his name, tender as a blade, and watched it slide open. ‘Yeah, cuz,’ I said. ‘Shu, cuz, where are ya?’ He sounded like he’d just woken up, but only because […]