Welcome to GR Online, a new series of short-form articles that take aim at the moving target of contemporary culture as it’s whisked along the guide rails of innovations in digital media, globalisation and late-stage capitalism.
In 2023, we’re delighted to be publishing three regular online contributors: Jumaana Abdu, Sam Elkin and Amber Gwynne. In addition to work by these three stellar writers, we’ll also be publishing occasional pieces by other contributors throughout the year. Stay tuned!
Reddit, I click. One post notes that mammals are difficult to taxidermise because it’s hard to find a dead mammal to practise on without hunting one yourself. It’s not like u can buy a dead animal with the skin still on at the butcher, BigKen62 posted. Try marine, TommyFishes America replied. I hover the mouse over the word. Then, click it.
I touch the wax of their pickaxes, then run my hand along the wax rock of the walls. One man squats a few metres away from the others, holding a pan. As I move towards him, I notice a label with descriptive text about Victoria’s gold rush, a reminder of the foundational gruesomeness of the enterprise – the colonial history of world’s fairs, or zoos, here insisting on itself in a minor carnival of the macabre.
We were going to visit Patience’s supervisor Callista, a tenured senior lecturer in literature and cultural studies, though her strange, ageless grace made the word senior feel like a misnomer. I knew Patience would have chided me for this, saying it showed both my ageism and internalised misogyny, so these were among the thoughts I kept to myself.
Same old new village
We pass the food market, and the dining hall, where each morning I would take my grandmother to eat yong tofu, hot noodle soup with fishballs and stuffed tofu. She said she always wanted to eat, but in reality she wanted to show me off to her old friends.
People ask me how to manifest their greatest desires because I am clearly living the life of my dreams. I am renowned for my healing work and own a vast business empire connected to it, although this has not always been the case. Prior to my unlimited success, I dabbled in various careers but never settled on any, feeling there was more to existence if only I could grasp it.
Lunch at the dream house
There were columns. It was white. Palatial. ‘Just smile and nod,’ Paul said, as he drove towards the fountain where a replica of Michelangelo’s Bacchus stood in all his glory.
The long supper
Nadia herself was unremarkable. She spoke little and staked little claim. She ate in moderation (always in private). She exercised moderately (always indoors). Books were the exception; those, she binged.
The party for Crabs
As she lists the night’s specials, Claire attempts to figure out the party’s dynamic. Shared complexions make the elegant woman the little girl’s mother, surely. It’s the women’s relationship she can’t figure out. University friends? Distant cousins? Their conversation seems too polite for either. Unnatural.
We don’t stock Gwyneth Paltrow’s cookbook. I know this because Amanda thinks Gwyneth Paltrow is goofy, despite Amanda and Gwyneth Paltrow being the same person. Our customers are Gwyneth Paltrow’s target demographic. If Gwyneth Paltrow wrote a novel our book club would literally devour it.
I found Archie by the shallow end wearing a short terry-towelling robe open to the waist. Time and tide had left him shipwrecked and bloated, but you could still recognise him from the pictures on his album covers: same dark pouf and ducktail and duotone tan, only now he got his colour from a bottle and his hair from a can. He’d been drinking gin and tonic since happy hour started, brought out by an over-attentive waitress.
Last of the rational actors at the end of the unnatural world
Was it Douglas Mawson who compared Antarctica to Mars?... 'Outside, one might be a lone soul standing on Mars', or something very much like that. 'All is desolation and hard.'
The holiday brochures talk about ‘the sound of silence’ in Antarctica. That it is an experience, elliptical and expansive. This has become a long-running joke at the base. Everyone knows that life here relies on making noise.