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!
Libraries have always played a huge role in my life. Now, in a different city far from the lakeside town I grew up in, I still have my routine, my favourite spot, a fondness for DIY signage. And yet, I never saw myself as a librarian until a few years ago.
When I remember stories, I remember films – how they made me feel, what they made me think about, and often the experience of seeing them. Eli needed the bathroom in Phantom Menace, and Dad took him, reluctantly – they were only gone for five minutes, but that was long enough.
From there, this acknowledgement fetish expanded to my leisure reading. Novels, memoirs, narrative non-fiction – they all contained these tantalising windows into the person and story behind the book. Whenever I picked up a new tome, I would head straight to the back to find out what the author had to say for themselves.
George Orwell is trending. But why?
No doubt the answer is complicated, but one reason, perhaps, is that Orwell anticipated the deepening epistemic crisis signified in the phrase ‘post-truth’. We are living through a time of thoroughgoing confusion as to what kind of information counts as evidence, and this is something Orwell came back to time and again in his novels and essays. ‘The very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world,’ he wrote in Looking Back on the Spanish War. ‘Lies will pass into history.’ In Nineteen Eighty-Four, the Party’s paradoxical slogans – ‘War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength’ – can feel at times like a prophecy of the kind of intellectual contortions that characterise the populist wave. (Trump, it has been persuasively argued, is a categorically different beast to the garden-variety lying politician: while the latter cares enough about truth to want to hide it from the public’s gaze, the former has no interest in it at all.) The adjective ‘Orwellian’ has two definitions: totalitarian in character and intellectually rigorous. Mundane as it is to talk in terms of Orwell being ‘more relevant than ever’, my sense is that we’re turning to Orwell partly because he embodies the rigour that our own time so conspicuously lacks.
When asked in an interview what he feared most during this war, Palestinian writer Khalil Abu Yahia responded, ‘I fear that I will die without achieving my dreams. I want to complete my PhD. I want to rebuild my family’s house… And [my] biggest dream – to meet my [international] friends in person, to shake hands, to hug them. It sounds very simple, but colonialism disconnects people from the rest of the world.’
While often playful and ironic, the bin chicken phenomenon has a more serious side. Like an ‘animal familiar’, the humble ibis is helping us navigate changing times, including the question of who belongs and who does not in modern Australia. A vast array of bin chicken merch celebrates a decidedly kitsch Aussie aesthetic that champions a working-class or bogan sensibility.
During my first news break at 6.30 am, I read the news reports about Israeli airstrikes out verbatim. But as I spoke into the mic, I felt unsettled by what I was saying. I had naively thought that this kind of bare-bones style of ‘raw’ AAP reportage is simply factual, and free from linguistic sleights of hand. But of course, I was wrong.
If anyone’s going to sell me shit, I reason, it may as well be a feminist: our virtual ‘bestie’ or ‘big sister’. We’re all implicated in the inescapable circuits of buying and selling anyway. This is just women looking out for women, linking arms as we negotiate the inevitable conditions of our lives – the capitalist matrix from which we cannot simply unplug ourselves.
THIS IS MY address, Gabrielle, to you and to no one else. You are the person I wish to speak to about the tumult of recent weeks. Remember how I told you that when I have my first sentence and have weighed it, then I know I have my piece? I have my sentence now. I have my foundation, I have my structure, I have at last the language that will allow me to speak.
In fiction, dreams are a useful tool. They are the writer’s divine intervention. Like the famous opening of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, they can reveal the past in eidetic detail. They can make the murmurs of the subconscious plain. Catherine Earnshaw dreams she leaves Heathcliff to enter heaven, only to begin weeping to come back to earth.
‘We’re gonna be legends,’ Spook whispered. I thought of the afternoon Dingo told him the plan, the four of us kicking up creek beds after school. How Spook had said the same thing then. The rest of us had listened, poking through the underbrush for toads. I knew Dingo would let him boast. Legends were made of news stories and souvenirs. Schoolboys like Spook were made of lies.
Gay identity is not a single, fixed thing. But the flamboyant brand of this identity, which is on display at Pride or Mardi Gras, seems to have become the most important and recognisable version of queerness in the public imagination. When we focus on this entitled, Western version of gay identity, entire communities get overlooked.