Edition 83

Past Perfect

  • Published 6th February, 2024
  • ISBN: 978-1-922212-92-4
  • Extent: 203pp
  • Paperback, ePub, PDF, Kindle compatible

The past, famously, is a foreign country – but in the twenty-first century, it’s one in which we increasingly seek solace. What fuels this love affair with recycling our history? What periods do we choose to romanticise, and how do our rose-tinted glasses occlude reality? Is all this nostalgia signifying – as the late Mark Fisher opined – the disappearance of the future? 

In this edition, we explore the connection between loneliness, nostalgia and Big Tech and the ways nostalgia has been weaponised for political gain. 

We revisit the heyday of advertising in the ’90s and investigate two long-standing editorial myths: have editors got worse? Do they infringe too much on the work of authors? 

We talk with Melissa Lukashenko about the important role of historical fiction in recovering First Nations knowledges, experiences and stories, and learn from Witi Ihimaera about the ingenuity, mischief and gift for reinvention at the heart of Indigenous storytelling. 

Griffith Review 83: Past Perfect surveys our need to idealise, sensationalise and glamorise – and asks what the circular nature of our obsessions says about our present cultural moment. 

In this Edition

The fall of the madmen

The problem with a fear-based workplace – and indeed world – is that caution and compliance are not compatible with creativity. Creativity searches for the things that have never been done before, on which, by definition, there is as yet no data. Scott Nowell argues that the obsession with data has made us lose faith in our own instincts, so it’s not surprising that creativity is not valued the way it once was. And the source of creativity has shifted to the ­consumers themselves.

Anticipating enchantment

When an editor works on a book, they balance reader expectations with what they interpret the author’s intentions to be and use their experience to make suggestions. This might mean changing some of the language to ensure the work is comprehensible for general readers, or asking for more detail where a setting has been hastily described. An editor will always be anticipating the market, and their extensive reading of contemporary works makes them well-placed not only to understand the social and political conditions of the day but also trends in publishing and marketing. 

From anchor to weapon

In 1930s Germany, the slogan ‘blood and soil’ was most prominently promulgated by the Reich Ministry of Food and Agriculture, which positioned itself not merely as an administrator but a kind of advocate-guardian of the soil and its workers. In 1930, Adolf Hitler recruited Richard Walther Darré, then a leading blood and soil theorist, to the Nazi Party. On seizing power in 1933, Hitler appointed Darré Reichsminister of Agriculture, a role he occupied until 1942. Recently, for reasons that are unclear but politically alarming, Darré’s works on blood and soil have been translated and republished in English to some fanfare.

Farming futures

The tempo of seasonal food production gives Mildura its seductive groove. The race is on to get food to market when prices are high and before it wilts and rots. But this race is only incidentally about food and mainly about finance. When markets fail or supply chains are disrupted, harvests are bitter. Watermelons, zucchinis and lettuces are ploughed back into the ground. Grapes are left hanging on vines, sitting in coolrooms and rotting in shipping containers grounded at ports.

The ship, the students, the chief and the children

The power of the fossil-fuel order depends on foreclosing any kind of political and institutional decisions that would see societies break free from the malignant clamp of coal, oil and gas corporations. This power also depends on eliding alternative ways of seeing. In one sense, the whole of the political struggle against climate change can be understood as an effort to make corporate and political decision-makers see, such that they are required to act.

Apocalypse, then?

Writing took almost everything from me. Most afternoons, I’d arrive home from teaching classrooms of uninterested students, have a little Henry time, defrost a ready-to-eat supermarket meal, open a bottle of shiraz and write until midnight. Most weekends, I’d start writing once the hangover wore off, break for lunch, and then write again until dinner. It wasn’t just punishing on my physical health, it ruined my relationships, most recently with Greg, who said I’d die miserable and alone if I maintained my grim routine. And for what? The occasional acceptance from an obscure journal read by twelve other short-story writers?

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