Argo’s latest show, Flow, feels like the kinda show that characters in a stylish New York drama like ‘Girls’ might have attended. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It just means the work is gorgeous, high production-value, and safe. And those are all okay things for a work to be. Because by being those things, what Argo managed to do was bring together the most diverse audience I’ve ever seen in one place in this town, and then let them mingle and shift comfortably together. The success of Flow is a testament, more than anything, to the universal language of live instrumental music, and the gorgeousness of the Spring Hill Reservoirs.Read More
The Moon Men, as a text, is the strongest it’s ever been. But as a performance, and as a full experience, it is not. Where the text is polished, more nuanced, and clearer in terms of its structure and intent, the delivery of this text is harder to follow, and clumsier—and a lot of this comes down to the space the team chose for their performance. The Greaser carpark is grungy. It’s graffitied, concreted, and tucked away. It’s essentially perfect for The Moon Men’s aesthetic—the space feels like an extension of the marketing and that’s a great thing. But the space, in a functional sense, completely drowns out so much of the effect the show might have had. In fact, what this production proves more clearly than anything is that Anywhere Festival’s old ‘Theatre. Anywhere.’ slogan clearly has a few stipulations attached to it.Read More
I got up at 5am to watch the MSG stream of The Life of Pablo/YZYSZN3 back in February. I watched Kanye come down waving to the cheering hordes of people who surrounded the giant tarps in the centre of the stadium. I watched as Ye and his crew bounced to the new record in front of his fabled laptop, celebrating whatever whack shit they’d created together. I saw Jay Z sitting up the back, frowning and nodding.Read More
2015 will be known as the year I went mainstream and I have no regrets about any of it.
Let me begin this post by saying that I'm angry and probably angry at myself.
I thought I had a book. I thought I had something worth writing again, at the end of the year, like I have had for the past three years--but after three attempts, full whiteboards worth of brainstorming, and 8000 words, I realise I don't.
I think what I have is a potential short-story collection, but the nature of a short-story collection is very different to that of a novel, in a way that means I can't bang it out in a month. I think that's a long-term 2016 project, which is exciting in and of itself. So I suppose, thinking about it, this is not a loss. It's just a delay.
Let me lay out a timeline of the past week:
Sat 14. I wake up hungover and depressed. I have a book to write. I start it. Shit gets weird real quick and is less than inspiring. I keep writing because I know where I want this all to go. But it doesn't go there, and I realise that what I want to write could be captured in a better way than through a cross-desert journey down the Australian East Coast.
Tues 17. I retire the first version of this book after things get really whack and totally zero-dimensional. It had a great name though.
Fri 20. I try again. I try to reframe the story in a post-apocalyptic desert town called Kanyaka Station (which is also the title of the book). I port the exact characters over from 'And May We Never Die', and that goes down in flames pretty quick.
Sat 21, 11am. I start from scratch, this time just keeping the town. But 1000 words in I have a voiceless husk of something that could potentially be great. It begins to dawn on me that I am constructing a short story collection rather than a novel. Uh oh.
Sat 21, 1pm. I start writing the book from the perspective of a building.
Sat 21, 1:15pm. I retire the book.
This last project, minus the perspective of a building, has a great deal of potential. I just don't have the research or planning down to make it what it could be, because what it could be is really special. So that's gonna be 2016. Right now, it's titled: 'Drawing Water From a Mountain', but maybe that's just because writing this fucking thing has been like drawing water from a stone, and Kanyaka means stone, and Kanyaka Station was a city destroyed by drought, which resonates with the creative drought I currently have going on.
I don't know what's going on.
Is it that I worked so hard all year, got sick for over a month, studied for exams, and now I'm expecting myself to write a book? I planned the fucking thing but it's not coming out. I don't feel a drive or a necessity to write the book--so should I not write it, you know, to avoid the trap of writing a book in 2015 only because I wrote one in 2012, in 2013, in 2014? Each one of those books I wrote for a reason, to release something from myself.
I'm not sure what I have right now.
Maybe I'm a bit of a mess.
Maybe I have to figure some shit out before I write about figuring some shit out.
What the fuck is wrong with me.
I'm just so scared of not being prolific, you know?
I flew down to Sydney about thirty-six hours ago, and I’m writing this post on the airplane back. It’s been kinda wild, and I haven’t really stopped all week (both during my time down by the Opera House, as well as beforehand).
I’ve spent the majority of my time these past days in the Hachette offices, either attending panels, meeting n mingling, or attending the Richell Prize ceremony, which I was shortlisted for, and which was presented ultimately to Sally Abbott, who is of no close relationship to our wounded ex-Prime Minister (or so she says). Her piece is lovely and deserving and you can read the beginning of it here.
The ceremony was a delight. Meeting everyone from the Sydney lit scene, meeting the rest of the (interstate) shortlist, and—perhaps topping the night—hearing Hannah Richell reflect on the nature of the prize, as well as its significance to her, Hachette, and the literary community at large. I never knew Matt, but Hannah’s speech had me as close to tears as anything this year has.
So where to now? I dunno, man/woman/gender-neutral-‘yo’. It’s a wild world, and this has been a full couple days (which I have to keep refraining from referring to as a ‘weekend’) that I won’t soon forget. Opportunity’s come from it, certainly, and being shortlisted as I have is, I suppose, no small feat (though I wear size eleven shoes, for reference, one size larger than Eminem’s). So we will see what comes of it.
But for now, I guess, I gotta keep working. Start book four, which is at this moment titled ‘And The Gods, All of The Gods, Are Nothing But a Rumour’, a title still with a somehow shorter wordcount than my Richell-shortlisted work, which is ‘& (or, The End Is On Its Way It Just Got Lost Is All)’. The title of book four is adapted from TC Boyle’s short story Chicxulub, which was recently featured in The New Yorker Fiction Podcast. It is a very perfect story. Which is why I’m stealing from it, I suppose.
This is a good time to remind myself that I must also stay humble. Remind myself that on the same night I was one-of-five national emerging writers in the Hachette offices, I also lost out in an election in application to play a part on the Executive Committee of the University theatre company. Which brings me nicely to the advice of my best friend Brody Foy, who is over in Oxford right now, doing some contrived shit like researching how to model cancer cell reproduction in lung cancer patients. This man, this great man, gave me some advice regarding success—and that is to never idolise it. To always remember that behind every great success are a dozen great failures. And from my experience, that is very true.
For instance, I submitted the same manuscript to the Richell prize as I did to the Queensland Literary Awards. If I had only submitted to the QLA, the perception I have of my own literary competence right now would be very different. But I submitted to a couple places instead, and I got lucky—or I was well-liked, or I found a snug and coincidental fit, or something. And this is where statistics come into it. Those dozen failures for every success I mentioned?—they’ve gotta happen. Statistically speaking, your ratio will probably be worse than that. I think mine is. But the more you try, the more you’ll fail, and the more likely you are to succeed, because that’s how life is, maybe. Shoot a thousand arrows and you’ll probably hit some sort of target at least once. That is, so long as you are trying truthfully with all your strength and both your eyes to hit the target in the first place.
Self-aware comment: I sound like I’m giving the obligatory coach monologue from every sports movie. I guess I really am Gary Gaines or Billy Bob Thornton.
All the same. Things are coming together. I’m not sick, I’m not in Singapore, I’m not in Sydney, my flight’s just begun its descent back to Brisbane. I’m almost warm and sleeping and okay. True, I have a trio of exams waiting for me on my return, and they are each ill-prepared for, and are all for subjects I don’t care about in a degree I don’t intend on continuing. But I will get through.
Because that’s what I’ve been doing, am doing, and will be doing until one day maybe I—
I like the song because the violins sound like screaming and reaching and the guitars sound like crashing. It sounds like empty streets and breezes hard enough to move paper over concrete but not hard enough to feel. It sounds like the last birds before sunset. It sounds like a beggar on a suburban street because the city already fell down, and the telephone pole she sits beside carrying no signals but the fuzzed beeping when you pick up a disconnected receiver because no one, no one is listening. It sounds like a military convoy on a mountain road. It sounds like we are watching that convoy from the top of the hill, shaking--it is cold and we are scared--and the song sounds like everything warm forever is gone. And the sun goes down.
The Martian finds Matt Damon in his second space-genre film role in twelve months after Interstellar, which was Christopher Nolan’s disappointing 2014 follow-up to the conclusion of his Dark Knight trilogy. This time things are different: Damon’s playing the lead role, and things are the same: he’s found himself again under the direction of Nolan’s fellow hit-or-miss director, Ridley Scott.
But unlike Interstellar, the key thing to know about The Martian is this: it’s good. Really good. What Scott achieves here is a tense film that probably, overall, is the best film yet in the recent 2010s trend of one-high-budget-space-film-a-year. Sure, both Interstellar and Gravity were more gorgeous films, and I would still hold that Gravity’s first 40 minutes is the best space film to come out this decade—but overall, taking into account the blunder of Gravity’s second half, The Martian comes out on top.Read More
And The Gods, All of The Gods, Are Nothing But a Rumour
A delicious pile of research I get to go through prior to November. Giddy.
I have been described as 'fresh', which, up to this point, had only been done by my friend Cinnamon Smith, and she says it to everyone anyway so I didn't feel all that special.
What's interesting about my shortlisting is two things:
1) I thought I submitted a different manuscript than has been shortlisted
2) I submitted the same manuscript to the Queensland Literary Awards around the same time and was not shortlisted there
Each of these points tell us many things. Most significantly, the following: first, that luck is something that happens to stupid people. Second, and most significantly, that art is subjective, and that not every panel will look upon you with the same warmth in their gaze. And that's okay, too.
Submit widely, submit broadly. If it costs nothing, then you must submit. Get eyes on your work, so long as you truly believe in it. Submitting things you do not believe in are a different story--and it tends to be different for each person.
See you in October.