Thursday, October 8, 2009

Brothers, sisters and anthologies : oh the irony

So when I got home this afternoon from fifteen rounds with a sibling -- the ferocious upfront one, all teeth and claws all the time, and no backing down until one of you dies -- so stratospherically stressed out that my eyeballs and teeth were aching and there was a strange metallic taste in my mouth that no amount of medicinal chocolate would shift, I found two things in the mail.

One was a copy, kindly sent by Allen & Unwin, of Charlotte Wood's new themed anthology of specially-commissioned stories by Australian writers about siblings, entitled Brothers and Sisters. The other was my copy of the current Australian Book Review, in which critic Peter Craven continues his attack on the team of scholars of Australian literature (of which he is not one) who edited the Macquarie PEN Anthology of Australian Literature, including moi, that he began in his magisterially and savagely opinionated review of the anthology in the previous issue.

I've been a fan of Charlotte Wood's since I read her novel The Children, in which she shows great interest in the sibling dynamic and great skill in representing it, an impression further borne out by the brilliant, funny, moving introduction to this new book. And after reading the ABR correspondence pages I'm considering the possibility that one way to understand the shifting, endlessly complex dynamics of the literary scene and all its tortured interrelationships is to think of it in terms of sibling relations, where the keynote is intensity for better or worse, and where endless fights for territory, dominance, independence, sentimental vases and Mummy and Daddy's approval all take place in the hothouse arena of shared interests and common experience.

At the very least, I find that thinking about these things anthropologically and psychoanalytically helps me to get some distance on them, to back away from the rage. It's that or the bottle shop, and I have too much work to do tonight for the bottle shop to be an option. Besides, I want to be fully alert when Germaine takes on Planet Janet on Q&A.

Cross-posted at Australian Literature Diary


ThirdCat said...

No one ever sends me books in the mail.
(not complaining, just adding to your stats - are you there yet?)

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

Yes! Scroll down to bottom of screen for latest statisticky goodness.

ThirdCat said...

Oh, right down there...sorry, didn't see it.

doorbitch: editase
You know, I'm beginning to wonder whether your doorbitch doesn't help to prove that thing about the randomly typing monkeys eventually banging out Shakespeare

Elisabeth said...

I'm looking forward to reading Charlotte Wood's anthology on brothers and sisters.
My blog is named after my chronological position, sixth in line, in a family of nine. In 1995 I invited each of them, my five brothers and three sisters, to join me in the writing of a book. We could each write a chapter I proposed on our different perspectives, all growing up in the same family.
Needless to say it never happened. I am after all only sixth in line. I do not have the authority of the oldest or the privilege and confidence of the youngest.
To me, the blog sphere likewise represents the vagaries of sibling rivalry, akin to that of the literary establishment - all that competitiveness and the business of who gets heard and who gets silenced.

Anonymous said...

What a day.

I think PC’s response to the Anthology is in stark contrast to the overwhelmingly positive reviews the collection has received in the press (even II was mostly generous, despite some reservations). PC’s piece is just creating a stir, exposing him as a dinosaur (or at least I think that is how many general readers would see it). This sort of collection can never be a definitive answer, and the Anthology has been applauded for its inclusiveness and for broadening the concept of literature in an interesting and stimulating way. (I’m hunting for paperback copies to give as presents to some of my friends in Europe.)

The sibling analogy is so beautifully drawn. I’d add that this carry-on reminds me of a Soviet realist movie, circa 1950, where members of an extended family are forced to share a tiny flat with one bathroom, so lack of space and constant exposure to the same faces is driving everyone mad … It was a bit monotonous revisiting all of that in ABR this month as well.

An architect friend once told me that she can never look at any of her work after it has been completed; I’ve heard of artists never looking back at past work, but only looking forward. It’s probably time to delight in other ventures. This one has definitely been a success.

I have no creative thoughts on the sibling question. Wine works best every time. Other readers may link to some fresh batches of delicious looking digital cookies.

anon ed

genevieve said...

Sentimental vases! demonic online cackle MWAHAHAHAH. Vewy twue.
And congratulations!! on marvellous stats.

genevieve said...

i.e. the vases of Ozlit land.


sigmund marx said...

Are you able to get hold of the article in The Age today about Julia launching the book in the US? Anne Davies talks about the controversy with Clive James and Peter Craven, and says Julia tackles it head on in her speech when she says any significant book generates controversy - onya Julia!
It's in the Arts section of The Age.

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

Thanks Sigmund, one of my fellow-editors emailed me the link this morning. Yay Julia.

fxh said...

I've just had a birthday with all the 6 sibs present- even the overseas ones. I think I'm finally getting the respect due to the eldest. Rivalry nah - I'm on top.

wrt - the anthology - jeez any effort will be best endevours of a few editors - I could pick a few holes but hell like Peter Craven and the Rosella ON the sauce bottle I'm not IN it.

Good effort.

Anonymous said...

Hooray for Julia!

Lucy Sussex

Bernice said...

Your remark re sibling rivalry prompted me to check 'peer' in the SOED for its etymology. From the Latin par - equal. "An equal in standing or rank"
But as it wanders on further, " a companion, mate; a rival" Obs. or arch. M.E.

As per your previous remarks re the response to the anthology, dear Peter seems keen to mine the seam of "as it wasn't me making the decisions, there lies fault."

How familial. Like fighting of dear dead Aunt Bess's jam spoons.

What bothers me most is the continued snarling about the inclusion of the Indigenous materials. Would those doing the snarling please take time to read Penny von Toorn's Writing Never Arrives Naked: Early Aboriginal Writing in Australia, from 2006. Their ignorance is not terribly flattering.

Must be the season for sisterly madness - my most loopy currently has a rat plague in her compost heap. 2 hours of arguing that she needed to address this was completely fruitless. Henceforth 'roos loose in the top paddock' shall be replaced by 'rats loose in the compost heap' in the family lexicon.

W/V: unloph - yes well thank you.