i would like to recommend these people's writing, lines I wish I'd written, Me and my opinions, poetry, reviews

Attoreview: Patricia Lockwood – Balloon Pop Outlaw Black

balloonpopoutlawblack

The cartoon reaches deep into a pocket, deep into a hole in the pocket, into “hammerspace”, and retrieves a huge pair of scissors. His mother, who lives there, hands him what he needs. Touches the tips of his fingers.

A few of the poems in this, Lockwood’s first collection, are highly prosaic, long-lined stanzas stretching out over many pages, puntuated by what seem to be subsidiary poems within the body of the larger poem. There are a number of shorter poems here too, but the longer pieces make the strongest impression with their deep Whitman / Ashberry-esque explorations of surreal premises that use intelligence and humour to co-opt and dissect the conceits of received wisdom, cartoons, storybooks and schoolbooks, pursuing the implication of things like what it is to be an ink drawing, or what it would mean to live inside a whale, to profound conclusions. These poems are weird, unsettling, confident and beguiling. There are no poems here that directly speak of lived experience, but in her deep consideration of bizarre scenarios Lockwood unearths resonant emotions that will stay with you long after you finish reading.

Highly Recommended.

Buy Balloon Pop Outlaw Black from Octopus Books.

i would like to recommend these people's writing, reviews

Picoreview: Ryan North – To Be or Not To Be

Tobe

You give up on your revenge plan and instead devote your (after)life to being a marine biologist and oceanic cartographer. And it turns out Ghost Marine Biology is pretty advanced compared to Alive Human Marine Biology, due in no small part to how you can hang around on the ocean floor for as long as you want and can’t die.

A fun, clever, metatextual choose-your-own-adventure retelling of The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark in which you can play Hamlet, Ophelia or Hamlet’s Dad. Among the multitude of options available, the choices that follow the plot of the original play are marked with a skull-and-crossbones, but where’s the fun in not messing around with a classic of Western literature? I really enjoyed the extended thank you page that thanks the whole universe and the sequence of events that led up to the book’s creation, going right back to the big bang, illustrated as is only right by diagrammer extraordinaire Randall Munroe of xkcd fame. I also enjoyed Ophelia’s depiction as a tempering voice of reason and the inventor of the thermometer (and, by association, central heating). Oh, and the story thread that sees Hamlet’s dad become a ghost marine biologist, using his ghostly powers to explore the depths of the ocean. Beats the hell out of whining and moaning and talking to skulls, amiright? The book’s illustrations are a bonus: a delightful sample of some of the best artists working in webcomics.

Recommended.

Choose your own path to purchasing To Be Or Not To Be – your adventure starts here!

Me and my opinions, people who are nice enough to publish me, poetry, reviews

Review: Song & Error

20130502-074813.jpg

So I’ve started reviewing poetry for Bookslut. Which is a bit squee.

It’s been interesting flipping through the lists of new poetry books coming out of the US to see how their stuff compares to contemporary Aussie poetry – not that I’d claim to have my finger of that pulse, but whatever – and discovering that it’s not as dissimilar as I had expected it to be.

Anyway I reviewed Song & Error by Averil Curdy.

Short version: it was kinda wordy and a little baroque, but there were some glorious lines and images in there.

Long version: read the review for yourself over at Bookslut.

i would like to recommend these people's writing, reviews

Australian Women Writers Challenge 2012 – Completed

Belatedly, I am happy to declare that I successfully completed the challenge that I set myself last year as part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge, to wit: to read at least 10 books written by Australian women and to review at least 4 of them.

Happy to say that I actually managed to review 9 of the books that I read, the only unreviewed book being Man Wolf Man by LK Holt, which I’d borrowed from a friend and had to give back before I could finish my second read-through, which I like to do when reviewing poetry especially. In place of a finished review of Ms. Holt’s book in the list below, allow me to say that I did like it quite a lot, and that I fully intend to review the bugger properly when I get my hands on a copy once again.

Anyway, here are links to the 9 that I DID review:

EDIT: Whoops. After it was announced that Amazon had bought Goodreads I deleted my GR account in a fit of moral righteousness so none of the below links work right now. I have a plan though – stay tuned.

There’s only one author in that list who got a mention when I posted at the end of 2011 about taking up the 2012 challenge, and that’s LK Holt, who I haven’t actually reviewed. No Gwen Harwood, no Joanne Burns, no Tracy Ryan (though I did start Scar Revision toward the end of the year, but I had to return it to the library before I’d finished it and I haven’t re-borrowed it yet)… I’m not sure a biography of Mary Gilmore counts, though some of her poems were quoted in that book…

As an experiment in expanding my experience of the words of Australian women poets, then, I guess I kind of failed, but as an experience in reading authors who were new to me, I did pretty well – prior to 2012 I’d only read Linda Jaivan’s work before.

Looking back on that list and my reviews, though, it strikes me that there aren’t many books on it that I really really enjoyed. Elmo Keep’s little freebie ebook collection of articles and essays was a cracker, and Dymphna Cusack (excellent name btw) hits it for six and a half with A Bough In Hell – so much so that I pretty much went straight out and bought a whole bunch more of her novels – and Fiona Wright’s Knuckled is a damn fine debut collection that any poet could be proud of, but the overweening emotion that I got from most of these books was disappointment, if not active dislike.

I guess that’s not the point though – you can’t expect to finish up an exercise like this all “all Australian women writers are fabulous“. That would be disingenuous. And even if you don’t like a book there are some good things to be taken from the experience.

I found the finer details of Anita Heiss’s family life and career dull, but the important argument her book makes is well serviced by that fact. I thought Anne Whitehead’s book exemplified the worst of memoir and travel writing, but it did give me an overview of Mary Gilmore’s character and point me in the direction of some other books to read about both Gilmore and the New Australia colony. I didn’t think Linda Jaivan’s novel quite held together under the competing tensions of humour and political allegory, but it was moving and thought-provoking nonetheless.

It may not have been as happy clappy a year of reading as I subconsciously expected, but the challenge was a good thing to do all the same, and I recommend that anyone who’s interested or even intrigued consider taking the 2013 challenge for themselves.

I won’t be joining you this year – I need to hold off on taking on another annual reading plan for now because I already have one reading project underway at the moment: Anna and I have signed up for The Year of Reading Proust and to be honest I’m about 80-120 pages behind where I need to be in order to get the entirety of In Search of Lost Time read by the end of the year. But more on that at a later date.

i would like to recommend these people's writing, lines I wish I'd written, people who are nice enough to publish me, poetry, reviews

Review: Thirty Australian Poets

I completely forgot about this one, but aaaaaaaaaages back I had my review of Thirty Australian Poets, a new University of Queensland Press anthology of Australian poets who were born after 1968 and who have had one collection published, published on cordite. Thanks, cordite!

Short version: I liked some of it not so much and some of it heaps. Long version here.

comic reviews, i would like to recommend these people's writing, Me and my opinions, rejected, reviews

Review: Blue

It’s not really news to anyone that Pat Grant’s graphic novel Blue is a good’un – he’s had great press both here in Australia and overseas. That said, I have a review of Blue that I originally wrote for The Monthly, which they passed on, and then Australian Book Review and the Age passed too (mainly cos they already had reviews lined up).  Seemed a shame to just leave it to moulder on the hard-drive, so here, in a slightly more formal register than I generally use on this blog, are my thoughts on this pretty speccie comic book.

And even though they didn’t take it, profuse thanks must go to John van Tiggelen at The Monthly for his excellent editorial feedback while I was writing this review.

A man reminisces about the day he and two of his high school friends went in search of a dead body on the local train line. As he tells his story he looks back at the history of his home town, lamenting its change for the worse. He attributes these changes to the arrival of a blue-skinned race of alien migrants.

Australian comic artist Pat Grant’s debut graphic novel Blue tells two stories: one about the social anxiety of adolescence, the other an exploration of racism in the face of migration.

The story’s setting on the northern coast of NSW, its focus on surfing culture, and its use of strine and slang make it distinctively Australian. Smaller details reinforce this, like sausage rolls with sauce, “We Grew Here, You Flew Here” stickers and Daily Telegraph posters.

Grant’s use of a minimal palette (black and white with shades of blue and grey) is striking, as is his lush, deft and fluid line work. His characters, both human and alien, are elastic creatures with rubber-band limbs and squashy bodies, reminiscent of 1930s cartoon characters.

Grant confidently explores the possibilities of layout in comics. Some pages are blank except for a few centred panels zeroing in on details from the landscape. Others are busy grids, each panel containing elements that can be read separately or as part of a larger picture or sequence of events. Others still are dense double-page panoramas illustrating the coastal environment that characters pass through.

Blue presents racism as an understandable response to social change. As a social commentary, despite its playfulness and humour, it never satirises the racism of its protagonists. Though aggressive and ill-educated, they are funny and likable.

The objects of their racism are less sympathetic: a mere source of confusion and resentment. There are a few moments, however, in which the aliens are convincingly humanised. These moments make Blue feel more like devil’s advocacy than a racist tract.

Some might want Grant to come out more strongly against racism, but not every book that deals with the subject has to denounce it. It’s true that Blue could be used as a pro-racist text if someone was so inclined, but it’s also a thought-provoking look from a less common angle at a significant issue in contemporary Australian society, using a relatively uncommon artform.

Grant’s illustrations have a stunning complexity and depth of meaning, and while his ability as a writer may not be as strong as his considerable illustrative powers, he is certainly a good yarn-spinner. His dialogue is a delight.

Blue is a beautiful, thought-provoking debut from an undeniable new talent, recommended for anyone interested in the graphic novel form.

Blue is available from Giramondo in Australia, Top Shelf in the US and Canada, and in full online at www.boltonblue.com.

i would like to recommend these people's writing, poetry, reviews

Review: Lisa Gorton – Press Release

Lisa Gorton’s debut collection, Press Release, came out back in 2007, but I only stumbled across it in the A820s of the Melbourne City Library just before Christmas.

I’ve been sitting down with it, giving it a good old read, and this morning I used the time it takes for the 6.53am to get from Castlemaine Station to Southern Cross (nearly typed “Spencer Street” there – whoops) to put down some thoughts about the book.

Short version: it’s got a bit of those first-collection jitters going on, but there’s some fine work to be found on its pages. Check out my review in full over on Goodreads. You know – if you want to, and stuff.

but enough about me - what do YOU think of me?, i would like to recommend these people's writing, reviews, The Third Fruit is a Bird

Reviewed: The Third Fruit is a Bird @ Grace Notes

Gem from Grace Notes said some lovely things about The Third Fruit is a Bird. I was well chuffed so I thought I’d link to her excellent blog. Thanks, Gem!

You should read other blog posts at Grace Notes too. They’re very good. Lots of smart, bite-sized book reviews (and no I’m not saying they’re smart because she liked my book – you wound me). Also very good is her food blogging at (live, love) eat, drink, stagger – I’m v. excited by her recent posting of a cauliflower cake recipe that I shall cook as soon as we have a working oven once again (long story).

but enough about me - what do YOU think of me?, hee hee hee hee heeee, Heroes and Civilians, reviews

Reviewed: Heroes and Civilians

A nice little referrer email comment reminder thingy cropped up in my inbox this morning. Seems that Thomas DeMary from PANK magazine has done a review Heroes and Civilians, which the more frequently visited among you will know as my recently released available-for-free-download short story collection.

Mr. DeMary is generous in his review: complimentary without effusiveness, critical without stridency. Warmed the cockles it did. Made me giggle with pleasure it did. I may even have blushed.

“Ford showcases an enjoyment of writing, allowing his imagination to roam free while the watchful eye of the craftsman, aware and wary of belaboring the point, chaperones the fantastic,” Mr. DeMary said. “Adam Ford exudes a control of the flash form, as well as an adherence to the principles of fiction, in a way not seen before by this reviewer,” he also said. How utterly lovely of him.

I was most tickled by the categorisation of this review too, which not only sits within PANK‘s “reviews” category, but which also sits within their “Bright Young Things” category. Lookit! I’m a bright young thing! I’m not sure whether to be more chuffed over the “bright” or the “young” tag with that one.

You can check out the full review on the pages of PANK, and should it whet your appetite you can also head over to the appropriate section of this blog to obtain a free-to-download copy of Heroes and Civilians to love and hug and call him George.