Attention Conservation Notice: a couple of ravy paras about how much I like Jane Rawson’s novel leading into an interview that shows her to be smart and funny in which we talk about dystopias, utopias, her new book and the inevitable reality of climate change (1992 words).
I really really love Jane Rawson’s A Wrong Turn at the Office of Unmade Lists. It’s a dark and surreal urban fantasy partly set in a dystopian, tropical future Melbourne, partly set in an imaginary space accessible only through the worn-through creases in reality that are indicated by the worn creases on an old map, and partly inside a fictional version of San Francisco written by Caddie, the story’s protagonist who lives in the aforementioned dystopian future Melbourne.
A lot of authors would be satisfied with simply working out how to hold together such disparate elements without their story exploding, but Unmade Lists does more than just hang together – it tells an entirely convincing emotionally compelling story about the lives of the people who exist and interact in these places. It’s a case study in exactly how the freaky crazy worlds of fantastic writing can properly coexist with the emotional weight of realism without ever seeming like they don’t belong together.
Seriously, I cried. At least a couple of times. It’s a brilliant book. You gotta read it.
A while back I convinced Jane to let me interview her about Unmade Lists, which at the time had just deservedly won that odd award for most under-rated Australian book of the year. We spoke about Unmade Lists and also about her new book: The Handbook: Surviving and living with climate change, which is exactly what it says on the tin and which will be out in September this year.
Do you see Unmade Lists as a dystopia?
Yes. Definitely. I’ve got my notes from when I was first thinking about it and I’ve got a list of “OK, what would a terrible Melbourne look like?” It would include lots of things like being really hot and dusty, you don’t have enough food today… Cockroaches, which didn’t make it into the final draft, but I pretty much set out to work out a future Melbourne.
And did that tie neatly into your own mental exploration of the refinery explosions?
Yeah, the imaginary explosions in Yarraville in my book are set very close to where I used to live.
“OK, what would a terrible Melbourne look like?”
You’d been thinking about that independently of the dystopian Melbourne scenario, though?
I think about all kinds of crises all the time. It was actually really reassuring. The guy I talked to said, “All of Yarraville would go up if these explode. You’ve got a $100,000 discount on your house because you’re so close to it, but ha ha, sucks to all those other people further away who paid more – they’re going to blow up too.” So that was nice. Continue reading “The Reassurance of Dystopias: Talking to Jane Rawson”