'Once upon a time, there was a first sentence. I wasn’t sure what to write after that.’ There isn’t a contributor here (or perhaps anywhere) who wouldn’t concur with Mel Campbell’s sentiment on beginnings.
'All the columnists in this edition muse on startings and endings. How do we begin anything, asks Campbell. What if endings are no longer quite so … final, asks Giovanni Tiso.' (Jacinda Woodhead, Editorial)
Contents indexed selectively.
'One of my earliest memories, dating from before I was four years old, is of lying down in a darkened room. I can hear footsteps inside my ear canal. Thump. Thump. Thump. Finally I sit up, and a tiny witch on a broomstick flies out of my ear.
'I am not in the least surprised. I knew she was in there.' (Introduction)
'The field of ‘writering’ – writing about writing – conceptualises the uncertainty before writing as a hostile territory to be hacked through as efficiently as possible using either mindfulness or careful planning. The pedagogues would have you approach writing with the ruthless efficiency of an army invading hostile territory.' (Introduction)
'You won’t even bother to call it a funeral. ‘We are disposing of my grandfather’s body today,’ you will say. ‘Family only.’ Later that evening, on the car ride back home, you will switch on the digital copy of grandpa and the two of you will resume the conversation you were having the night before on his deathbed.' (Introduction)
'I always hated school. Hated the teachers who beat us at the first nervous twitch of the morning. Hated sitting in a box of a room, watching the hands of a clock crawl across its own face. Hated being barked at by teachers: ‘Look this way, Birch!’ they would yell whenever I became transfixed by the river flowing outside the window. But I did love reading.' (Introduction)
'By writing stories about ‘issues’, I was trying to respond to what I saw as urgent social and moral crises. The problem was that the more I wrote, the less satisfied I felt with my mode of response, the less confident I was about fiction’s capacity to do the job. At the same time, I was becoming increasingly concerned that I was using other people’s trauma for my own benefit.' (Introduction)
'But the bullshit I’m interested in right now is that populating Australia’s copyright reform debates.
'A great deal of this bullshit is motivated by good intentions – most notably, the desire to sustain writers’ incomes in an era of precipitous, disastrous decline.' (Introduction)
'The contradictions of my heritage would raise more questions than I felt comfortable discussing with a stranger. It’s considered bad manners to decline questions, yet apparently it’s reasonable for my identity to be an object of curiosity and scrutiny. These encounters were like a game of confessional dodgeball, with me trying to sidestep questions and steer the conversation away from my ‘exotic’ heritage.' (Introduction)
'Before becoming a writer, I trained in anthropology, a discipline traditionally concerned with ritual. This training has served me unexpectedly well over nearly ten years of involvement in left-wing organising: the left is a space heavy with codified language and actions, and governed by a set of intricate, unwritten rules usually viewed by outsiders as mysterious, ridiculous, or both. In particular, I have recently found myself considering the ritualistic way in which people on the left feel compelled to offer apologies for having a relatively stable, relatively plentiful life – often glossed as various forms of ‘privilege’.' (Introduction)
'You are: stiff lines, hard colours, corporate setting. Pleats ironed, turtle neck immaculate, hair pulled back. You are: an intern, savvy, eyes-bright, tail-bushed.' (Introduction)
'I see body bags every day. That same ugly, non-porous, blue plastic becomes so monotonous, so easy to forget the contents, negating countless lives. The unzipping takes me back to childhood days spent camping. You hear it? That early morning surfacing from the tent, tearing the mosquito netting open to eagerly set out for a new day of adventure and exploration. Easy, carefree days.' (Introduction)
'The boy is running again. You can tell by his feet that’s what he is doing. It takes you some time to understand he is running – in the beginning the sound of those feet isn’t any way peculiar to the other morning sounds. I was once a boy myself but I was never like that: my steps never made that small smacking sound, smacking in their little rhythm along Sadlier Street.' (Introduction)