"Justin loves Sade. And Justine is out of control.Set in a world of inner -city grunge bars and clubs, kinky sex, drug-taking desperation, The River Ophelia, explores the uncharted waters of female desire, where the roles of victim and victimized blur and shift. Both an homage to and subversion of de Sade's Justine and Shakespear's Hamlet, it is an explicit account of sex ual obsession and violence. In the tradition of Bret Easton Ellis and Kathy Acker, Justine Ettler's novel breaks new ground, and will electrify, shock , and provoke." Source: Book Description.
'This article, in the form of a conversation between novelist Justine Ettler and literary and cultural studies scholar Rebecca Johinke, looks back at the reception of the Australian novel The River Ophelia in 1995. It also looks forward to speculate how audiences may read the novel in 2018 and beyond, given that in October 2017 it was re-released in e-book format with a new Author’s Note and Introduction (Ettler 2017a). The River Ophelia was a publishing sensation in Australia in the mid-90s as it describes sadistic and masochistic sex and domestic violence. Due to early reviews and the way it was marketed, it was labelled as ‘dirty realism’ or ‘grunge’. In this article, the authors argue for a re-appraisal of the text as a feminist parody and as a highly intertextual postmodern work. In and through their conversation, Johinke and Ettler reveal the extent to which genre confusion, and the question of what is and isn’t ‘real’ dominated the reception of the text at the time of its initial release, and how the intentional fallacy in cases where an author is conflated with a character can be adopted unselfconsciously, and indeed manipulated by, publishers and critics in the marketplace. In light of recent feminist activism around domestic violence and sexual abuse, such as the #MeToo campaign, the authors also discuss the depiction of domestic violence in The River Ophelia, and how certain representations of sex and female desire might play out in representations of abusive relationships. The question of what is and is not erotic, pornographic, or romantic literature is also discussed, both in relation to The River Ophelia, and in relation to several other controversial texts that have been published since its first release.' (Publication abstract)
'In the literature of the last few decades depiction of sex have become commonplace. The old taboos which made any allusion to these matters something daring or transgressive have disappeared, to the extent that the reader is surprised, and perhaps a little disappointed, when he or she fails to find any sexual descriptions in the novel. It would appear that the characters have as few inhibitions when it comes to having sex as the writers when it comes to describing it.' (p. 119)
'All serious art breaks the rules-there can be no innovation without some form of transgression. Yet the breaking of rules is not enough to produce serious art, and while the very focus of erotic writing seems to invite transgressions, these are not necessarily liberating or creative. When transgressions lie for the most part in the subject-matter, their translation into literary break-throughs is problematic, and they can in fact be undermined by writing that is bland, conventional and predictable. Literature, it bears perhaps repeating, is not the thing itself but a representation and thus a re-creation of it. Modes of representations are always ideologically loaded and, while the contemporary period has invented very little in terms of sexual practices, it has been able to innovate significantly in terms of representational practices. It remains to be seen what kind of articulation can be found between the two.' (p 39)