mardi 14 février 2012

Stralian Books with Jean-François Vernay

We're very excited about our first issue of Trouble published exclusively online. Ceramics artist Penny Byrne's Green Wash Warrior graces our front cover (above). This gorgeous new format will ensure that we can deliver more of everything Trouble does best – such as listings that now include pics. To check it out click here.

Trouble goes to Tahiti this month with the latest from screen artist Jenny Fraser, who is on the island capital checking out the Festival International du Film Documentaire Oceanien.

In other news Danilo Paglialonga ponders the inherent wisdom of children in Greenwish #3, while Courtney Symes visits Heide, Bundoora Homestead and more in this month's Melburnin'. Erotic Australian fiction gets a guernsey in Stralian Books with Jean-Francois Vernay, while Karen Coombs finds out What Women Want, and Ben Laycock sends Greetings from Cradle Mountain. Plus more comics than ever from Mandy Ord, Ive Sorocuk, Matt Bissett-Johnson, Matt Emery and Darby Hudson.

Look out during the month for Facebook updates, giveaways and live tweets from openings and events around the country. Trouble is rocking the net in 2012. Come along for the ride.

Erotic Fiction: Love is a Four-Letter Word

With Valentine’s Day in the offing, couples will be reminded that love is a flame that needs rekindling now and again whereas singletons will make sure to call on their well-equipped pharmacist (pun intended) to stock up on contraceptive devices or antidepressants. So here is my uncensored selection of AO novels (in TV classificatory lingo) to cheer you up and put you in the mood for love.

The French have Le Marquis de Sade, Georges Bataille and Guillaume Apollinaire to make them blush while Australian readers just need to turn to erotic fiction by Linda Jaivin, Peta Spear and Rod Jones to realize that love is a four-letter word. In the 1960s, a wind of libertarian change swept over Australian fiction to such an extent that not only the politics of sex became the backbone of the oeuvre of a knot of writers like Frank Moorhouse, Venero Armano and Christos Tsiolkas (see Nov. 2011 issue), but it also became a key ingredient in some sub-genres (like grunge literature and erotic writing) traditionally debased for being perceived as a lowbrow form of formulaic writing – if not mere smut – using sex scenes to boost book sales.

Linda Jaivin’s Eat Me (1995) – a quasi anagram of “tease me” – reads like a raunchy version of Sex in the City packed with the tantalizing fantasies of four man-eaters. Why not see the title as a letter-dropping version of “eat men”? Sex, ranging from the erotica to the exotica (deviations include but are not limited to stuffing, sadomasochism, fisting, group sex and felching), comes in all shapes and sizes in Eat Me, reminding readers that our consumer society tends to overemphasize sexual feats seen as trophies meant to pump up our egos.

Shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award and written in a fluid and elegant style, Rod Jones’s Nightpictures (1997) shares some striking similarities with the author’s internationally successful debut novel Julia Paradise (1986): a mental patient involved with a professional of the mind, incestuous desires, psychoanalytic culture, a clever twist and deceitful appearances. Nightpictures tells the story of Dieppe, a dark female character, who is having a bizarre non-committal affair with an Australian expat nicknamed Sailor, teaching at the Oxford School in Venice. Male sexuality – largely depicted as imperious, animalistic and performance-driven (what else could you expect from a male novelist?) – is meant to address Dieppe’s incestuous fantasies until narrator-cum-protagonist Sailor makes a terrible mistake. He cements the division of love and sex with emotional attachment and falls head over heels in love with his enigmatic and arousing sex friend: “I had entered the secret world of lovers, the quiet people who walk around with another person inside them, their thoughts continually forming the image of the beloved, which gives lovers in solitude the expression that they’ve just forgotten something.” Does this feeling ring a bell? I bet it does.

Dr. Peta Spear’s Libertine (1999) is certainly Exhibit A for how novels are nowadays the formatted product of PhD creative writing programmes: inspired content-wise, unoriginal style-wise (probably aimed at the mass market) and boringly realistic (i.e. highly descriptive). By mingling the erotic and the Gothic, Spear tells the wartime story of a manipulative prostitute who has a regular “fuck-buddy”, known as The General, and a lover named Sol. Sex does not purport to be an end in itself as in Eat Me and Nightpictures. In Libertine, sex – when not a commercial transaction – epitomizes the pap of life and becomes a means to indulge in an emotional embrace.

Incidentally, if this article has made you squirm, you can pride yourself on fuelling the wowserism that has “characterized Australian culture for so many decades” (Xavier Pons, Messengers of Eros). Love/ eros, like lust, is a four-letter word indeed. But so is life!

Further reading: The Great Australian Novel – A Panorama (Melbourne: Brolga, 2010)

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