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Scottish author Muriel Spark’s The Hanging Judge (1994) has as strong an opening to a short story as any: “The passing of sentence,” wrote one of the newspapers, “obviously tried the elderly judge. In fact, he looked as if he had seen a ghost.” This was not the only comment that drew attention to Sir Sullivan Stanley’s […]
In the past, I’ve written somewhat extensively on censorship and its many contemporary forms: the direct prohibition of words, the self-censoring by authors in autocratic societies, as well as the oversaturation of ‘glut censorship’ that drowns out conflicting discussion. Concealment, however, is something quite different. I return once again to British visual artist Cornelia Parker, […]
In Scottish author Muriel Spark’s Harper and Wilton (1953) the protagonist is approached by two Edwardian suffragettes:  The front-door bell was ringing, now. I was not at all sure I should answer it. There was no reason to expect visitors and I had been assured by the Lowthers of my complete solitude. But I opened the garden […]
In 2003, American author David Foster Wallace was assigned to write an article on the 56th Annual Maine Lobster Festival. Wallace’s article begins by outlining the festival’s size, scope, and theme of ‘Lighthouses, Laughter, and Lobster.’ Yet by the third paragraph, precision—like a lobster’s pincer—takes hold of Wallace and refuses to let go. He writes: there’s […]
Write for enjoyment, write to engage with the page to see what a line of text can turn into, to figure out how far you can push the sentence; to use — ; — ,* & # . ! ? Write in first, second or third person. Write from an omniscient perspective, or a limited […]
There appears to be contradictory advice about structuring narrative, so it’s no wonder it’s confusing and can take a long time to figure out a style that suits an individual piece of writing. A cursory internet search comes up with many different approaches. There’s Chekhov’s gun, where Chekhov famously wrote that a rifle on the […]
My children excitedly clutch two end-of-term vouchers to a burger franchise. On each blue rectangle of cardboard are their names written by their occasionally exasperated, but most often excellent, kids’ gymnastic coach. They’ve been looking forward to this day. They’ve waited—not patiently—through the post-Christmas consumption of obligatory left-overs and for relatives to return to the […]
I’ve heard it said that it’s wrong to anthropomorphise animals. The same logic has been applied to the environment; we tend to reduce the elements and landscapes to something more understandable, more manageable, like a human mood. Personification, anthropologists say, has been done by every culture through time. It is said to foster human understanding. […]
They search for meaning in the volumes of thick paper stitched together in fine leather with gilt borders on the shelves of libraries housed in their great temples—so many smart words ordered in regimental lines—but essence cannot be captured in a story with a beginning, a middle and an end and packaged up neatly into […]
A new year usually brings refreshed optimism, talk of resolutions and hopes for the year ahead. We associate Australian summers with beach holidays, eating too much stone fruit and forgetting what day it is in the elastic time between Christmas and new year.  The beginning of 2020 is different. This summer is punctuated by bushfire […]
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