Two Brow Books titles SHORTlisted FOR the 2019 Stella Prize

We are so delighted to share the news that two Brow Books authors, Jamie Marina Lau (Pink Mountain on Locust Island) and Maria Tumarkin (Axiomatic), have been shortlisted for the 2019 Stella Prize for their books.

As a small press that only published its first book in 2016, this double-shortlisting is incredibly exciting for us. We’re now holding our breaths until April 9th (a very long time to hold breath!) when the winner is announced. Until then, huge congratulations to our two authors, and deep thanks to The Stella Prize, and to this year’s judges.


“Lau’s dizzying prose is like a series of crazy neon-lit performance art as she dissects, with extraordinary effervescence, Monk’s teenage angst, her struggles to fit in with her school friends, their parents, her father and her unhappily married sister. Reading this book is the literary equivalent of riding a rollercoaster while listening to a virtuoso violin performance by a child prodigy. Simply stunning."

–from the Stella Prize judges’ report for Pink Mountain on Locust Island

Pink Mountain on Locust Island
: winner of the 2018 Melbourne Prize for Literature’s Readings Residency Award, shortlisted in the 2019 New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards, shortlisted for the Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction, shortlisted for the 2019 Stella Prize.

"I was really interested in writing about the transactions between people and of people as a 'product'. What was also very important to me was exploring the difference between choice and necessity of certain professions and lifestyles – especially unpacking the social, cultural and psychological obligations of professions which rely on giving their customers 'hope' – for instance, professions in entertainment, drug culture and religious/spiritual organisations. All this – and then how it ties in with diasporic communities too."

–from Jamie Marina Lau, in The Guardian

Jamie Marina Lau (劉劍冰) is a 22-year-old writer and musician from Melbourne. Her work can be found in Cordite, ROOKIE magazine, Voiceworks, the Art Hoe Collective and in Monash University’s 2016 anthology Futures. She is currently studying film and literature, producing music, and working on more fiction.


“Take anything you’ve ever known about how nonfiction is supposed to work and throw it out the window: Maria Tumarkin’s Axiomatic is an unwieldy, expansive beast that combines lyrical essay with psychological reportage. Axiomatic pushes the boundaries of nonfiction so far out that they will never recover, and in so doing develops an essay style that perfectly reflects the complexities of our era.”

–from the Stella Prize judges’ report for Axiomatic

: winner of the 2018 Melbourne Prize for Literature’s Best Writing Award, shortlisted for the 2019 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards, shortlisted for the 2019 New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards, longlisted for the Australian 2019 Indie Book Awards, shortlisted for the 2019 Stella Prize.

Maria Tumarkin is a writer and cultural historian. She is the author of Axiomatic and also three other acclaimed books of ideas: Traumascapes, Courage, and Otherland. All three were shortlisted for literary prizes; Otherland was shortlisted for the Victorian Premier’s Award, NSW Premier’s Award and The Age Book of the Year. Tumarkin’s essays have appeared in The Best Australian Essays (2011, 2012 & 2015), Griffith Review, Meanjin, The Monthly, Sydney Review of Books, The Age, The Australian, and Inside Story. Tumarkin is involved in wide-ranging artistic collaborations with visual artists, theatre makers and audio designers. She was a 2013–14 Sidney Myer Creative Fellow in humanities and is a member of the Melbourne Writers Festival’s programming committee. Maria teaches creative writing at the University of Melbourne.

Charlie Fox's THIS YOUNG MONSTER out today

We’re thrilled that today is finally the day we get to say: This Young Monster is officially out, hooray! And huzzah.

Charlie Fox’s extraordinary debut book is about monsters and queerness and bodies and disability and cinema and photography and music and transformation and shapeshifting and wonder and fashion and outsiderdom and freakishly beautiful lives.⁣


This Young Monster
is a hallucinatory celebration of artists who raise hell, transform their bodies, anger their elders and show their audience dark, disturbing things. What does it mean to be a freak? Why might we be wise to think of the present as a time of monstrosity? And how does the concept of the monster irradiate our thinking about queerness, disability, children and adolescents?

From Twin Peaks to Leigh Bowery, Harmony Korine to Alice in Wonderland, This Young Monster gets high on a whole range of riotous art as its voice and form shape-shift, all in the name of dealing with the strange wonders of what Nabokov once called ‘monsterhood’. Ready or not, here they come...

Our edition also features a brand new introduction – a wonderful essay by one our favourite writers, Adam Curley.

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Charlie Fox

is a writer who lives in London. His work has appeared in Artforum, The New York Times, frieze and many other publications. He was born in 1991.



“Good God, where did this wise-beyond-his-years 25-year-old critic’s voice come from? His breath of proudly putrefied air is something to behold. Finally, a new Parker Tyler is on the scene. Yep. Mr. Fox is the real thing.”
John Waters, New York Times

“Charlie Fox writes about scary and fabulous monsters, but he really writes about culture, which is the monster’s best and only escape. He is a dazzling writer, unbelievably erudite, and this book is a pleasure to read. Fox’s essays spin out across galaxies of knowledge. Domesticating the difficult, he invites us as his readers to become monsters as well.”
Chris Kraus 

“Charlie Fox is a ferociously gifted critic, whose prose, like a punk Walter Pater’s, attains pure flame. Fox’s sentences, never 'matchy-matchy', clash with orthodoxy; I love how extravagantly he leaps between different cultural climes, and how intemperately — and with what impressive erudition! — he pledges allegiance to perversity. Take This Young Monster with you to a desert island; his bons mots will supply you with all the protein you need.”
Wayne Koestenbaum 

This Young Monster is a hybrid animal in its own right, suturing biographical essays with stranger things: a “dumb fan letter” to the Beast, a meandering confession from Alice, bombed out after her many years in Wonderland. ... There’s not enough of this sort of playfulness and frank enthusiasm in art criticism.”
Olivia Laing, New Statesman 

“Charlie Fox has a cardsharp’s diamond-eye for cataloguing the shapeshifting face of the sublime. His essays slither through skins over the warm flesh where so many mythic worlds and realities connect, from that of Twin Peaks to Diane Arbus, Fassbinder to Columbine, which somehow in their amassment ventriloquise a tender, enchanted end­notes for our black present. Put on this mask and breathe.”
Blake Butler


'blossom' by Leah Jing

over coffee, H says, i hate poems about bodies. they are sitting across from me, one leg neatly draped over the other.

the next time i see H, they say, i am writing a poem about bodies. the first line is, ‘my body is disgusting’. the rest of the poem, apparently, is about the footy.

i picture tall, blonde bodies sluicing through air. slick with sweat and mud. wet blades of grass stuck to powerful haunches, muscles a kind of thick knotty rope. my body is disgusting.


i have spent many hours turning jenny zhang’s question around in my head: ‘where are my carefree writers of colour at?’. type < carefree > into my search bar and the essay pre-fills. but after four years of thinking on the answer i fuck it up and fuck it up so badly. say: i’m going to write a thing about a kind of love and maybe this time there will be no ‘race stuff’. tired of writing ‘race stuff’. a misled desire. but

do you remember that time we lay under those cherry trees in the late afternoon, let blossoms fall onto our faces, you caught one mid-air or did you, am i just misremembering. i was tired, am tired, settled my head on your chest as we talked about things now so distant i can’t even misremember them, our conversation winding in a way you once said felt like we had never finished a single one. i wondered then if you liked talking to me or if you were just staying until you found an ending.

and -- under branches blossom-heavy, your hand resting on that slice of skin just under the lip of my shirt, this is what i want to write about --

want to write about bodies in that way.

but then,,, when i try -- a few days later fraser anning asks for a whiter australia, (bleach pure, snow white, drenched,)

and a few weeks later ross cameron describes me as yellow-skinned, slanty-eyed, waiting for disneyland.

when i hear cameron’s soundbite a laugh that isn’t my own ripples out from my body. i mean to say, it’s not like i’m waiting. australia already a Haunted Mansion. but -- can you choose not to see the ghosts?

je pense, donc je suis or um I think therefore I am (maybe) or, let’s try the latin: cogito, ergo sum. rené descartes, yes fine ok ok ok -- fine

but if i can flip the words fast enough will you believe me: cogito ergo sum ergo cogito ergo sum, cogito, cogito cogito.

sum, ergo cogito: expectation assigned to my body before it begins.

how i cannot decide for myself who i am or might be, cannot think it into being. doesn’t matter how many times i trace these lines, still a sum unknown, unknowable: a sum, incognito

-- think about wearing a t-shirt to a panel (DESTROY WHITE SUPREMACY, size XL mens, enough room to fit another person inside, another country) -- but my body already demarcates a kind of destruction, on this panel next to three white people, under the ceiling of the melbourne town hall. my body an accidental and unwilling performance, each limb weighted with something not my own: a heaviness.

my body an aberration, in this room lined with portraits of white men larger than life. if one were to fall from the wall it would crack your skull. how many of these men would want my skull cracked, would see my body and in one moment dismiss my mind. enter this room and think, these walls not made for me, this stained glass ceiling not made for me, this thick carpet under my feet this mahogany bannister this golden gleam this hallowed, heavy, haunted hall -- not made for me --

sum ergo crack,

during the panel i say the phrase < > and the moderator’s eyebrows shoot up so high they disappear into his perfectly coiffed hair.


when you kiss me it is unexpected. late afternoon and we try to go to ikea but it’s too hot to consider even driving to the deep blue labyrinth of plastic and plywood. instead, we lay around drinking glasses of water, ice melting. losing chess to each other in light that could only be a late summer gold. you play piano as i lie on the floor, watching light move across the ceiling. at some point our conversation looping around became limbs looping around, talking and tangled, your face close to mine or mine to yours and one of us said can i kiss you and the other replied really? and then.

i read an article recently about a man who had misdirected all of the arrows in ikea, pushing bodies into a mobius strip of swedish meatballs and storage solutions. no exit in sight.

a neat but perfect metaphor,

if it hadn’t been an internet hoax: a misdirection upon a misdirection.

i worry about admitting moments of bodily discomfort. to admit them is to admit a kind of defeat. to admit them is to admit a kind of difference, diffidence, deference: to admit them. you know.

like if i say -- once i came into work and my boss was sitting for some reason at my desk and she looked up at me and pulled each eyelid to the side and said ‘i’m you!’ and in response i laughed politely and five minutes later excused myself went into the bathroom and sobbed my fucking heart out. after, i examined my puffy eyes for a slant. has there been one there the whole time have i just not noticed it.

how did i miss this about myself is the thing.

of course carver’s best line is about the body: I could hear the human noise we sat there making, not one of us moving, not even when the room went dark. oh oh oh what a rush to be human noise, what a privilege to be still.


-- run into H at a party. i am stressed about you, or maybe the next person i will fall in love with, have fallen in love with. sit down next to H, slump against a cold brick wall. H turns, maybe senses the stress pulsating off my body, reaches out to hold my hand, doesn’t skip a beat, keeps talking. parties for these collisions: this weaving in-between bodies. that flush as M touches my hip in passing (weeks later, still so blurred by this gesture,)

moving through the house and into another room, become entangled, legs over legs, my face in or against L’s neck, mumble hello. the heat of this body,

blood running hot

sometimes easy to forget my body is not a body.

and then,    i guess --

of course the question of carefree writing is rhetorical. But can you imagine: a world where we could sit in the room as it darkens, silent and unsilent, pure human noise.

your body just a body.

blood running hot

-- yeah


remember how you handed me a cherry blossom, one which had fallen on your chest, or maybe one you had caught mid-flight. how you stood up, gently brushed a leaf from my hair, held the tiny flower out to me, as we made our way back to the car.

the blossom sat on my windowsill for months,,, until a few weeks ago, when it ticked over into six months of us not talking,

not a single word

Leah Jing is a writer, photographer and the editor of Liminal. Find her @_leahleahleah.

Thank you Zoe Dzunko!

Today is a sad day and also a day for celebration, for it’s the moment to announce that after many glorious years in (volunteer) roles with us, it has come time for Zoe Dzunko — one of the current editors of our quarterly print magazine — to step aside. Zoe has some truly exciting new opportunities to focus on and also she is very keen to make space for newer/emerging editorial voices to come through – renewal and energy and momentum are important to our whole organisation here at TLB; we never want anyone to get too comfortable in a position when these positions are so consequential.

Nothing we can say/show you here can in any way go close to describing how much Zoe has given TLB over the years, but it’s vital that we formally and publicly acknowledge her remarkable contribution.

Zoe Dzunko.jpg

Zoe was Poetry Editor of The Lifted Brow from issues 24-31, and then (Co-)Editor of the magazine from issues 32-41 (except for Blak Brow), first with Annabel Brady-Brown, then with Annabel and also Justin Wolfers, and now most lately with Justin and Jini Maxwell.

It’s obviously been just an incredible run – and you need only look at the issues Zoe worked on — the writers she published, the writing she championed — to snatch a glimpse of what all Zoe is about.

Annabel, Justin and Jini have penned the below, on behalf of all us at TLB:

We've always been floored by the generosity and depth of Zoe's thinking and being. Her ferocious intellect and kindness has touched and shaped every corner of the Brow, from the poetry section which she edited from Issue 24 to 30, to our website that she dreamed up and built, to her role as co-editor of the magazine from Issue 31 onwards. Zoe has dedicated her time and labour for so many years now, nurturing writers and writing that is both deeply true to the Brow and to her own personal passions. These include her long-standing editorial relationships with columnists, particularly on environmental themes, and Issue 32 (‘The Capital issue’), which sought to “advocate for kindness, for language, for art that rages”. How very Zoe. The conviction that she has for ideas is truly awe-inspiring, and the careful loving attention she gives to every task she takes on is reflective of the greater way that she moves through the world. So, an astonishing peer, yes, but also a great companion – warm, committed, tender, and such a joy to be around. It’s been humbling to work alongside her, and a privilege to collaborate with her and be privy to her talents as a poet/writer/editor/thinker/designer/human/friend.

And Zoe wanted to say this to everyone out there:

It’s with a very heavy heart that I step down from my role as Co-Editor of the Brow. There are few things on earth I care more about than this publication and the organisation around it and I leave knowing that the time I’ve spent here will stand as one of my most inspiring and affirming experiences. For the past five years, TLB has felt like family — one that’s made up of people unnerving in their brilliance and indefatigable in their commitment to championing works that say something true about our world by asking us to view it through the lens of the kind of people we want to be, which is to say critical, open and ethical. All it has achieved, and everything it will go on to do, is a testament to the kind of people who pour so much of themselves into producing something with tremendous heart, and who care vividly about creating opportunities and inclusion for other writers and artists.

TLB means a lot to many people, for many different reasons, and it’s an organisation that cares more about its community and its writers than it does anything else. For me, it’s been a great source of hope; it’s hard to be cynical in the company of people giving their all to make something worthwhile. I’m lucky to have experienced this first-hand, and to find myself stepping out with tenfold the optimism I possessed stepping in. I can’t wait to read and rediscover the Brow as a reader again and I’m excited to witness the magic created at the hands of my inimitable co-editors Justin and Jini. Thanks for having me for all this time, it’s been so nice.

Zoe isn’t disappearing, and will still be involved in TLB things here and there, but for the time being we wish her the all the best and the support and all the love in her next pursuits.

Thank you Zoe. We can’t wait to see you carve your way into the future.

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‘The Artisanal Sadness of Millennial Mental Illness in Netflix’s Maniac’ by Katie Dobbs

While it lacks the gothic tones of these 2018 films, the recent Netflix series Maniac, the work of director Cary Joji Fukunaga and writer Patrick Somerville, also has a disputed diagnosis at its heart. A young man, Owen Milgrim, is taking medication to treat paranoid schizophrenia. But is he really ill, or just alienated? Katie Dobbs investigates the artisanal sadness of millennial mental illness in Netflix’s Maniac (2018).

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‘Fabulousness—an emancipatory endeavour that reminds us to keep pushing the horizons of our dreaming’ : Interview with madison moore, by Angelita Sofia Biscotti

madison moore is the author of Fabulous: The Rise of the Beautiful Eccentric (Yale, 2018). He obtained his PhD in American Studies from Yale University, and did postdoctoral research at King’s College London before becoming an Assistant Professor of Queer Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. He is also a DJ who has played sets in London, Amsterdam, Berlin and New York. His work has appeared in The Paris Review, Crack Magazine, Interview, Thought Catalog, Art in America, Theater, The Journal of Popular Music Studies, among many. He was a recent guest of The School Of Life in Melbourne and the Perth Writers Week.

We met at 2pm on the Monday he was scheduled to speak at The School Of Life. He wore a black sequined bolero, gold bangles and a studded ring that span two and a half fingers. I wore my pastel pink wig and Wild Barra leggings. After the interview, we discussed the prospect of him DJ-ing in Melbourne. In less than 24 hours, we found ourselves promoting a free-entry book reading and techno dance party event at Evie’s Disco Diner in Fitzroy, which took place on Wednesday. He flew to Perth on Thursday and will be back teaching in Virginia by the time you read this interview.

Angelita Sofia Biscotti: So you were a classically trained violinist. And then you became a DJ, a pop culture critic, and a queer studies academic. How did that happen?

I often get asked about my different practices. To me, they’re not different practices. It’s the same thing. When I’m writing a piece or DJ-ing or writing a book, it’s still about sharing knowledge. I have a point of view and maybe I’ll use a DJ set or maybe a book or the classroom to get across a point of view. That’s really what it is. I always have tried to just be myself. I know this sounds New Age and mystical, but just be yourself. But to be honest, I don’t have a secret. I don’t have a special trick that I use or a special potion or something. Literally I just did what occurs naturally. I don’t know how else to be. So I don’t know how not to see this (fingers sequined bolero) and not wear it, or like not be interested in something and not pursue it. I don’t have things all figured out. I just do what interests me.

ASB: The title of the book is Fabulous. I guess the opposite of fab is drab. Or boring. Is there something dangerous about being boring?

MM: (evil laugh) Diabolical laughter. I think boring, or boredom rather, is fundamentally about norms. The status quo. Stasis. I remember hitting the men’s section in the department stores: I didn’t understand why all the fun stuff was in the women’s section. Why was it over there? But of course. Culture and norms and family values tell you to have to be in the men’s section and I didn’t want to be in the men’s section.

We suppress ourselves to make other people comfortable. And fabulousness, as much as it is fun and exciting and voluminous and full, that it is also about choosing when you can do it. Sometimes you just can’t do it. Sometimes you just don’t want to do it. Sometimes you don’t have the energy. It’s an ebb and a flow.

If you are 100% comfortable how you are in your body, how you are in the world, and you don’t want to make any changes, good on you. For many people who are marginalised that is not necessarily the case. We live under whiteness, under white supremacy, and are told that our bodies are not desirable because we are not thin enough, not white enough, our hair is not blonde enough, because we don’t have enough hair, we don’t speak a certain way, we don’t have the right accent.

ASB: In the book, there’s a section—and I don’t know if it was you or someone you were interviewing—and they said, ‘you or they felt more themselves wearing makeup and wigs and a full look’. And I remember a therapist judging me for wearing wigs everyday, as though I was being ashamed of my ‘natural self’. And that’s not the reason why I wear wigs. I wear wigs because my skin is extremely sensitive to colouring material and it’s also very expensive to lighten my hair enough to naturally colour it the way I would like. Would you say there is something problematic about the idea of ‘the natural?’

MM: Of course, there is. Biology and what’s considered natural are always socially, historically and medically constructed. And largely by colonialism. In that interview, the person who said that at the time was an untenured university professor. She told me her real self is when she’s in makeup and heels. That is her real self. But it’s norms and systems and departments and individuals that make us feel like we have to turn off those aspects of ourselves because they don’t like it or because it makes them uncomfortable. And that’s what I was saying about the danger of boredom. It forces us to think we have to blend in. If you want to blend in and that’s your tea, run and go with it and live your best life. Do what you gotta do. But if that’s not for you, you should not be penalised because you want to wear wigs everyday, or wear makeup, or get dressed up a certain way.

ASB: Onto things that are most definitely not boring: say, clubbing. You’ve written about how clubs in Europe get community grants. And you’ve also written about the legendary club Berghain in Berlin and how it feels like a church. So, I want to ask what makes the club such a special place? And what makes a club good?

MM: The US doesn’t have a club culture in the same way that you’d find in Europe. I’m not sure that there would be a night club that would be taxed at the same rate as the New York Philharmonic. That blows my mind. It’s the idea that it happens less the sort of result or the why.

Club culture in Amsterdam, or in Berlin or, to some extent, London—it’s seen as a cultural engine, it drives culture. It’s a force, an idea. I’m thinking about how a couple of weeks ago, there was a review in the New York Times about a venue in London called The Yard. In a New York Times-way, the club has been there for five years but they’re only writing about it now. They’re so late. Which probably means the club is reaching its peak.

But the point is the article was saying ‘wow, this is a night club, this is a theatre space, all in one’. And I’m like, “Where have you been?” but also that’s the model. I would love to see more of that kind of space; a club that has club nights, but is also a theatre space, but also has concerts and maybe is also a gym. Maybe also a coffee shop. So, you go there during the day to hang out, do some work. Maybe you also go there at night to club. But the point is that the club or the venue is a space that has multiple purposes so different people can find their way in.

What makes a club memorable, what makes a club worth talking about, is the owners have invested in creating a particular experience, a world, that people are desperate to be a part of. Because night life is often about escape, finding community, through music and through people.

ASB: You DJ for a queer techno collective called Opulence. Tell me about that.

MM: I run Opulence with good friends I met in London. We wanted to create a space that was femme-centred, a space that did not revolve around cis white men. A space that’s femme-positive, but also has techno music and experimental music. And it’s really fun to work with everyone on the team because we’re all so different but all so passionate. It’s our child, our queer techno child.

One of my good friends, my sister, Shaun J. Wright, is an amazing DJ. A black queer person from Chicago. He played a show in Pittsburgh and oh my God, he slayed my tits off. These are the kinds of artists we engage with, not the cis white men who’s getting probably paid several thousands of dollars to play at a festival. It’s someone like Shaun J. Wright who’s the heart and soul of the culture. Cis white DJs will always get gigs anyway. So, they don’t particularly need every space. They will get booked regardless. That’s what we care about at opulence. Highlighting everybody else.

ASB: Going back to the idea of fabulousness: the progressive scene can feel so basic, or so grim sometimes. Is fabulousness a fantasy, a distraction, from political goals? Or is it an emancipatory endeavor that reminds us to keep pushing the horizons of our dreaming?

MM: I think it’s both. Fabulousness is absolutely a narcissistic, fun, pleasure-ful space. And by the way, what’s wrong with narcissism if you are in a body that is constantly told that you shouldn’t exist? That you don’t get to exist? That you don’t ever see yourself in movies, or on the cover of magazines? That you are constantly told you are not beautiful, you don’t have the right body shape or complexion? So what’s wrong with a little bit of self-love?

In saying that, fabulousness is revolution. It is about arming yourself through style as a way to make it through the world. What I love about style is it’s taking up space, but it’s also creating possibility for someone else. There may be someone on the tram or in the bus or walking on the street who sees you and go ‘wow, how can I push myself’? The kind of conversation that allows us to speak to each other without words.

So, yes, it is about narcissism and self-love, and it is also about revolution. Staging a revolution through style, through wigs, through sequins.

ASB: I was just thinking about your chapter on vogueing and ideas surrounding cultural appropriation and gentrification. Do you think these can be defeated or slowed down? I am thinking about style and performance as for the lack of better words, cultural and intellectual property. Or heritage. Can style ever be owned? Or can it ever only be sold, as in someone looking at you and saying “I’m buying this” or “I’m not buying this”?

MM: Style always starts on the bottom then goes to the tip-top of consumerism, then makes its way back down to the fast fashion space. Ten years later, it’s at Louis Vuitton then it hits H&M. And when we talk about cultural appropriation, we talk about the question of money: who’s getting paid. You have working-class folks from the hood, who have certain style practices, who have ways of being in their bodies or ways of dancing that are utterly demeaned or seen as inappropriate or not respectable. And then when somebody white does it, it becomes cool.

ASB: Like Iggy Azalea.

MM: I wasn’t gonna say it. You said it.

ASB: She’s Australian, I’m Australian, so I guess I can.

MM: It isn’t only about the practice of taking something that came from working-class communities and doing it. It’s about the fact that they’re getting paid. Millions. In the same way that people who started it—and do it better by the way—are overlooked and told that they are a problem.

One of the things I’m particularly wary of is cornrows or braided hair. One thing I noticed when I was in Berlin was all these white women in cornrows and braided hair and I just don’t understand. I remember how my mother braided my sister’s hair because she was a single mom. She didn’t have time to braid my sister’s hair every day for school so she would braid her hair for a month to save time. This is what I think about when I think about black hair. So when I see white women with braids, it’s not to say that they can’t have braids or whatever, but I’m wondering why: What is it doing? What is the point? What is this for, for you? And I think you have to have a meaningful answer, to be honest.

ASB: They can’t just feel entitled to it and not be able to account for why they do it, because it is an act of family and love and community and sharing and generosity. And to them, it is just an aesthetic.

MM: And they do it because they’ve seen it in Vogue, they’ve seen it in a music video, they’ve seen one of their favourite models do it.

ASB: Tell me: what are you loving right now? Like books, TV, night life, music.

MM: We already keekee-ed about Sex Education which I love. One of my other favourite podcasts is ‘The Read’. It’s two queer black people talking about pop culture and it’s sassy and it gives me everything I need.

What else? There’s a singer I’m obsessed called Moses Sumney. He’s a black singer, and baby he will take you to church (collective squeal) His voice, I’ve never heard anything like it. It’s bluesy, he’s got this impeccable falsetto and you are like what is going on. There’s a track called “Make Out In My Car.”

ASB: If I’m bawling tonight it’s gonna be because I listened that.

MM: And that’s the whole point. I got friends who call me and say, “Baby you made me listen to Moses Sumney, and I am crying. Please send reinforcements!”

Angelita Sofia Biscotti is a model, photo-artist and writer who used to publish work under the name 'Angela Serrano' and tweet as @angelita_serra. She was a 2017 Hot Desk Fellow at the Wheeler Centre. She has been published in Archer, The Lifted Brow, Overland, Peril, Cordite Poetry Review and elsewhere. Her erotic poetry chapbook Else But A Madness Most Discreet is available through Vagabond Press. Her modelling work has appeared in Pencilled In, Hot Chicks with Big Brains, We Are Something Else, and Demasque. Her photography has been exhibited at Midsumma Festival's Queer Economies St Heliers St Gallery and the BlackCat Gallery's Square-Circle show. She is an alumna of the Footscray Community Arts Centre's West Writers Group.

Twitter: @angelitabiscuit / Instagram: @angelita.biscotti

'Your Edgy Zeitgeist Award Winning Black Comedy: Our readers’ report' by Emilie Collyer

Thank you for submitting Your Edgy Zeitgeist Wunderkind Award Winning Black Comedy Trailblazing Groundbreaking Funny Violent Pop Culture Seminal Genius Work of Genius for our consideration.

The piece elicited a range of responses.

On balance we are going to pass on your work. These decisions are often a matter of timing as much as anything and we couldn’t locate the piece within the current zeitgeist with quite the same confidence as you have. We wish you well with your writing.

Reader 1
The genius of this writer is in his genius. His reputation as an irascible genius precedes him and holds up in this work and its genius for showing the brutal genius of humanity in genius ways that remind us of the twisted genius of the male genius and how lucky we are to have such geniuses illuminating truths for us. I for one agree with the world’s best theatre critics I found in my Google search who hail this work as genius:

I doubt any more works need to be written, except perhaps more by this genius writer whose genius is undisputed.

Reader 2
Hey mate I was relieved to read this strong work written by a man. Don’t know if you’ve heard of the VIDA Count, ‘amusingly’ coined as an attempt to find out 'Which Magazines Are the Palest and Malest?'—I know, right. Anyway a couple of years back some smart fellas organised their own anonymous version of the count. They were rightly concerned about men being increasingly shut out of literary opportunities, access and doorways. Mate, I’ve tried to get in touch with these fellas, who called themselves Equality in Literature. I reckon your piece would be a ray of hope for them. But it looks like the poor buggers got so dispirited with the state of things that they’ve closed up shop. I’ll keep trying and I’ll keep spreading the good word. Don’t you give up either, mate. The world needs you.

Would nominate for the V.S. Naipul prize.

Reader 3
I loved it, man. It’s fucking funny as. Child abuse is funny because it’s true and it’s fucked up and we’re all fucked up, man. Fuck those uptight bitches who are all in your face about ethics and responsibility and the word having immense power to perpetuate models of corruption and violence dressed in the misguided guise of critiquing them. Fuck ‘em! They lost their sense of humour in around 1974. It’s a great fucking work, man. It’s fucking funny and you’re brilliant. I love that all the blokes are fucked up because we are, mate, we are! I love that they keep bashing his head against the table and at the end they just shoot the mother fucker right there, bang! In the fucking head. I love that as the audience you’ve got no fucking idea whose fault anything is or where the responsibility lies or why he was abused as a kid and what you’re saying about kids who were abused or why they were all abused as kids and what you’re saying about a society that neglects its children – none of that matters because it’s just funny as fuck and at the end, he gets shot, bang! Right in the fucking head. Keep going, man. Forget about these naysaying bitches. You’re onto something. Don’t get discouraged. After all, you’ve won awards, right, man? So you’re onto it. You know your shit. Keep doing what you do, man.

Reader 4
Still looking for a seminal piece of Incel literature. It’s woeful how absent decent, compassionate, detailed representations of this sub-culture are in our literary canon. Don’t think this piece is it, but this guy could probably do it. If he wants to submit something to that brief I’d definitely read it.

Reader 5
I wanted to like this I really did. I want to believe the hype. I want to be moved. I want to be certain. I want to be sure I am not just a boring prude who gets offended by violence. I read it again and again and again. I like men’s writing. It’s clear and straight like an arrow. I love it when I hear young women writers talk about wanting to write more like men. I understand that. I empathise with that. I tried. I really did. I tried so hard. It could just be that I didn’t understand it. I’m willing to suppose that. If others liked it then that’s probably the case. Men have been doing this much longer after all and they know what they are doing as writers and as readers. I just… I just… It made me feel weird. But I’m probably wrong. After all, look at this list of experts who know much more than me about theatre:

Reader 6
What is most interesting to me in this work is that which is not said. I return again and again to the man with the slicked back hair rifling through the sheets of paper. Delicate and thin, of a time when paper still meant something. There is nothing written on the pages but he goes through them again and again. He is seeking words but he is conjuring, for the audience, the stories of their own past and potential future. Those moments not recorded, barely remembered. The cupboards rising in size along the bottom of the stairs. The bush with the thick leaves. The climbable tree. The slanted slate roof perfectly dangerous for climbing. The small hole in the red brick wall through which the milk was delivered. The boy at the beach you flirted with, hoping desperately he would fall in love with you. So much so that you sat all day in the January sun and burned your shoulders to blisters. Someone’s mother was kind the next day and put a cool, soft cream on your angry skin. You saw the boy a few more times. He was mildly impressed by your sunburn. Was this the same place where you argued with your two best friends about cricket? They thought the Australian team was a bunch of hopeless losers. You weren’t sure why that made you angry. You never saw yourself as particularly patriotic but maybe you were more parochial than you thought. Your own unfinished stories on rice thin paper that you hoped would shine but laboured under something clumsy you could not discern. The same thing, perhaps, as the boy and the sunburn, your friends and the argument. The same thing that even now stops you short when you catch a certain angle of your face in a passing window. No. Surely not. I don’t live in there. Do I?

Other than these moments the play didn’t do much for me I’m afraid. But there is something there, unexpressed, that the writer may discover in time, if encouraged to develop his work in more interesting directions than presently on display.

Reader 7
Seriously. Why?

Reader 8
Some promise but somewhat tired trope of Misunderstood and Self Deprecating Just a Bit Too Smart for His Own Good Vulnerably Flawed Protagonist who is about to get caught up in a Surprisingly Violent Situation Not of His Own Making although perhaps it might be, after all the truth is not always what it would seem and our Protagonist is Somewhat Unreliable.

Reader 9
Subject shows obvious signs of inferiority complex as evidenced by a plot that focuses on disempowerment, dismemberment and suppressed rage that is only expressed via violent attacks on those weaker and more vulnerable. While this is not uncommon in the public life of men and the popular culture both created and consumed by men it is still cause for concern. Subject may benefit from interpersonal psychotherapy, structured socialising activities or indeed keeping the expression of such violent impulses contained to the privacy of their own home where they can masturbate, fantasise and enact such violence upon inanimate objects, rather than subject yet another group of actors and yet another captive audience to the well-trodden path of stunted Oedipal complexes upon which the vast majority of past and present literature, popular culture and narrative training is so tiresomely and exhaustingly based.

All the other ways of depicting the history of power, property, masculine domination, the constitution of the State, the ideological apparatus have their effectiveness. But the change taking place has nothing to do with questions of “origin”. Phallocentrism is. History has never produced, recorded anything but that. Which does not mean that this form is inevitable or natural. Phallocentrism is the enemy. Of everyone. Men stand to lose by it, differently but as seriously as women. And it is time to transform. To invent the other history.

—From Sorties by Helene Cixous

It should be noted that this critique is limited and complicated by my own upbringing surrounded by visual, linguistic and aural information that centralises penis envy as the original state of all humans and assumes a significant Freudian Influence on the 20th Century Mind, from Oedipus Complex Tropes in TV to The Oedipal Complex in Pop Culture more broadly and living in An Incredibly Freudian Culture that Doesn’t Believe in Freud Anymore.

Reader 10
Why is it set in a nameless totalitarian state? Is the writer from a totalitarian state? I’m not suggesting only writers who live in totalitarian states should write plays set in totalitarian states but if you are a writer not living in a totalitarian state and you are writing a plays set in a totalitarian state there is presumably a very clear statement you are wanting to make. In this instance the premise appears to be that all the characters are victims of the totalitarian state, whether police, victims or criminals as evidenced by the fact that all characters speak of having violent pasts and being abused by their parents or other adults in their lives. I am guessing this is an attempt to make a comment about how contemporary society is failing its children. However as this phenomenon in the real world is not limited to totalitarian states, but can be found in every kind of political and socio-economic society, I am left wondering as to the purpose of the metaphor in this instance. It appears to be nothing more than a setting which allows a protracted and violent police interview situation with a high number of faux cheerful threats and enactments of violence rather than any kind of pressing political statement.

As is common with many (mostly male) writers who have been assured again and again of their talent, their skill, the importance of their words, the result is work that suffers from a lack of internal interrogation. It is written simply because it can be. And because there is no impediment to these (mostly male) writers, what comes through in their work is a lack of care about the ideas expressed and the words chosen. It’s just so much noise and, having never been silenced, they seem to not fully appreciate the power and therefore the responsibility that comes with having a voice. If I may quote Audre Lorde’s essay 'The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action':

What are the words you do not yet have? What do you need to say? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence?

I fear there is no danger of this writer dying from his silenced, internal tyrannies but he could do well to spend some time meditating on the words he does not yet have and even more so on what he actually, truly, deeply, needs to say.

Reader 11
I think the writer is confusing ‘black comedy’ with gratuitous and thinly veiled misogynistic and/or racist and/or homophobic and/or ableist violence. Is the secondary character’s description as a ‘retard’ supposed to be a comment on society or is it actually just the backwards, lazy, offensive slur it is coming across as? Keen to hear others’ thoughts on this.

Reader 12

Reader 13
Curiosity about the inspiration for this work led to some rudimentary Googling whereupon I discovered the playwright states that he set out to write something as dark and powerful as a fairy tale. While admiring the ambition I couldn’t help feeling some important steps in translation, interpretation, modernisation and ethics were missed.

I am going to borrow from pre-eminent writer and scholar Marina Warner who has made a life’s work of exploring fairy tales and myths in saying:

The literature of the imagination isn’t separate from ethical and political issues and facts; it develops in active dialogue with them, illuminates experience in history and now, and I believe its effects are overlooked and misunderstood, with sometimes dangerous consequences.

If indeed the playwright is making a serious attempt to engage with the structures, narratives, politics and ethics of fairy tales in order to reflect something cogent about our modern society then he would do well to heed the words of other notable authors that have been down this path before him. As Angela Carter notes in her essay ‘Notes from the Frontline’:

... most intellectual development depends upon new readings of old texts. I am all for putting new wine in old bottles, especially if the pressure of the new wine makes the old bottles explode.

With this in mind I read the play under present consideration and must confess I was left wanting.

When would the shape of the bottle become apparent? What subtle or radical new flavour would I find within? At what moment would the explosion come at me?

I waited and hoped.

In vain.

The bottle has a familiar shape. The wine within is strange but only in a way that leaves a sour taste and makes me want to tip it down the sink. As for the explosion, well this eventually came about in a disappointingly literal way (a gun shot, a violent death).

No interrogation of power via fairy tale tropes; no investigation of gender or heteronormative behaviours which are the underlying foundation of all canonical fairy tales, bearing in mind, as Karen Seago acknowledges in her essay ‘“New Wine in Old Bottles”?: Angela Carter’s Bloody Chamber of Revisioned Fairy Tales’:

… many of the features which feminist scholars (rightly) criticised in (popular) fairy tales are not inherent elements of the genre as such but are constitutive only of the canonical tales which represent just a small, and strictly edited proportion of traditional, or oral tales … [as] those tales which did not conform to patriarchal gender politics, [also] tended to be excluded’

I searched for connections and was hopeful upon a first glance. We hear a tale of two children tortured in different ways by adult caregivers in their lives. My mind floods with associations: Hansel and Gretel, The Woodcutters Daughter, Rumpelstiltskin, not to mention the plethora of fairy tale protagonists kicked out of home, treated poorly, left to die or sent to hopeful or deliberate deaths by step-mothers and evil queens (Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Red Riding Hood).

And yet as I read the work under consideration once, twice, three times, I could not fathom the reference stories nor the contemporary twist. The adult caregivers have no apparent reason for the torture they inflict (such as desire for power or money); they are not meted out with either reward or punishment (except for swift deaths at the hands of their child); this part of the story acts as a back drop or rationale as to why one child writes stories (hundreds of them, most if not all unpublished but apparently with enough cache to attract the attention of police investigating crimes) and another kills people based on the torture described within these stories.

Is the provocation: violence begets violence? Writers are damaged? People with mild intellectual disabilities are a danger to society? Not everyone should be a parent? If you have a bad childhood you’re doomed so you might as well kill yourself and if you’re unlucky enough to live to adulthood you’re doomed anyway and will end up killing others or being killed either by yourself or others?

[NOTE: Perhaps I am giving too much benefit of the doubt]

I could not come up with a definitive answer to this and the harder I tried the more frustrated I became and yearned for the rigour of thought others have applied to this similar exercise as recorded about Angela Carter in the Seago essay:

…using the established format of the fairy story and filling it with newly produced content in such a way that the rigid constraints of the past are transgressed and open up ways for a new appreciation of a genre.

All up a watery drop that left me perplexed as to why I’d been asked to sip on this vintage when all it was going to leave me with was a blood stained floor.

Reader 14
It’s very … male writing isn’t it.

Reader 15
Your one female character appears to have no purpose in the play other than to serve as either a positive or negative projected fantasy of the male character(s). She has no agency and therefore perpetuates a demeaning stereo-type of women that they only exist in the world as bit part players in male story lines. And why is she described by what she is wearing and how she looks when none of the other characters are?
(Oh, sorry, this feedback is for another play.)

Your one female character appears to have no purpose in the play other than to serve as either a positive or negative projected fantasy of the male character(s). She has no agency and therefore perpetuates a demeaning stereo-type of women that they only exist in the world as bit part players in male story lines. And why is she described by what she is wearing and how she looks when none of the other characters are?
(Oh, sorry, this feedback is for another play.)

[Ed: This comment was repeated ad infinitum in the reader’s report, indicating the reader has read dozens if not hundreds of plays where this comment was applicable. We have presented the comment here just a few times for the sake of expediency.]

Your one female character appears to have no purpose in the play other than to serve as either a positive or negative projected fantasy of the male character(s). She has no agency and therefore perpetuates a demeaning stereo-type of women that they only exist in the world as bit part players in male story lines. And why is she described by what she is wearing and how she looks when none of the other characters are?
(Oh, sorry. Strike those apologies. This feedback is indeed for your play.)

[Ed: While the editorial team respect this reader’s feedback particularly in regards to the complexities of applying the Bechdel test to a work in which it is literally impossible to analyse due to lack of female characters, we have some concerns about the propensity of women to apologise when delivering criticism or critique and so provide this hopefully edifying list of resources for the benefit of all: Why women need to stop saying sorry in the workplace. Various advice columns, articles, training regimes, professional workshops, and How To Succeed In A Man’s World By Being More Like A Man self-help books and seminars that proliferate current discourse similar, but not limited to, these examples: Stop Over-Apologizing—How To Quit Saying Sorry So Much, When An Apology Is Anything But, This Email Tool Wants Women To Stop Saying Sorry, Sorry Language Shamers But Women Just Don’t Need Your New Email Policing, Women Should Be Sorry But Not Sorry That We Say Sorry So Much, Saying Sorry At Work, Women Stop Apologizing At Work, Women Work Apologise Exclamation, Just Not Sorry App Stop Women Saying Sorry Emails, What Happened When I Stopped Saying Sorry At Work For A Week, #sorrynotsorry]

Reader 16
Non-exhaustive reading list:
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Sara Ahmed, Hannah Arendt, Mariam Bâ, Mieke Bal, Hannah Black, Mary Beard, Mary Borsellino, Carmen Boullosa, Rosi Braidotti, Angela Carter, Sue-Ellen Case, Helene Cixous, Cheryl Clarke, Angela Davis, Aria Dean, Buchi Emecheta, Shulamith Firestone, Maria Irene Fornes, Roxanne Gay, Jack Halberstam, Suheir Hammad, Shere Hite, bell hooks, Luce Irigaray, Qiu Jin, Julia Kristeva, Celeste Liddle, Simi Linton, Audre Lord, Nivedita Menon, Aileeen Moreton-Robinson, Toni Morrison, Maggie Nelson, Flora Nwapa, Corbett Joan O’Toole, Laurie Penny, Adrienne Rich, Joanna Russ, Anita Sarkeesian, Setsu Shigematsu, Susan Sontag, Aisha Taymur, Kate Tempest, Li Tingting, Alice Walker, Marina Warner, Susan Wendell, Jeanette Winterson, Naomi Wolf, Audrey Wollen, Mary Wollstonecraft.

Reader 17
He’s not bad looking. One of those guys who’s aging pretty well. I’d probably fuck him. Can’t find information about whether he has children or not. Frustrating! That stuff is so easy to find out about women. Wily fucking guy keeping his personal life personal. Anyway. Assuming he is a childless man we can equally assume he doesn’t understand the true nature of love and has selfishly put his career before his non-existent children. But yeah, I’d still probably fuck him.

Emilie Collyer writes plays, prose and poetry. Her writing has appeared in Overland, The Lifted Brow and Aurealis, among others. Recent award-winning plays include Dream Home and The Good Girl which premiered in New York in 2016. For more of her work, visit