“An angry hamster looks exactly like an unangry hamster because the anger is within.” That’s a little nugget of wisdom for you from Serious Adverse Effects – a short story originally published in the second edition of The Lifted Brow back in ‘07 about a semi-vegan hamster who thinks abstractly about HIV. It was written by the current master of blank-faced absurdity Tao Lin, back before he was on the cover of Time magazine.
The last five years haven’t exactly been a boom time for publishing but The Lifted Brow has succeeded because it’s like that weird, articulate friend you didn’t know you needed, who’ll nail the hypocrisy of carbon-conscious people with cocaine habits in one breath, recommend a new Eddy Current song in the next, then go on to rant about the possibility of vegan hamsters after a gulp of beer. Cartoons are scribbled in the margins like they were drawn by a brilliant, ADD-riddled school kid, then they burst out of full-page spreads to flick you on the side of the head. The celebrity gossip makes you think about why we gossip; the reviews, commentary and nonfiction get to the point most of the time; and it’s one of the few literary publications out there that’s always trying to surprise you with its fiction (not an easy task in a medium that’s been around as long as the written word).
Apparently founding editor Ronnie Scott and his friends helped fund the first edition of the Brow by sending their “most attractive editor into Brisbane’s nightclub district with a cellophane-lined basket of home-cooked treats”. Since then they’ve remained independent, publishing who they want (unknown local up-and-comers share page space with David Foster Wallace and Christos Tsiolkas) and saying what they please.
This 'best of’ edition condenses highlights from their first five years into paperback form. It opens with Michaela McGuire’s triumphant fuck you to menial employment in a Brisbane casino, then moves through 230 or so pages of bone-welted hearts, cancer comedy, 'Women of Mystery’, modern religious philosophy and 'Yogurt Guzzling Guar Gum Sluts’. Next time you’re convinced the world is full of morons with no interest in probing what 21st-century life feels like, pick up a copy and have a read.