'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 betweenthecracks.net.

‘An apple is never just an apple: A Review of Jenny Hval’s "Paradise Rot", translated by Marjam Idriss', by Justine Hyde

Verso Books

Jenny Hval is best known as an avant-garde musician who blends the political and the personal in her music. Paradise Rot is her first book translated into English (it was originally published in Norway in 2009). Icelandic musician Bjork gets a passing reference in the novel, and all through reading it, the lyrics to ‘Birthday’ by the Sugarcubes kept coming to mind. After a while, I gave in and listened to the song—the spiders and flies, the creepy sexuality—it makes the perfect accompanying soundtrack to reading Hval. Of course, you could skip the Sugarcubes and listen to Hval instead. She challenges gender conventions and plays with humour and ambiguity to create songs that are more dream-like than Earth-bound. Hval’s lyrics centre on feminism, women’s bodies and queer desire. She skewers capitalism and social decay in her songs. In The New Yorker, Anwen Crawford describes her music as “a kind of experimental folk music, which resists the rhythmic and melodic efficiencies…of chart pop in favour of something slower and more irregular, with few hooks or choruses”. Her live shows are known for slipping into performance art, flaunting elaborate costumes and fake blood. She carries this same self-conscious flamboyance across into her writing.

Hval’s slim novel, coming in at just under 150 pages, follows Djaoanna (Jo)—a somewhat naïve Norwegian student—in her overseas move to the fictional town of Aybourne. Jo is in the drab English town to attend university. Her field is biology which she likes to think of as “the study of the living”. Her special interest is myocology—the study of fungi—a specialty that proves resonant as the novel unfolds.

Jo’s story starts out conventionally enough; she arrives at a hostel full of international students, begins to orient herself to the town, and makes a laboured shift to speaking in English over Norwegian. After a tedious search for share accommodation, Jo moves in with local girl, Carral. Terminally-sleepy Carral reads trashy romance novels and watches the television show ‘Charmed’.

Their share house is an old factory—a former brewery—and is barely habitable. It has been converted for living in, but has little natural light, blank walls and is covered in dust and damp. The ‘rooms’ are divided by thin particle board walls that do not reach the ceiling. Sound travels through the factory, leaving no privacy between Jo and her flatmate. This forces shared intimacy between the two women.

Jo says:

I lay awake in my new bed and listened to Carral leaf through the pages of a book. I heard her fingers scrape the rough paper, the spine creak and the binding tighten…in almost imperceptible noises at night I imagined hearing the hint of her curls falling over her cheek as she turned.

Carral describes their makeshift home as a ‘theatre set’, and as their life together descends into the surreal, it becomes a stage for dramatic acts.

Hval’s musical fascination with bodies and desire are further fetishised in Paradise Rot. She is intrigued by permeable boundaries; literal and figurative. Hval dissolves the border between humans and other organic matter, stripping bodies clean of pristine otherness and returning them to the earth. Jo says: “…my dreams are full of apples, and in the dark my body slowly transforms into fruit: tonsils shrinking to seeds and lungs to cores. I dream of white flowers blossoming under my nails, as if under ice.”

Hval dissects women’s bodies and re-forms them into grotesque blossoming meat. Jo dreams of Adam and Eve, “the apple rolled in between Eve’s legs, scratched open her flesh and burrowed into her crotch…bite marks facing out”. This feminist reclamation of ‘vagina dentata’ subverts the view of women’s sexuality as being dangerous to men.

The novel leans hard on the biblical story of original sin, hence the title. When the women bring home a large bag of apples—more than they can possibly consume—the apple juice drips and sticks, and the discarded cores start to decay. This imagery is reminiscent of the rotting fruit in Sarah Schmidt’s See What I Have Done. Just swap the apples for pears. Schmidt’s execution is more stylish and controlled than Hval’s. In fact, Hval’s allegory of Eve’s ejection from paradise is as delicate as a sledge-hammer.

Jo describes their factory home as a “rotten, reeking Garden of Eden”. As the weather in the town of Aybourne cools down, the factory generates its own micro-climate. It becomes humid and moist, a petri dish of sprouting mould and fungi. Hval creates a stinking, claustrophobic environment: their bodies are “clammy”, rooms are covered with “a thin white layer of moss”, the stairs are “damp and slippery”, and their home is full of “the stench of rotten fruit”, “white spiders” and “crawling maggots”. Both the outside climate and reality are kept at bay by the thin walls of the former brewery.

Jo and Carral are suspended in this fecund microcosm and their relationship morphs into a sexual one. The factory becomes host to a fugue state of erotic discovery. It is a psychosexual awakening for Jo as she is pulled towards queer desire. Hval plucks the taut line between desire and repulsion. To be queer is to be marked as perverse and unnatural. For many, it is laden with shame and denial. Jo is torn between lust and resistance. She is caught in a hard crush, but retains enough rationality to be wary of her strange, somnambulant flatmate.

As the boundaries between the women disintegrate, even their corporeal selves begin to merge. Hval relishes in describing bodily viscera; she steeps her characters in blood and piss. Jo describes Carral “twisting and tangling around my spine…there’s a rush through me, her stalks and fingers and veins spread through my entire body like a new soft skeleton”. When the women’s male neighbour, Pym, interrupts their dream world, a ménage a trois develops between the three. This heady brew of jealousy and fluid sexuality cannot end well. Like the female black widow spider eating its mate after sex, Pym’s fate is to be consumed in this tryst. Jo describes “Carral’s body opening and devouring him, slipping over his body and covering it like a thick, soft dress”. Hval doesn’t bother to make Pym anything more than a light sketch as a character. The women discard him like just another apple core.

It is tempting to call this a coming-of-age story, but it isn’t really. Typically, you might expect a protagonist to experience a rite of passage that delivers her into a state of certainty, of resolution. While Jo’s experience is transformational, she is spat out at the conclusion of the novel changed but confused about her sojourn in Carral’s world. Was it all a dream? Where rites of passage are marked by ceremony, Jo’s departure from paradise is unceremonious and ethereal. In this, Hval has struck perhaps a truer depiction of life’s trajectory; one that is looping and smudged, not neat and linear. Jo’s is the anti-hero’s journey.

The strength in Hval’s writing is in her lush imagery. Her lurid descriptions of bodies and decomposing organic matter are both gorgeous and revolting, and she convincingly blurs the boundaries of reality and fantasy. There are nods to fairy tales and horror in the novel but it doesn’t fit neatly into either category. While there are some delicious passages of prose, the reader has to swallow so many layers of metaphor that indigestion belches the emotional guts out of the novel.

In Paradise Rot, Hval has conjured a provocative and decomposing world, one that is dripping wet and swollen. Think of Jo as a hallucinatory sexed-up Alice in a queer, queer Wonderland, lightly snacking on the psychedelic mushrooms described in her myocology textbooks, with one hand down her pants. While not completely satisfying as a work of literature, it’s a mostly pleasurable trip down the rabbit hole.

Justine Hyde is a library director, writer and critic living in Melbourne.

’Political Resistance, By Way of Literary Prizes’, by Alexandra Dane

Rarely does the announcement of a literary prize (and state government literary prize, at that) radiate so far beyond the tight-knit Australian literary field. But last week it did. The New York Times, CNN, the BBC and France 24, along with almost every news outlet in Australia, turned their attention to the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award ceremony where the Minister for Creative Industries, Martin Foley, announced (and mispronounced) that Behrouz Boochani had won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award (VPLA) for Non-Fiction (worth $25,000) and the overall Victorian Prize for Literature—Australia’s richest literary prize—worth $100, 000, for his book No Friend But the Mountains: Writing From Manus Prison (Picador, 2018), translated by Omid Tofighian.

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Excerpt: 'When One Person Dies The Whole World Is Over' by Mandy Ord

We’re mid-way through the official release week of Mandy Ord’s quietly affecting graphic non-fiction book When One Person Dies The Whole World Is Over (did we mention yet how excited we are? Very excited is the answer.) Ord’s work is the latest addition to Brow Books and is just the most poignant, funny and unassuming story of one person’s life.

To celebrate its launch we’re sharing an excerpt from the book, which spans a year in the life of the protagonist and those who surround her. Dive into the first 33 days below.

This above is an excerpt from When One Person Dies The Whole World Is Over, published by Brow Books. You can purchase a copy of this book by clicking here or at all good bookstores.

Mandy Ord is a comics artist, a cartoonist, an illustrator, a speaker and teacher of comics, a greengrocer, and a disability support worker. Mandy’s first graphic novel Rooftops was published in 2008, followed by her second book Sensitive Creatures, published in 2011 and which received a White Ravens award at the Bologna Book Fair. Mandy’s comic stories have also been included in a variety of local and international publications, such as Meanjin, The Age, Voiceworks, The Australian Rationalist Magazine, The Wheeler Centre website, Trouble magazine, SBS Cornerfold, Going Down Swinging, Tango, and Inscribe magazine. In 2018 Mandy illustrated her first book for children, Chalk Boy, written by Margaret Wild.

Mandy Ord's new book is officially out today!

Today is the official publication date of Mandy Ord’s When One Person Dies The Whole World Is Over, and to say we are literally standing on the moon — nay, jumping up and down on the moon — with excitement, is an understatement.

When One Person Dies The Whole World Is Over is a quietly enthralling and keenly intimate work about the search for meaning in the everyday, and what it might mean to belong. A record of a year of a life, When One Person Dies The Whole World Is Over is an attempt to pin down time, to capture the most beautiful and fleeting moments that we tend to rush past.

This is the story of a person and those that surround her. It’s about ageing, love, and loss, and how we might try to balance work and family and art in this confusing modern world. Funny, sad, and perfectly magnetic, When One Person Dies The Whole World Is Over draws you in deep; before you know it you’re caring intensely about the lives into which we are given some precious glimpses.

If you can, please do join us at the Melbourne launch at Readings Bookshop in Carlton on February 18th, where Mandy will be in conversation with Eloise Grills.

“Mandy Ord has again proven why she is one of the most chucklesome, sensitive and freshest visual storytellers in Australia. Unashamedly personal like a letter from a dear friend, Mandy's new book plumbs the depths of the ordinary and finds the universal, all the time with humility, humanity and humour.”
Oslo Davis

“Dogs, coffee, Grandma, work. Naps. The momentousness of everyday life is revealed through this year-long daily diary comic project by the autobiographical comic book genius, Mandy Ord. Her trademark black ink brushwork is recognisable a mile away, and her new book is a tragicomic expressionist vision of the world created by a bemused humanist who is obsessed by The Walking Dead and whose work is an ongoing, dedicated experiment in the mixing of comics and life.”
Bernard Caleo 

Mandy Ord is a comics artist, a cartoonist, an illustrator, a speaker and teacher of comics, a greengrocer, and a disability support worker. Mandy’s first graphic novel Rooftops was published in 2008, followed by her second book Sensitive Creatures, published in 2011 and which received a White Ravens award at the Bologna Book Fair. Mandy’s comic stories have also been included in a variety of local and international publications, such as Meanjin, The Age, Voiceworks, The Australian Rationalist Magazine, The Wheeler Centre website, Trouble Magazine, SBS Cornerfold, Going Down Swinging, Tango, and Inscribe Magazine. In 2018 Mandy illustrated her first book for children, Chalk Boy, written by Margaret Wild.

Mandy’s passion for the medium of comics has led her to present lectures and workshops to schools, universities, festivals and community groups across Australia and internationally. She has collaborated with theatre companies, writers, musicians, historians and audio units for animations and online content. She is currently working with local youth on a Lavington Library art project and her recent work with local Wiradjuri language experts can be seen on the new NBN Box Trail around Albury, NSW.

Maria Tumarkin's AXIOMATIC sold to US and Spanish publishers

Some very terrific news: we at Brow Books have sold Maria Tumarkin’s Axiomatic (winner of the Melbourne Prize Best Writing Award, and shortlisted for the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award in the non-fiction category) into a couple of key territories/languages.

North American rights have been snapped up by Transit Books, and the Spanish language rights have gone to Editorial Minúscula, both of whom are just such wonderful fits for the book.

Thanks to everyone out there reading and championing this book!


“I was immediately very impressed, moved and stimulated by Axiomatic from the moment I first started reading it. Maria Tumarkin’s approach to writing is the kind which may be one of the most fertile across all languages – not only because of its extremely interesting genre-defying aspect, but also because it enables a sort of empathy which, stemming originally from fiction but here in contact with the experiences of real people, develops itself with a particular music and, if masterly accomplished like in this case, may even have some sort of transformative power on the reader. Axiomatic is a beautiful and compelling book which we at Editorial Minúscula are very happy and honoured to have the chance to publish.” –Valeria Bergalli, Editorial Minúscula

Axiomatic is incredible. The writing is fresh and inventive and bold and caring and constantly questioning, managing to hold positions of doubt and certainty as a kind of ethical stance of unknowingness. Tumarkin’s areas of focus feel both particular to Australia and broad enough in their directions of inquiry—multigenerational trauma, structural inequity and racism, teen suicide, anti-Semitism, narratives of trauma and loss—that we were riveted and moved. This kind of hybrid nonfiction is a form that we at Transit Books love so much – but it’s true that it has become widespread and increasingly formulaic in its rule-breaking. What’s so exciting to us about Tumarkin’s project is that it feels like it blows open the hybrid form all over again.” –Adam Levy, Transit Books

“How amazing to be read in different languages, in different countries, by people whose lives I cannot quite imagine. I am mega-thrilled that Axiomatic gets to have a life beyond Australia (much as I am grateful for its life in Australia).” –Maria Tumarkin, author of Axiomatic

“As anyone who has read it can attest—and as local reviewers and readers have exclaimed—Maria Tumarkin’s Axiomatic is an extraordinary book. As such, it is both so fitting and so thrilling that the first two rights deals for Axiomatic are with two independent presses who are celebrated for their focus on the most provocative and engaging works of contemporary literature, and on treating such writing with the understanding and respect it deserves. We at Brow books can’t wait to see how Axiomatic is published by these two houses, and to see readers in the USA and Canada, and in Spanish-speaking countries around the globe, take up the book.” –Sam Cooney, Brow Books

The Liminal Fiction Prize – a new literary prize for Australian Writers of Colour

We’re thrilled to be partnering with the wonderful people at Liminal on this brand new prize. The winning piece of short fiction will appear in Issue 43 of The Lifted Brow, and then over at Brow Books we’ll be publishing an anthology of the best pieces submitted to the prize.

The Liminal Fiction Prize is a new literary prize for Australian Writers of Colour. With a theme of ‘the future’, Liminal is looking for fiction of a new world: not the stuff of flying cars or robots, but a future that pulls against or weaves together Australia’s many fabricated histories.

Australia is a nation that forgets. It forgets 60,000+ years of continuous culture; newspapers that once claimed ‘The Chinese’ brought ‘Vice and Vegetables’ (1891). Australia forgets that our first two prime ministers supported the White Australia Policy, and asks us to forget people caged in an offshore solution.

Too often, writers of colour are forgotten in Australian Literature. The Liminal Fiction Prize insists against amnesia. With this prize, Liminal seeks to promote fiction by writers whose voices are often ignored or elided – for the future of Australian fiction is here.

First prize of $2500 + publication in The Lifted Brow magazine
Runner up will receive $500  
And all shortlisted pieces will be published in an anthology by Brow Books.

The Future

February 1April 1, 2019

5000 words

Entries are welcome from writers who identify as a ‘Person of Colour’, who live in Australia. There is no age limit. We’re keen to read short fiction from writers we know and love, and writers we’ve never met. We want to hear from established authors, and from writers who have never been published.

Submissions open February 1, 2019. Judges to be announced soon!

Big thanks to the Australia Council for the Arts for supporting this prize.