MEANJIN: This is the first edition of Meanjin to be edited by former Fairfax staffer Sally Heath, who has taken over from Sophie Cunningham, which may in itself interest devotees.
Literary journals can be Los Vegas-style smorgasbords, reasonably priced yet lavish, apportioned indulgent treats, items of substance and delicacy to attract and tempt. The choice can be overwhelming, whether to dip in and out or to gorge.
Tucking into the latest Meanjin (Vol. 70, No. 2, 2011) there’s plenty to chew on, notably Gareth Evans’s provocations on classifying human instincts and behaviour when it comes to international relations; Ben Pobjie on why it's okay to make jokes about the offensive; and Jacqueline Dutton’s lovely contemplation of what makes a travel story. Peter Timms has written a timely and stimulating piece springboarding from Hobart’s Museum of Old and New (MONA) on the Wunderkammer, the glorious muddle he sees returning to relevance.
The issue also features a transcript of a Perth Writer’s Festival conversation from March this year, chaired by the Australian’s literary editor, Stephen Romei, with Annie Proulx (The Shipping News, Bird Cloud: A Memoir) and 2007 Australian of the Year, Tim Flannery (The Future Eaters, The Weather Makers). The designated topic is the connection between Art and Science but the discussion doesn’t stay on it for long. The reader is quickly swept up in the duo’s shared fascination with nature, their passion for observation, birds, the natural settings in which they both prefer to live, and finding a sense of place.
Reflecting on our turbulent summer weather is an essay by Alexis Wright and a ‘Retrospective’ of archival images and news coverage of Queensland floods from 1893 to 1973 by Jessica Au.
Fiction on offer delves into the mind of the footy coach in Miriam Sved’s Selfish Play; who we appreciate and who we don’t in John Kinsella’s The Fireball; the rugged, tough world of 19th century sealers off Victoria’s western coast in Denmaar by David Mence; Peggy Frew on family love; and Trevor Shearston on truth, ego and fishing.
Anyone with an interest in small press, hoping to pursue a career in publishing, or with an interest in how a literary journal such as Meanjin might survive and thrive, must read, Change & Prosper. The Meanland 'Reading in an Age of Change' Essay is by former Meanjin editor and now editor of Harvard Review, Christina Thompson. In it she talks about the way literary journals have tackled the challenge of going online and the skills and excitement necessary to exploit the internet’s potential.
This is the first edition of Meanjin to be edited by Sally Heath, now with MUP. Heath was formerly a Fairfax journalist and editor of A2, and has inherited the Meanjin editor's chair from Sophie Cunningham. There seems to have been some teething pains with poetry (see comments) but otherwise a 70 year literary tradition continues ‘to provoke and promote talent, stir ideas and air debate.
Meanjin Vol. 70, No. 2, 2011
Edited by Sally Heath
Melbourne University Press
Paperback, $24.95 RRP