Voiceworks magazine No. 84: Pulp

Beth Anderson

EXPRESS MEDIA: The latest issue of this long-running magazine is a treasure trove of new writing by Australians aged under 25.
Voiceworks magazine No. 84: Pulp
Voiceworks is a literary magazine with a more specific agenda than most. An offshoot of non-profit organisation Express Media, the quarterly publication is produced by, and exclusively features the work of, Australian writers aged under 25. Such a focus might encourage snobbish literary fans to dismiss the magazine as a mere practice yard for unpolished writers to kick about in before graduating to adult publications, but no. The restricted age bracket may impose some cultural limitations on its content, but this in no way devalues the fresh-faced and uniquely youthful perspectives evoked by both the team stitching the magazine together and its contributors.

The latest issue of Voiceworks features the magazine’s usual mix of short fiction, non-fiction, poetry and artwork, loosely centred round the theme of ‘Pulp’. Editor Johannes Jakob introduces the theme as a “terrific” way of exploring the “challenge” of “contemporary literature” alongside musings on clichés, irony and Pokemon; topics befitting any well read and pop-culturally versed youth.

Beyond the editorials, the first half of the issue takes a little while to warm up despite a generally high level of competence amongst the individual writers. Rather, the main concern is the pervasive sense of stylistic similarity amongst the articles themselves, which creates a false sense of blandness when read together. This is particularly the case of the fiction. As the pages roll on, however, the pieces slowly begin to flow together, becoming a pleasurable current of words and ideas covering a suitably broad range of authorial approaches.

A personal favourite from the issue was ‘Merrimen Inc.’ by Eric Greene; a character-driven look inside the world of financiers written with sly humour and enough intrigue to generate a novel. Other works of note include ‘The Roof is on Fire’ by Erica Kiely; ‘Walking ‘Round with Down And Out’ by Tina Williman; ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’ by Jo Day; and poetry by Robert Paulson, Adam Formosa and Amy May Dunn.

Among the non-fiction highlights are ‘The Effects of Drought’, Christine Aitkins’ earnest and clear discussion of the realities of farming in contemporary Australia; a synopses of the representation of minority groups in community programming in Mabel Kwong’s ‘Why Asian Community Radio is Needed’; and a disturbingly insightful testimony about the often hidden problem of “disordered eating” in Christa Jonathan’s ‘The Weight of Being Normal’.

The issue also succeeds in sourcing more geographically diverse material than some other issues of Voiceworks, a big tick for an organisation promoting diversity as one of its core values. However, one weakness is the use of spot colour printing (presumably for budgetary as much as stylistic reasons), which flattens the impact of some of the visual artworks.

All and all, ‘Pulp’ showcases an impressive selection of some of the youthful voices clamouring for a hearing in today’s crowded media.

Voiceworks magazine no. 84: Pulp
Edited by Johannes Jakob
Published by Express Media
80 pages, perfect bound
RRP: $10

About the author

Beth Anderson has worked extensively in Melbourne's community television and radio sectors. Her reviews have been published in Melbourne University’s Farrago Magazine and on weekendnotes.com, and she was scout for the Melbourne branch of review site yelp.com.au.