If you google around for critical analysis of The Wire, what you’ll get is less “critical” or “analysis” than it is loyal rhapsodizing. To legitimise their affection, the writers tend to employ lots of words and phrases longer than are usually found in reviews of television shows. “Socio-economic”, “interconnectivity”, or “repressive political mandates” are among the crowd favourites. Many of these pieces state with varying levels of agreement that The Wire is literally The Best Show Ever—a title it still holds over a decade after the first episode aired. Articles trade in talk of exceptional nuance, deftly dealt interrogations of power structures and how unquantifiably badass Omar is (so, so badass).
And look, I totally get it. Even in this golden age of television, we’re so starved of authentic portrayals of non-white, cishet, middleclass folk that when you have a show whose “protagonist is the city of Baltimore”, features a predominantly black cast, and doesn’t demonise or oversimplify the issues it engages with, you just wanna hug the screen (and/or screenwriters) and say thank you thank you so much please never leave me. But hugs limit your perception. Certain head tilts are generally necessary to maintain that mad-satisfying embrace. And what The Wire does get stuck into: oh boy, can it be excellent. Then—because we can’t have nice things slash of course it does—comes this article by Sophie Jones. Not only does it resist the rapture; the piece calls to attention a sustained failure that demands you move the beloved show onto that “liking stuff that is problematic” shelf.
Put bluntly, the way The Wire fails pretty spectacularly is in its unwillingness to treat women as actual people. It consistently resists considering our issues as real, systemic problems that limit how female folk are able to navigate the world. Maybe you already noticed, but I did not, even after multiple rewatchings because the rest was so distractingly rad. This, in retrospect, makes it worse because the writers clearly can navigate some pretty tricky territory when they wanna. For a show that deconstructs race, class, the education system, journalism, and politics like a boss, the invisibility of lady issues feels wilful. Apparently our city of Baltimore—the protagonist—is actually a dude.
The Lifted Brow Digital Edition, a fortnightly magazine for iOS devices, is now accepting pitches for non-fiction pieces, and also submissions of poetry!
Non-fiction pitches can either be for essays and longform work (2000+ words), or shorter commentary pieces (à la columns, lists, criticism, a review of that time you explored the sewers; you know the drill). Please send no more than two pitches of each form.
For poetry, please send no more than 100 lines. All forms are welcome.
We classify short prose as any kind of prosaic writing that is 400 words or less. Think: Flash fiction, flash non-fiction, tiny memoirs, SMS stories, etcetera. Please send no more than two pieces of short prose.
If you’re looking for a brain spark, here are some of our upcoming themes for 2014:
We’re also particularly excited about digitally inclined work, as in anything that delves into the new or unknown, whether through content or form, using the technology of screen-reading. You want to write about how print books smell good, or about Shakespeare’s early work, or about ex-girlfriends? No thanks! You want to write about generative ebook art, Shakespeare bots, or how your ex-girlfriend created an app that turns barcodes into poems? Hello friend! (You get the idea. We’re a digital publishing platform – take advantage of us.)
Please send your pitches, full pieces, and poetry to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Submissions close 23rd May 2014.
We pay our contributors! Rates are available here.
(Are you here by mistake, actually looking for our Ego Issue callout?).
Romy Ash is a fiction writer and essayist. She lives in Melbourne.
Her debut novel Floundering was published in Australia in 2012, and has been the beneficiary of much acclaim. In 2013 it was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award, Commonwealth Book Prize, and won the Sydney Morning Herald Best Young Australian Novelists Award.
Her stories stretch from east coast to west and stations in-between, and the points of reference found within feel tactilely of this country: chip packets on sweaty car seats; the cool of a dank pub; the smell of a ripe mango in your palm.
The two young boys at the centre of her novel—brothers Tom and Jordy—are rendered with clear grasp of mental rhythms of childhood, a logic that Ash never loses hold of even as their unreliable mother abandons them in extremis at an isolated West Australian caravan park. This unfussy psychological acuity runs throughout her fiction. Her characters are familiar to us even as they are strangers to themselves and their loved ones.
Her pieces have appeared in The Big Issue, Griffith Review, Kinfolk, Meanjin, and elsewhere. Her essay ‘Shooting Lunch’ was anthologized in The Best of the Lifted Brow Volume 1. She is sometimes known as a food writer, from her work on the cooking website Trotski & Ash (now also featured on The Guardian’s Australia Food Blog).
The interview took place in my living room in Melbourne. An edited series of extracts from this conversation will appear in The Lifted Brow #22.
- James Robert Douglas
‘Love dolls’ are life-size mannequins made of silicone, with articulated bodies, and working orifices. If you’ve seen Lars and the Real Girl (2007), you’ve seen one. If you haven’t seen that film, it’s about a young man named Lars (Ryan Gosling) who has emotional problems, and who gets a love doll and introduces her to everyone as his girlfriend. A psychologist tells Lars’s family that they should behave as if Bianca (the doll) is real. Subsequently Bianca is embraced by the close-knit community, and Lars becomes more social and eventually moves on. In this fictional case, Lars believed Bianca was real. In actuality, most love doll owners aren’t under such a delusion. The biggest market for love dolls is in North America; the most popular love dolls, RealDolls, are made in California at Abyss Studios. RealDolls are shipped around the world, including to Australian shores, for about $7000. As demand for dolls grows, their lifelikeness improves. Japan is making great strides in synthetic modelling, as is Russia, where dolls can come with orifices that generate warmth. Apparently you can burn your penis in the Russian dolls, though – they are often faulty because of lax health and safety regulations, unlike dolls made in the US, where they have cold (safe) vaginas.
At the Brow, we’ve noticed that more and more people pitching and submitting work—especially those writing nonfiction—seem to feel that it’s okay to insert themselves into their writing, even when it could be considered irrelevant, or unethical, or lazy.
We’re also paying close attention to the larger publishing industry/world, with the seemingly constant rise of the memoir — not only does every celebrity or possible-celebrity feel the need to have at least one memoir published, but unknowns are more and more often trying to become knowns through the publishing of memoirs.
For these reasons, our third print issue of 2014 (out late June) will be themed ‘Ego’, and will be distinctive in several ways.
Firstly, there will be zero instances of first-person pronoun. We are banning all of our writers and artists from using the following words: I, me, my, mine, myself, we, us, our, ours, ourselves. Our essays, short stories, commentary, comics, criticism, poetry and everything will use language intelligently; no one will be allowed to fall back to the obviously subjective, to the insufficiently empirical, to the blindly personal. (And no, we would not love you to get around this by using ‘you’ or ‘one’, or trying to be tricky in some way. Tricksters begone!)
Secondly, we are acutely interested in pitches and full pieces that are outward-looking, that seek to explain the wider world — not through any kind of narrow lens, but through reporting and research. We want to reward investigation; we want writers to try.
We’re looking most for work that focuses thematically on the term ‘ego’ — writing that explores notions of identity, of the self, of arrogance. But think laterally, please!
This is not a case of us railing against any and all self-reflective/reflexive writing; we acknowledge that some stories can only be told from a personal stance. But not all stories. We are simply interested in what will happen when we throw out this challenge — we want to see who will embrace it, who will run away fast, and who will argue that we are fools. Ultimately we are keen to see writers interrogate their own perspectives as well as their processes, and we are keen to see how readers respond.
Pitches must be sent through by April 25th.
Full pieces due May 10th.
Please submit all pitches and pieces through our swish system.
As always, the best way to understand the kind of work we like to publish is to read an issue or two of the Brow. You can get them here and they are inexpensive.
Have you ever eaten a dessert pizza? Have you felt it running down your chin, dripping on your clothes, maybe matting your beard? Have you wondered at its crunch—specifically, how it can coexist with the gooey sweetness of the toppings?
Reading this Dessert Pizza Edition of The Digital Lifted Brow is a little bit like that.
In this issue, you’ll find new poetry from Zoe Dzunko, short prose from Oliver Mol, and a sandy comic from Daryl Seitchik. This delicious combination is garnished with classics from Rory Kennett-Lister and Simon Groth.
If you haven’t already, hurry over to iTunes, get the app, and download your copy now!