'The Offender', by Emily Meller

Illustration by Marc Pearson.

When you study law, you end up reading a lot of cases. After four years and hundreds of pages, I found myself with more questions about the law—and the people who interact with it—than when I started. In criminal cases in particular, I began to notice patterns, bizarre ones, no matter whether the crime was corporate fraud, or aggravated assault, or petty theft. It all seemed to be driven by the same things: ambition, pride, splintered identity, jealousy. Ego.

What is it that makes someone an ‘offender?’ This is one of many questions I wanted to explore. I wasn’t sure what I’d find in the cases, but once I started reading them, more and more parallels emerged. I made a very professional table with categories like ‘car’, ‘stab’, ‘heavy fog’ and ‘weird face coverings and hats’ to sort some of it out. Apart from the factual similarites, I found a lot of really poetic, weird, and darkly funny moments in the judgments too. ‘The Offender’ is a composite portrait, drawn from these patterns and coincidences. It is a true story.

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Out Now! The Lifted Brow: Digital, Volume Eleven, Issue Two: The Gargoyles & Garbage Edition

Cover art by Jr.Blue/LashnaTuschewski.

The latest Lifted Brow: Digital is here, peering down at you from the rooftops and wafting towards you across the street.

In our Gargoyles & Garbage Edition, Shane Jesse Christmass is on the run from chubby cops and Kimye, Emma Jones says goodbye to the German mountains, Oliver Mestitz rounds up mythic Victorian beasts, A E Reiff writes the fjords, and Julie Chevalier shares three new bang bang poems to shoot you down.

Our contributors are pretty much the opposite of gargoyles and garbage. Here’s a bit more about them:

  • Emma Marie Jones is a Melbourne poet, writer and editor whose work has appeared in Scum Mag, Above Water and others. She blogs at emmamariejones.com
  • Oliver Mestitz writes poetry and fiction and makes music as The Finks.
  • Shane Jesse Christmass is the author of Acid Shottas’ (The Ledatape Organisation, 2014). He’s a member of the band Mattress Grave, and firmly believes that the future of the word, the novel, will be in synthetic telepathy.
  • Julie Chevalier writes poetry and short fiction in Sydney. Her third book, Darger: his girls (Puncher & Wattmann) won the Alec Bolton Prize and was short-listed for the WA Premier’s Poetry Prize, 2013. She co-edited Cracking the Spine: ten Australian stories and how they were written (Spineless Wonders, 2014).
  • AE Reiff is the author of the upcoming Histo-Possum. Archetypes by day, Pennsylvania Dutch, ceramics by night.
  • Cover art by Lashna Tuschewski, an artist working in illustration, embroidery, collage, hand made jewellery, and ceramics.

The Lifted Brow: Digital is available on your preferred iOS device – get the app now.

'Six New Anecdotes', by Wayne Macauley

Illustration by Ben Juers.

COMEDIAN

A Comedian well-known on the so-called comedy circuit for his dry tales told of a childhood lived in a small country town in which he, the Comedian, always played the loser, having married a pop singer and aspiring actress with whom he now lived in a large house in Camberwell, could not understand why one night at a high-profile comedy venue a heckler should stand up and start repeatedly screaming the word Hypocrite! at him. Indeed, it was said of this Comedian who shortly after this incident retreated behind the high walls of his Camberwell mansion, that he was never so funny as he had been before it, although in the opinion of many he had never been funny at all.

COPYWRITER

An advertising Copywriter who set out one day to write a short, narrative-driven advertisement about gambling addiction found herself afflicted a few days into this project with what is known as writer’s block and was soon consuming no less than a bottle of vodka a day in an attempt to dredge something up out of her poor swamp of a brain. After two months of this and with still no more to show for her efforts than a page of notes and some rough sketches the Copywriter, in a moment of unexpected inspiration, rang her employer late one evening and asked could she work on the alcohol campaign instead, for reasons she seemed reluctant to go into.

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'The Monkey in the Mirror', by Rhianna Boyle

Illustration by Charlotte Dumortier.

Washoe the chimpanzee is famous for being the first of her species to learn sign language. Her other claim to fame is coining what is probably the first verbal insult invented by an ape. Washoe was raised exclusively amongst humans and, after meeting other chimpanzees for the first time, she was asked what they were. She infamously replied “black bug”.

Her trainer, Roger Fouts, wrote that “along with everything else she had learned from her foster family, Washoe had apparently learned the lesson of human superiority”. Washoe was familiar with real black bugs—she apparently enjoyed squashing any that appeared in her enclosure—so it seems reasonable to assume that she used the term with derogatory intent, although it’s impossible to say for sure.

Some commentators have pointed out that wild chimpanzees also live in very hierarchical social groups, and that therefore Washoe’s apparent sense of superiority might not be simply an unfortunate by-product of human contact. Rather, the capacity to possess a superiority complex may be as common to both species as the substantial chunk of shared DNA.

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‘“Friendship”, by Emily Gould,’ A Review By Sam George-Allen

 

Emily Gould is a writer, editor, publisher and journalist from New York. She has written for the New York Times, Marie Claire, Slate, Medium, and the New Yorker, and is former co-editor of Gawker.com. She blogs and Tumbls regularly and is a veteran Twitter user. In 2010 she published a book of essays about being ‘young and literary’ in New York, called And The Heart Says Whatever. She has been the subject of dismissive reviews, live-to-air take-downs, and novella-length diatribes. She won’t stop popping up on my newsfeed. I feel like I know everything about Emily Gould.

Like many post-internet writers—including me—Gould is an obsessive self-documenter. She belongs to a generation of digitally-engaged autobiographers, which effectively means all her experiences are available online. Idle googling reveals not just Gould’s own take on her life, but her life through the lenses of her friends, enemies and ex-lovers, all of whom are as plugged in as she is, all creating a spectre of Emily Gould: writer, that makes it really hard to read her new novel, Friendship, without feeling her looming in the background.

Loom as she might, I do think that separating an author and their work is the responsibility of the reader, however googlable that author may be. It remains our job as engaged consumers to realise and remind ourselves that a protagonist is not necessarily an author’s avatar, despite what similarities we might pick up on thanks to their Tumblr. And yet—when a writer like Gould, who has chosen to make so much of her life public, writes a novel with such unavoidable parallels to that public life-documentation, it becomes increasingly difficult to tease the two apart.

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‘An Uncertain Future: Five Stories by the New Oxford American Dictionary with Rory Kennett-Lister’

Photograph by Till Niermann, via Wikimedia Commons. Reproduced under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Licence.

The short stories below are the result of a meeting of infallible machine and imperfect man: my computer and me. Admittedly, that doesn’t sound very different from how other stories are written—a connection between stumbling fingers and a dirty keyboard—but these have been more ‘put together’ than ‘written’.

With the exception of this introduction, every sentence here is sourced from the New Oxford American Dictionary as it appears on a 2010 MacBook. The spelling of certain words has been altered to conform to Australian English, and some punctuation has been added in order to link sentences. Apart from these minor changes, however, each sentence is as it appears in the MacBook dictionary.

What these stories leave behind is something beyond the usually parochial thoughts of my own mind: a harbinger of societal decay.

Of course, to renounce all agency is a cop-out. But if these are not my ideas, where do they come from? Is this a distillation of our collective psyche? An illustration of an innately pessimistic language? Maybe these sentences are a cipher, clues to the Oxford American Dictionary’s worldview. Maybe some subversive programmer inserted them into my Mac’s peachy, bright-eyed, life-is-beautiful operating system to rattle Apple Inc’s foundations. Maybe I’ve been reading the dictionary for too long.

Whatever the case, the message is clear: worry about the future.

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'The Importance of Seeing Earnest': A Critical Experiment

All photographs by Shane Reid, courtesy of State Theatre Company of South Australia.

Jane is a theatre critic. Simon is her editor. Two weeks ago, they went to see The Importance of Being Earnest: Jane for the fourth time, Simon for the first. They spent the next five days emailing each other about the production, exploring its jokes, oddities, and hidden meanings–and ultimately gaining a richer sense of the play than either had foreseen. This is their conversation, as published by email between August 9 and August 13.

Hi Simon,

Thanks for coming along to see The Importance of Being Earnest last night, I had a wonderful time and it was really nice in such an unexpected way to take someone who wasn’t familiar with the play. I think it made me enjoy it all the more. I think sometimes I can get bogged down a bit in the thought of analysing theatre as work—especially when it’s a work like Earnest, for which this was the fourth (!) production I’ve seen—and it’s good to have a jolt away from that.

But then the joy for me in watching it for the fourth time (and I’ve probably read it another three or four times besides) is knowing these plot twists and jokes and having the opportunity to analyse how the director Geordie Brookman made the jokes land (or, occasionally, failed to make them land), what emphasis he put on the physical comedy, etc. Occasionally when I felt the show lulled a bit (because, say, it was focusing on plot rather than the humour for a few minutes) I was just ready for it to speed up, and then it was really lovely to sit next to you and know that when these jokes landed they were landing with you for the first time, when the plot twisted it was twisting for you for the first time. And it felt like there were a lot of people in the audience for whom this was their first Earnest! It was delightful.

A similar feeling, perhaps, to what I get when I’m watching children’s theatre—it all feels new to the audience. It’s nice to think that a 120 year old play is new to people. Would love to know more about how you were feeling as you were taken on the ride, while I was just sitting there waiting for Lady Bracknell exclaim “A hand-bag?”

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Jack Kerouac, interviewed by Liam Pieper

Illustration by Inés Estrada.

Death has been kind to Jack Kerouac. Half a century after the fact, there is little trace of the angry, disappointed alcoholic of his waning years. The guy who drank himself to extinction in his mother’s house is gone – in death, he is both corporeal and ethereal, a strange, shifting tableau of fact and fancy. At last, he embodies the duality of spirit and flesh—what he chased through his writing—that eluded him in life. When viewed from some angles, he still resembles the zombie he became even before death: querulous, confused, puffy with drink, sluggish with self-loathing. But then he’ll catch you with a turn of phrase and his blue eyes will spark and suddenly he’s evergreen again, the perfect embodiment of Sal Paradise, King of The Beats, father of the counterculture, Kerouac’s autobiographical avatar, dreamy all-American hero from his immortal roman-a-clef of On the Road.

“It’s not so bad, being dead,” he assures The Lifted Brow, grinning the weary-jock half-smile that shines from a million book covers. “Although, of course, there is the miserably weary fact of dying itself, and the feeling that everything is dead.”

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