An Interview with Romy Ash

Photograph by Lauren Bamford.

 

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

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"Love Dolls", by Sofija Stefanovic

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Illustration by Tessa McDonnell.

 

‘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.

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Call-out for submissions to our ‘Ego’ issue

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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.

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Out Now: Digital Edition, Volume 7, Issue 1!

                      

 

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!

"In an old warehouse on the outskirts of Cologne, Germany, Shia LeBeouf is jerking at his medium-sized, flaccid penis, trying to give it some girth and heft for his upcoming close-up. Everything depends on this moment but clearly his penis didn’t get the memo. Penises don’t understand the highly oppressive political hierarchies of the film industry, penises don’t realise how hard it is for an actor to be taken seriously after making a name for himself on a TV show that rhymes and a movie about giant toys. Penises don’t give a toss about anything but a toss and a warm moist hole."
- from Briohny Doyle, “Pony Cunt Nightmare”, a story from The Lifted Brow #21: The Sex Issue. Buy your copy now!

Excerpt: “Two’s Company – Three’s A Working Relationship”, by Zenobia Frost

Photograph by Pietro Izzo. Reproduced under the Creative Commons 2.0 Licence.

Every now and then, I manage to pause The X-Files, leave the house and make a friend. Why? Because I’m low on Vitamin D, sunshine loves company and sometimes so do I. But I hit a dilemma in every ice-breaking chat: I have to decide, in a flash, whether to mention my double-boyfriend status.

It’s inevitable. New friends ask each other about work, passions, partners, cats (mostly cats). When I answer, do I mention only one partner (erasing the other)? Do I merge them, transformer-style, into one very talented mega-boyfriend? I could be up front – but honesty comes with complications.

I’m used to being quizzed about relationships and sexuality. For a fairly vanilla slice, I’ve dated across spectra of gender and age. I’ve had lovers live in my pocket and live overseas. I even once went out with a reverend. Mum has ceased to express surprise. Yet, of all the questions I’ve been asked, this one remains the most challenging: “How did you talk two men into this?”

The answer depends on the audience. There’s the cop-out quickie: a sly, flirty eyebrow-raise. The quip: “The harem is very comfortable.” And then there’s the real answer: My partners are two intelligent adults who gave their informed consent after a year’s worth of reading, thinking and conversation. The truth is that the only thing I’ve trained them in is how I like my morning cup of tea.

The long answer might be the one I prefer to give—I don’t want to end up listed in anyone’s phone as “Hugh Hefner”—but it’s a gateway to stickier topics: ethical nonmonogamy and consent. Critical discussion surrounding these concepts remains relatively new. Consent, on its own, has been waiting since the dinosaurs to become a hot topic; it was Jaclyn Friedman’s 2011 essay “The (Nonexistent) Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Consequences of Enthusiastic Consent” that got the ball rolling for me.

 

This is an excerpt from The Lifted Brow #21: The Sex Issue. Get your copy now to read the rest of the story!

This is the first half of “Donut King Girl”, a comic by Leigh Rigozzi in The Lifted Brow #21: The Sex Issue. Click here to buy your copy!

This is the first half of “Donut King Girl”, a comic by Leigh Rigozzi in The Lifted Brow #21: The Sex Issue. Click here to buy your copy!

"Puddinghead: A Review in Three Parts", by Dunja Kay

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Ball Park Music. Photo courtesy Inertia Music.

Not everyone likes a conventional music review. Trying to gauge what an album is like based on a review is probably about as fruitful an endeavour as trying to write about music at all.[1] Accordingly, the question for many people is not “what is the artistic merit of this album?”, but rather “is it as good as their last album?” or “will I like this?”. This “Review in Three Parts” is my attempt to answer all three questions at once.

 

  1. What is the artistic merit of this album?
  2. Is it as good as their last album(s)?
  3. Happiness and Surrounding Suburbs
  4. Museum

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"The nexus between booze and sex is a rich and culturally productive one. Think of that particular class of not-terribly-delicious cocktails whose names are constructed, German compound noun-style, by their component ingredients: the Long Slow Screw Against a Wall Maybe by the Beach Somewhere. Then there are the drinks whose linguistic explicitness is inversely proportional to their drinkability: Wet Panties, Sex on My Face, or—I swear I’m not making this up—Big Black Cock in My Virgin Ass."
- from Chad Parkhill, “Tangled Up: Our Muddied Thinking About Alcohol and Rape”, a feature from The Lifted Brow #21: The Sex Issue. Buy your copy now!
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