Overland 207

Jeff Sparrow (editor), Overland 207, Winter 2012

The winter issue of Overland arrived here while I was summering in Turkey, and it was still in its plastic wrapper when spring arrived with a burst of grevillea flowers and the thud of issue 208 on the front step. The spring arrival looks great – it includes a comic – but it will have to wait. Winter is enough for now.

Fat people are oppressed, says Jennifer Lee in ‘A Big Fat Fight‘, and they’re organising on many fronts. It’s a pugnacious article, which seems to anticipate a hostile response, and indeed I found myself wanting to argue with it. Anwyn Crawford responds in issue 208, and addresses the things I was uneasy about much better than I could. I recommend the articles as a diptych. It doesn’t help your argument to tell readers that if they disagree with you it’s a knee jerk reaction.

Porn and the misogyny emergency‘ is a debate between Gail Dines and Sharon Smith, which I’m happy to report doesn’t descend into name-calling, as feminist debates on this subject have been known to – as in a twitter storm around Gail Dines at a recent Sydney Writers Festival.

Jessica Whyte’s ‘“Intervene, I said”‘ addresses the vexed subject of how talk of human rights is used to rationalise imperialist aggression and other nastiness. It strikes me as a sober discussion, not looking for villains or getting lost in its own rhetoric as sometimes happens when mainstream discourses are being critiqued. I didn’t know that Médecins Sans Frontières, undoubtedly good guys in my book, played a major role in popularising the so-called ‘right to intervene’ on humanitarian grounds, which was used to justify the invasion of Iraq and other dubious military ventures.

Matthew Clayfield’s ‘Waiting on the Arriaga-Ixtepec‘ is a first-hand observer’s account of the ordeals of undocumented immigrants to the US from South and Central America. It’s powerful stuff. I could have done without the occasional literary flourish, especially the opening reference to Casablanca with its use of the manglish ‘torturous’ instead of the original’s perfectly sound ‘tortuous’.

Louis Proyect, in ‘Republican Democrats‘, offers an analysis of Obama’s policies that is a bracing contrast to what wishful thinking would have us believe. He argues that the time may soon be at hand when the USA’s rigid two party system yields to something closer to real democracy. In the meantime, he seems to be suggesting that African-Americans are mistaken to support Obama. Having just read Ta-Nehisi Coates’s brilliant ‘Fear of a Black President‘ in The Atlantic (if you haven’t read that article stop wasting your time here and click on the link now), I found Proyect’s argument thin and unconvincing on this point.

There are three pieces identified as fiction, though the most immediately touching of them, 19 year old Stephen Pham’s ‘Holiday in little Saigon‘, isn’t fiction at all, but a meditation on the changes he has seen in his suburb, Cabramatta, in the last ten years, as it has transformed from heroin capital of Australia to tourist destination.

Sequestered up the back on different colored paper is the poetry. I particularly liked Andy Quan’s ‘Islands‘, a cool despatch from a grieving family; Mark O’Flynn’s ‘Corydalis‘, a poignant glimpse of someone else’s homesickness; Fiona Yardley’s ‘Your Bath‘, an unlikely celebration of a long lived love, perhaps an elegy; and Alan Wearne’s ‘Also Starring …‘ poem as parlor game or vice versa, in which actors arecast as dozens of Australian poets living and dead, and a couple of politicians. The pairings that I recognised in that last poem ranged from the wittily spot on, through cheerfully insulting, to gloriously inspired. My favourite is George C. Scott as Francis Webb. It’s a poem that invites reader participation: I’d add Robert Morley as Les Murray and Katharine Hepburn as J S Harry.

Undoubtedly the serious reflections in this issue on all that’s amiss in the world and the possibilities for change will have lasting impact on how I am in the world, but right now my vote for the best thing in it goes to Alan Wearne’s utterly frivolous poem.

One response to “Overland 207

  1. I was taken back by the Stephen PHAM story in Overland of Cabramatta. I taught in Cabramatta for two-and-a-half years – 1979-1981 – a couple of terms in an ESL Unit at the bottom (literally) of Cabramatta High School (there is a line in a Les MURRAY poem about “the deep end of the schoolyard”) with some fine colleagues/teachers’ aides – and at the neighbouring AMES Education Centre at the Cabramatta Hostel (mainly of refugees from Viet-nam – though some were from Cuba, too – out of Fidel CASTRO’s prisons). I spent three-and-a-half weeks in January of 1980 at a Summer School of Intensive Viet-namese language studies at ANU in Canberra – so that I might better understand something (at least) of the language of most of those in my adult classes – though many of them I found were actually first-language speakers of Chinese of one or more varieties. Still. But they were heady days. Interacting with and befriending folk from South-East Asia – where not so long before young men from Australia had been sent to fight and die by a national government arm-twisted (yet again) to serve US interests – trying to find one’s way between opinions forged from a great distance – and through media serving various “masters” or agendas – to human beings fleeing wars – though thank goodness there was Malcolm FRASER stepping up to acceptance – unlike the treatment of the same dire fleeing by boats – though now of of folk from Afghanistan/Iran and Sri Lanka – and the dreadful way they are being treated as politicians of the two major parties hide behind their crocodile tears and disgust at the so-called “people smugglers”/”traders in human flesh” epithets – including clearly some current day “Oskar Schindlers”! My memories of over 30 years ago include a number of staff functions at a fantastic Viet-namese restaurant which lay in a street perpendicular to the station – near the taxi rank! And on the corner immediately opposite the station – a pharmacy – run by Peter BOOOKALIL – a fellow student in that ANU Viet-namese language course! Jim KABLE September 1st, 2012.

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