I grew up in Melbourne, so you’d think I’d know not to rely on weather forecasts that are more than three days old.
Sadly, some of us are amusingly slow to get the memo, or perhaps just unusually optismistic about the wrong things. I’m catsitting for a mate, and wondering why I’m sweating buckets and why my laundry is dry as soon as it comes out of the washing machine. It’s 39 C. I’m thirty-nine. And still an idiot.
zine:Riz Ahmed Eldritch Erotica by Black Book Shoppe
drink:Australian Gothic dry hopped apricot farmhouse ale with wormwood (5.4% ABV, 355mL can) by Sailors Grave Brewing (Orbost, VIC)
music:Merrie Land (2018) by The Good, The Bad & The Queen (squee!)
There’s this series of zines called ‘Eldritch Erotica’ and they’re dedicated to men I embarrassingly hadn’t heard of till semi-recently. Actually, I had heard of Lin-Manuel Miranda of Hamilton fame (thanks Shang Lun for singing the soundtrack back in good ol’ ADB days!), and recently learnt that Jason Momoa is a jerk but only seen pics of Riz Ahmed (phwoar, dishy…). Because he’s born in the UK, this zine is set in London (my birth city: its weather also being somewhat…infamous).
I’ve also saved my first listen of The Good, The Bad and The Queen’s new album (holy fuck! it’s been a bloody decade since their debut?!) Merrie Land for a proper listen. My fave community radio station had said that the album had been described as a product/example of ‘Brexistentialism’ (if you don’t know wtf is going on in the UK re. Brexit then you’re just deliberately ignoring the news) – a contrast to the debut which came out when England was all about expanding and being more connected to the north.
Of course I managed to muck up pouring the bloody beer into a glass, which I’ve had (and looooooved) before. The wormwood this time around isn’t as pronounced (to be fair, it’s been in a fridge for a fair few months) and has more of the slight sourness expected from a farmhouse ale. The first time I had it, it was a bit more floral and fragrant…which I guess was the wormwood (yep, the stuff that used to be in absinthe and made a fair few French 19th-century artists very, very unwell…).
I’m not really paying much attention to the lyrics on the album because it sounds like they’re using recorders or a recorder synth sound and it’s giving me British primary school flashbacks (in case you were wondering, they expected more from their students on the recorder than they did here in Australia. It was only really an aurally painful experience here). They also use the Welsh Male Choir in a lot of the tracks – it’s sad in a childhood flashback kind of way. I keep expecting Aled Jones to break everyone’s hearts with his ‘Walking In The Air‘ (seriously: how is The Snowman a happy Christmas experience?!?! It’s beautiful but it’s really bloody hauntingly sad – sorry, that was a long aside).
The zine. Like the Lin-Manuel one, it’s a choose-your-own-adventure and begins in London. The person you’re pretending to be is nice and awkward, and starts off with hot drinks, and autumn before progressing to tumbling in fallen leaves (I usually die or get to a dead end on the first go of these zines). The reason I love autumn in Melbourne so much is reminds me of England. It’s not too cold, it’s much easier for anyone to feign some sartorial competence, and the colours…
And it looks like I’ve spoken too soon: after an extended bout of affectionate shenanigans, Riz just vanishes?! Should I have fed the ducks in Hyde Park? Checked out the old building? I didn’t want to go shopping in the city, that’s boooooooring! Unless it’s for books…? Or clubbing, I’d just make a fool of my myself on the dancefloor, sob. I can already hear an uncle making fun of me for wearing ‘dem tum-byoy tups an’ dem dawk marten beutsss’* (I’m not taking the piss: that’s is exactly what he said to me the last time I was in England. I still have those boots, probably the longest long-term relationship I’ve ever had if you don’t count the one I have with my shrink).
Usually once I reach my second dead-end or read-through, I read all of the pages from start to finish, but the album I’m listening to is on its last track, and my beer is very, very patiently waiting for me to scarf it down.
*translation: them tomboy tops and them Doc Marten boots
The title of this post is a riff on the French translation of Tous les matins du monde (which translates clunkily into all the world’s mornings. It’s a novel by Pascal Quignard and the film (directed by Alain Corneau) famously has:
THE FREAKING VIOLA DA GAMBA (no joke, this film is responsible for bringing the viol to a wider audience. Don’t even get me started on how ace Jordi Savall is)
Gérard Depardieu’s suuuuuper-hot son Guillaume, playing the younger Marin Marais (I’m really sorry I’m early-modern-western-music geeking out but the music is sublime – may even have read that the actors who are shown playing the gambas learnt the basics but I’m not going to cite that for you ’cause I’m losing you…! <3)
grown men learning music and crying in sheds
soundtrack available here! (I don’t feel dirty about sharing a Spotify URL to it because I’ve got it on CD twice. There was a 20th anniversary for the film version, so I’ve got that one, natch. The ‘regular’ one is really my dad’s, hehe
Review proper starts now.
zine:The Suburban Review vol. 7 (writers of colour)* edited by Anupama Pilbrow
full disclosure: I have a piece that appears in this volume, but for the purposes of this post, I am not reviewing it. This is about celebrating and reviewing others’ works who appear. I’ve never read this zine cover-to-cover till now.
I didn’t really learn the word ‘suburb’ before I came to Australia. In England, places were cities or towns, and in the Philippines they were villages, now that I reflect on where I’ve lived within these countries.
The people that feature in this volume of TSR are amazing. They are intimidatingly talented and their profiles have only grown since it came out. At this year Emerging Writers’ Festival and National Writers’ Conference, I was astounded to learn (pleasepleaseplease read that in the best way possible!) that TSR co-editor Anupama Pilbrow is a mathematician as well as a poet. Recently, I’ve come to see many poetry-pure sciences links as making sense – before I understood them as facts on a page. Perhaps I wanted to see them as distinct rather than celebrate their joyful overlappings.
Anupama’s intro is about representation and how it really matters. Coincidentally, I posted a thread on Twitter the day I started writing this post about how knowing the British-Guyanese writer Fred d’Aguiareven existing means writers like me can claim space?
That last question mark is there – deliberately.
The first piece by Pakistani-based Mahreen Sohail ‘en-route‘ hits me in the feels so hard, I’m not initially prepared. It starts with imaginings of if one were to set fire to a house, then seamlessly moves through the complicated relationship between a mother and a daughter when migration is part of your experience. There were times where I winced reading it because even though I’ve never come across this author’s work before, there is so much that feels familiar – the silences, the I-don’t-want-to-argue-but-I’ll-push-you-to-your-limits-anyway exchanges. Just…wow.
Gomeroi poet and lawyer Alison Whittaker’s ‘Workwork: odes to invisible indigenous burdens‘ has three poems. The first ‘Blackwork’ short, sharp, economical and I love the way she uses dashes and white space. Nothing about the way she uses the page, its language and its space is accidental. It is measured to critique and devastate persons that could be the reader. Here’s a spot that made me go ‘ooh. phwoar. fuck.’:
That dawdling off-trend meme,
White guilt. To survive among it; well,
it’s naff to say, but compul—
—sory to do. …
(excerpt from ‘Blackwork’)
The second poem ‘Heartwork’ is at first literal then metaphorical, in describing the heart and its bodily mechanics. I’m not giving anything away or spoiling the poem for you by quoting its final line:
‘The Sharmas‘ by Jov Almero is clever, incisive and devastatingly funny. It will make you cringe, wince, giggle, raise your eyebrows in saucy expectation, and it’s refreshing to hear someone write about food and not wax lyrical about it as a transformative cultural experience. Cheeky snorts will happen whilst reading! Also: yea fellow Pinoy!
‘Chorui’ by New Delhi-based Sohini Basak is the kind of poetry I want to write – slightly stream-of-consciousness, uses repetition in a letter-permutation kind of way, and includes personalised taxonomies. It’s about a crow who has a bet going on with a sparrow who claims the crow’s too filthy, so it tries to get washed but can’t – because everything it wants to touch to get clean doesn’t want to get dirty!
…then our crow goes to the
… holy cow … milk please … a study in food chain
As I start listening to Radiohead’s Kid A album (one of my favourite musical aids for sleep, and late night working – it’s like musical comfort food?), I read Sean Wai Keung’s ‘Immigration’ poetry sequence. There are two sections called ‘Departure’, and Arrival is in the middle. This review is getting super-long so I’m mindful of that, but it’s such a haunting look at what generations eat and how they travel and what they have to do to survive in the places they’re alien to, in search of a better life. Reading it instills a sad yet necessary pensiveness – it’s nice to be up late now, reading the form I guess I call my writing genre ‘home’ (which stems from my first real love – music) but also a little lonely.
Lee Lai’s comic features a queer couple of colour, one preparing a roast chicken, the other excitedly interrupting. Afterwards, they share the meal and feed each other, and say the most vulnerable, frightening, loving things to each other. ‘Queer people of colour and romantic* contentment’ needs to be a genre! This comic sequence made me smile the way I do when my cat is happy and she just wants to be around me because my existence apparently makes her really settled, and then we catch each others’ content feels.
Eerily, when reading ‘Looking For Cuba’ by Celine Aenlle-Rocha, ‘In Limbo‘ and ‘Idioteque‘ came on. It’s short but impactful, and questions when a person stops and/or starts to belong to a place they are fleeing, and the place they’ve fled to.
Stephanie Chan’s ‘Waterfall’ is a poem/microfiction piece about a first, shared overseas trip to Malaysia. It’s also another lovely example of queer intimacy and is prefaced with a note on its inspiration (Cyril Wong’s poem ‘crossing j. b.’ from their poetry collection Below: Absence – more wonderful poets’ work to look up!).
Ellen van Neerven, a Yugambeh writer, has a short story called ‘Carrier’. It’s kind of wonderful and dark, in that way where you read and don’t quite know what’s going to happen or follow, and know that some bad stuff’s gone down, and your mind just keeps birthing more questions as you read on. The sense of wholeness is in the quotidian scenes of people caring for each other and connecting in the best way possible even if we are stripped down to our best or worst selves. There’s an unease about going on the journey of Jet, the character who’s injured, and this doesn’t resolve with the story’s end. You realise, as a reader, that to want neat resolutions and endings, is actually quite misanthropic towards the writer, and towards humankind.
‘War Flowers’ by Mexican-American poet Fernando Pérez is about photographs, and their lives. Such astounding economy of words evident in tight metaphor and hints at major national historical events. I’ll quote some of my favourite lines:
Those camera flashes that made blue eyes in black and white
Revolution let sticks of dynamite fly.
Time in a camera’s flash, rifle mouths in bloom.
I saved drinking the alcoholic selection for this post for the second day of reading. The gorgeous Bengal I’m currently looking after seems to have given me time off to write this, so now I have the evening to finish a can of this gorgeous stout.
It looks like flat cola, and tastes slightly acidic in that way too! Must be citrus, or some sort of bitter citrus oil from rind. Why is this so heavenly? I’m just going to retype the can tasting notes here:
Coffee Breakfast stout brewed with micro-roasted beans by our old friends at Genovese, vanilla beans, cinnamon & a little Lark Whisky barrel oak ageing to boot!
Coffee notes: Jhone Milanez Lacerda – lot #03. Red Catual varietal. Controlled fermentation process. Sitio Santa Rita estate. Serra do Caparao (Brazil) region (altitude: 1250 masl); coffee tasting notes: strawberry jam, candied orange, milk chocolate, ripe jackfruit, juicy mouthfeel. Roasted by Ben Toovey.
HA! Fark am I glad I saved this can as an end-of-the-week drink! No wonder it’s so freaking divine! In case you were wondering, I never read tasting notes of a beer till I’ve drunk at least half a glass of it and tried to name the flavours I think I can get?
So what did I think I could taste? Jam, orange, cocoa, mango tartness, vanilla, chai spice, something to make it taste smooth but thick the way coconut cream is, something boozy.
When it warms up a bit, the acidity is more pronounced and I start to get a bit of that savoury roast coffee feel, but not much. Gosh, this coffee by itself must be dreamy to drink. I’m going to pour my second glass (very coincidentally a Bonne Maman jam jar!), and start reading where I got up to.
‘Final Call’ by Bikram Sharma is about two best friends, one of which has a successful application to study at an overseas university. There’s familial expectation, there’s hints of magic realism very, very subtly woven in, and the story itself is achingly devastating though not in ways you’d expect. It went down paths I definitely did not expect and so deftly; quickly but not rushed.
There’s a lot to process in Atong Atem’s ‘Conversations With Myself, My Mama, My Friend, and My Past Self About The Burden of Re-Learning Intimacy’ – it’s creative non-fiction, and framed through experiences of childhood assimilation, and talking to relatives, and the emotional labour and burnout that goes with uneven (largely platonic, it’s insinuated) relationships. She gives voice to the complicated dance that is displacement, belonging, surviving but not really enjoying existing as an alien.
Khalid Warsame does the same with this list poem? microfiction? piece ‘Secret Shame’, though any piece that intimately admits zolpidem as being part of the creator’s existence is going to have me on board (seriously: I have never embarrassed myself drunk ever the way I have whilst waiting for Stilnox to kick in, if it’s even working. Chronic insomnia is part of my mental illness experience).
Though I’ve largely discussed the works above in order of appearance, Taiwanese artist Mengo Lee’s comic about surviving and looking after an unwell parent was sandwiched between Warsame and Atem’s pieces. It captures and conveys the eerie, dreamy-like state of being in hospital, and waking up and not wanting to really get up out of bed, that could be due to medications or sleep-wake cycles, conscious-unconscious states of being.
The last piece by Wiradjuri writer Hannah Donnelly, ‘Bloodwood’ examines the surreality of colonisers/invaders’ belief systems (I particularly enjoyed the mockery of the union jack symbolism and the weird anti-biological birth that made Jesus’ apparent existence possible), and the title ties and threads all contributions in this volume together. It also reminds us that many of us are still living an ongoing process of decolonisation, if we are persons of colour. How many generations does it take to shed that exhausting burden? I couldn’t resist quoting a line, about water, because it exposes my ‘head’ knowing and understanding that Australian First Nations peoples are the land, and the land is them, I’ll never really know that truth. It’s uncomfortable to admit that, but it also means continuing to learn in earnest and deep, solid hope and optimism. It’s about water reservoirs:
Forced to sit in stillness, the water turned into tainted sorrow that killed them for hoarding its flow
Melbourne-based comic artist Rachel Ang has illustrations peppered throughout relating to the written works featured, and is also responsible for the cover art – having her illustrate the landing page for my ‘Umami’ piece was just…it felt wonderful and special to think that someone could read my piece and create based on it?! (I know I said I wasn’t going to talk about my work, but her illustration is gorgeous and cheerful. There’s a quieter reflective one for Keung’s ‘Immigration’ poems, and a darkly magical one for Sohail’s ‘En-Route’.
I’ll end with a confession below. If you got this far, thank you for reading my gustatory, aural and literary indulgences come together in this post!
no, I don’t have a (self-)signed copy because I think I’m famous or important. It was meant to go to a friend who had read and helped edit my work a few years ago, but he never gave me a postal address whenever I asked him for one, so now I have this embarrassing failed display of emotional warmth that makes me wince a lot more than I previously admitted.
Buy unembarrassingly unsigned copies here for a steal! There’s a loooooot of big-deal creatives in it!!!
(*I find odd things romantic: like being able to sit next to someone you love, and have a comfortable silence in a shared space, and limbs might be touching/brushing against each other, and the world feels whole. Though it’s used in a polyamorous context, I also get compersion a lot in a fair few non-romantic situations)
While I continue to finish up filling in gaps as hinted at over here, and partially filled here, 2017 book-and-beer matches! I embarrassingly keep a spreadsheet of this sort of thing, because it seems like a good idea when you read, drink and then have to remember or retrace your steps a lot.
notes: the ‘Romance’ issue, so pairing good lit with good booze seemed pretty romantic to me. Learnt way more than I wanted to about the hygiene in French hospitals during early twentieth-century warfare, as well as a cool (or not, ha, ha, ha…anyway) unit to measure temperature that wasn’t the Kelvin (think it was this one), and Orwell did not have a happy childhood. His experiences at boarding school, and of being a partial scholarship recipient sounded awful – though, perhaps that’s testament to his skill in describing and conveying human behaviour.
issue #16 (Mar 2017)
BOOK:Ablutions by Patrick deWitt
BEER: TWO, gasp! Doctor’s Orders (Sydney, AUS) ‘Fleshwound’ & Brasserie Fantôme (Wallonia, BELG) India red ale.
notes: As of late last year, I just read Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential and feel like this novella is the dive bartender companion in that it describes some of the clientele and professionals in the industry in the late 80s-maybe early 90s. Both books are hilarious, and reading deWitt’s barman narrative makes it hard to ignore speculation on just how intimate he is with their way of life…it’s also a quick read. I’m not sure how on earth I managed to stretch out two good bottles of beer (not exactly small ones either…500mL and 750mL respectively!) to cover my reading period. I gobbled up this book.
issue #17 (Apr 2017)
BOOK:The Kraken Wakes by John Wyndham
BEER: Sierra Nevada (USA) ‘Narwhal’ barrel-aged imperial stout
notes: I’d somehow managed to find myself a new sharehouse to live, and completed this B&B way before things started to get awful. Froth ed gave me a bottle of the ‘Narwhal’ and trying to ignore that various beer sirens were singing, I read Wyndham’s classic with it. The book is scarily not as dated as it should feel. One of my favourite memories of growing up in England was watching Chocky, which is based on Wyndham’s book of the same name. Most of his famous titles are on booklists as examples of excellent speculative fiction – which I’m hoping to read more of this year (2018).
issue #18 (May 2017)
BOOK:Difficult Women by Roxane Gay
BEER: SPARKKE (Adelaide, AUS) ginger beer, pilsener, hard lemonade, cider
notes: Had started reading this late for a WMN book club meeting, and due to deadlines and a performance I was rehearsing for, didn’t actually get to read and drink at the same time. At the time, no one knew that I was going into hospital for depression (I went straight after the performance wrapped up, and given you can’t drink booze in hospital, there was no B&B for June).
It wasn’t a good month, but Emily and Clint getting a copy of Froth and the piece about Difficult Women signed by THE AUTHOR got me so excited, I had to get sleepers to properly knock me out that night in hospital (they didn’t know I was in, that’s why it’s so funny. Also first time in my life I’ve nearly puked in excitement!).
I wrote a funny bit of dialogue about how my mother, in unintentional Asian tiger mum mode, completely doused my excitement with a metaphysical wet blanket when I told her about what Em and Clint had done. She is, however, being a Magpies supporter, very proud of my brother driving the hearse for a former footballer who was granted a state funeral around the same time. But seriously, it wasn’t a good time of the year and photos of Roxane even holding Froth…it felt like an amazingly surreal and wonderful thing to happen and cling onto. We all have our s/hero/i/n/e/s! <3
(NB. 1. I don’t want to drive anyone’s hearse, famous or not. It does actually sound quite nerve-wracking & 2. Sparkke have since added TWO beverages to their core range, f*ck yeah! 3. I clearly need to up my game as an Asian daughter)
issue #20 (Jul 2017)
BOOK: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
BEER: 4 Pines (Syd, AUS) cherry coconut brown ale
notes: Another WNM book club selection, which I’d read way after the meeting. It’s been on my to-read list for years, and still haven’t seen its TV adaptation, which is apparently really good as well as quite different from the book. I knew it’d be full-on, so chose a beer to get me through its darkness (it did). Also loved what Clint did with the colour scheme of the woman’s garments.
notes: It was so much fun writing this, and getting to hang out in Bright despite the fact that it was actually freezing (one morning the hot water system froze over so it took a while to get it going!). Met some faithful Froth readers, who I again bumped into on New Year’s Eve last year, and keep trying to invent reasons to go back up to Bright. and they do kickarse things like raise awareness of important issues, whilst having fun! James & Jenn were fab hosts, as were their two kittehs!
issue #22 (Sep 2017)
BOOK: Wasted: a story of alcohol, grief, and a death in Brisbane by Elspeth Muir
notes: um, risky choice of book when you write for an alcohol mag, BUT both the beer and the book evoked all those pre-summer feels when the flowers are starting to show, and scents of life become more intense. So, a memoir that deals with the death of a family member, and drinking culture in Australia had to go with a beer that is intensely low ABV-wise. It was also the beginning of a three-month stint in Northcote living with two magical creatives, and a cranky-as-fuck tabby. It was the most happy and productive period of my life I’ve had in a reeeeeeeeeeally long time. I love you Danni & Lolly (and Maddy-cat).
issue #23 (Oct 2017)
BOOK: A Horse Walks Into A Bar by David Grossman (translated from the Hebrew by Jessica Cohen)
BEER: Coconspirators Brewing (Melb, AUS) ‘The Bookie’ pale ale
notes: second month of the Northcote sublet, and I found myself starting to go on dates. I met one gorgeous person a while back who didn’t at all like me, and he was mega into film. I’m hopeless with films, but I recall his pretending to sound like a gangster (no, not like an African one that supposedly terrorises Melbourne, whatevs, stupid fucking out-of-touch-with-the-twenty-first-century federal government), and what a hoot this book and beer were! Clint also designs for this Melb-based brewery, who are doing some delish fabbo things. Fond memories!
issue #24 (Nov 2017)
BOOK:A Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
BEER: Two Birds’ Brewing (Melb, AUS) ‘Passion Victim’ summer ale
notes: my last month in Northcote, and my housie Danni was such a sweetie, helping me take profesh photo where the month’s book and empty beer cans are popping out of a showbag!* I cackled out loud reading the book, and chose the beer because summer was coming, and it had Galaxy hops! It also reminded me of how much I miss the sciences. Adams clearly revels in knowledge, in a not-talk-down-to-others kind of way, but in a way that can’t help but infect you with a passion (har har) for the intersections of several disciplines.
notes: having found myself in a somewhat oppressive living sitch, I had to lock myself in my room for a day to even read this book, which I totally chose on a whim but is wonderful – why isn’t it better known?! The reviewing beer bit was much easier, though also tricky given I was rehearsing like crazy for a performance. I got asked to leave that sharehouse whilst on a date, sigh. That sucked pretty hardcore. I’m thankfully still friends with the other housemate who is a wonderful human (them and their partner very nearly had to deal with my embarrassed tearful arse after going home from said date).
It was…a character-building year. Got my heart broken a few times, and made some really good, close friends. Hopefully 2018 will mean not having to be hospitalised, and not missing contributing to a single issue of Froth! I might go back and edit these later to reflect the respective themes of each issue (was lax with that, whoops) – this post is already longer than I would’ve preferred.