Friday, October 9, 2009

Brother, sisters and anthologies: oh the irony

So when I got home this afternoon from fifteen rounds with a sibling -- the ferocious upfront one, all teeth and claws all the time, and no backing down until one of you dies -- so stratospherically stressed out that my eyeballs and teeth were aching and there was a strange metallic taste in my mouth that no amount of medicinal chocolate would shift, I found two things in the mail.

One was a copy, kindly sent by Allen & Unwin, of Charlotte Wood's new themed anthology of specially-commissioned stories by Australian writers about siblings, entitled Brothers and Sisters. The other was my copy of the current Australian Book Review, in which critic Peter Craven continues his attack on the team of scholars of Australian literature (of which he is not one) who edited the Macquarie PEN Anthology of Australian Literature, including moi, that he began in his magisterially and savagely opinionated review of the anthology in the previous issue.

I've been a fan of Charlotte Wood's since I read her novel The Children, in which she shows great interest in the sibling dynamic and great skill in representing it, an impression further borne out by the brilliant, funny, moving introduction to this new book. And after reading the ABR correspondence pages I'm considering the possibility that one way to understand the shifting, endlessly complex dynamics of the literary scene and all its tortured interrelationships is to think of it in terms of sibling relations, where the keynote is intensity for better or worse, and where endless fights for territory, dominance, independence, sentimental vases and Mummy and Daddy's approval all take place in the hothouse arena of shared interests and common experience.

At the very least, I find that thinking about these things anthropologically and psychoanalytically helps me to get some distance on them, to back away from the rage. It's that or the bottle shop, and I have too much work to do tonight for the bottle shop to be an option. Besides, I want to be fully alert when Germaine takes on Planet Janet on Q&A.

Cross-posted from Still Life With Cat


  1. A lonely boy in the literature’s world finds in this short anatomic prose the brilliant term of sibling meaning .

  2. To the anonymous commenter: apology accepted, and I have deleted that rather unedifying exchange. The blog is for public consumption rather than personal communications.