Shu-Ling Chua, ACT
I remember being aware of Night Games by Anna Krien when it was published in 2013. The conversation it sparked around sex, power and privilege in Australia’s sporting culture flickered in my periphery; I was just beginning to discover sex, let alone the concept of consent.
Night Games follows the rape trial of an Australian Rules footballer and the history of women in footy culture—from gangbanging and groupies to the belittlement of female sports journalists and board members and women’s footy. It is meticulously researched; forensic yet never clinical.
Through interviews, attending court proceedings, conversations with friends and reflection, Krien interrogates the grey area of uncertainty between consent and rape, and the role of the law. She acknowledges the limits of her objectivity; she is an observer yet also part of the story, coloured by personal experience and the available facts. Her writing is astute, balanced and compassionate.
‘[Is] there room for a person to explore a disturbing sexual encounter without concluding that it was either rape or that they were to blame?’ Three years on, the conversation continues; it is one I too am part of. Night Games forces readers to confront not just the locker room values of society but our complicity, as players and bystanders. Sometimes the answer is in fact to question.
Cathy Tran, VIC
Having served time on EdComm with Laura Elizabeth Woollett, I was already familiar with her penchant for ‘creepy’ things and her immersive writing. ‘The Love of a Bad Man’ is a short story collection that focuses on the lives of the women who were the wives, girlfriends and mistresses of murderers, conmen, cult leaders and dictators – a retelling of sinister history through rose-coloured glasses.
I’ve been dipping into this book every few days for a month, needing to steel myself in the time between and wanting to savour each encounter as I go. Each woman’s story is unique, their circumstances and voice distinct from the next. But what they have in common is a predilection for devotion, deviance and darkness.
Though I found myself itching to google these bad man and figure out what crimes they had committed to draw Woollett’s attention (and the love of their women), each tale stood on its own without the backstory. Although there is a handy appendix in the book, the focus was not on the gruesome details of their crimes, but on who they were, or rather, who the women saw them as. It’s uncomfortable at times, watching morality and humanity be trodden over by a twisted form of love and tenderness when they usually balance comfortably hand in hand. This is the beauty and danger of this book, the way its seductive prose makes you understand and empathise with the women, despite their hand in something so brutal and cold.
Ellen Cregan, VIC
This month I’ve been revisiting one of my favourite contemporary poetry collections, Ainslee Meredith’s Pinetorch. This collection was published in 2013 as part of Express Media and Australian Poetry’s ‘New Voices’ series, a fantastic program that published works from young, emerging writers. I was lucky enough to make it to the launch of Pinetorch, and hear Ainslee reading a selection of the poems.
This collection is a treasure trove. There is so much variation between the poems – free-verse and prose poems sit beside each other, and Ainslee’s enjambment is never predictable. The poems of this collection are almost like a series of tiny, beautiful souvenirs sitting on a mantelpiece. They are the sort of poems you want to read aloud to yourself, taking time to savour the words and images. While they are, for the most part, unrelated, they make so much sense together.
Reading Pinetorch in 2016 gives me the same feeling of butterflies in my stomach as it did in 2013. It takes me around the world, and through history. It fuels my passion for the amazing poetic capabilities of young Australians.