A Novel Idea

A Novel Idea
Fiona McGregor

Giramondo Publishing 2019


Fiona McGregor’s photo-essay ‘A Novel Idea’ is a witty and honest examination of the often thankless and tedious work of writing a novel. From 2007 to 2010, McGregor documented herself and her workspace through photographs.

The reader follows her from her small home office to Estonia and Germany, from a desk in a secluded hut in the wilderness to sneaky photos taken in a library in Berlin. Alongside images of her workspace, and her old hand-me-down computer, McGregor ruminates on her life. Her relationship with her girlfriend, its breakdown, and her struggle to write when builders are working outside her apartment – made all the worse when they accidentally smash a hole through her wall.

She writes about the ways that her novel and life begin to intertwine, through violent dreams and the grief of loss in her life that mirrors a slow and painful death in her novel.

At times the text is raw, exposing the reader to the intimate details of McGregor’s mind and personal life. Other times her reflections are witty, tongue-in-cheek and relatable to anyone who has ever wrestled with a creative project. We see her seek out new places to work, and watch as the same struggle continues no matter where in the world she sets up her computer. Her narration gives the reader insight into the ways in which writing becomes an act of isolation, yet is still affected by the happenings of the outside world.

‘A Novel Idea’ is an interesting look into the writing process as well as a superb piece of life writing. Perhaps a little unusual, but definitely worth a read if you enjoy life writing with an experimental twist.

 

4 stars


Words by Lisandra Linde

Franco-Belgian Comics at Supernova 2018

Supanova Adelaide had a new addition to its line-up of events this year: a Franco-Belgian comics exhibition. A first for Supanova, the Franco-Belgian comics exhibition was a booth dedicated to European pop culture icons like Tintin, The Smurfs, and Asterix. This exhibition was hosted by Stuart A. Blair, an Adelaide pop culture historian and avid pop culture fan.

Blair says the idea of the Franco-Belgian comics exhibition was put forward by the organisers at Supanova. They had never had an exhibition quite like it before and there wasn’t as much on European pop culture compared to American pop culture. This exhibition’s presence allowed a light to be cast on the pop culture icons of European pop culture.

Some of the eye-catching pieces at the exhibition included dioramas from the Adventures of Tintin series. An example of one of these is seen below, with Tintin and Snowy travelling towards a castle. This diorama is based off the seventh volume in the series The Black Island (1938). When asked about the dioramas, Blair said the figurines were bought during his international travels and at auctions. The backgrounds were designed in France and taken from scenes within the stories. Other displays from Tintin included figurines of Captain Haddock and Belgian copies of the original adventures.  

Other exhibit displays in the collection outside of Tintin included graphic novels of Le Chat du Rabbin (The Rabbi’s Cat), an original daybill poster of Asterix in Britain (1986), and a set-up of the gold mine from Lucky Luke. One of the unique pieces in the collection though was a 1941 copy of le Journal de Spirou. The reason why this is so, Blair says, was because of the shortage of paper in German occupied France and Belgium during Second World War. Alongside this as well was issue one of Le Petit Vingtième (1937), which featured the first story of Tintin published.  

For those who are interested in European pop culture and comics, Stuart says there are many exhibitions in the near future. He is currently looking into getting exhibitions going on at libraries and local museums around Adelaide, one dedicated to French pop-culture and another for retro pop culture.

If you are interested in finding out more information on Stuart A. Blair, check out his website below.

http://www.stuartablair.com/


Words and photography by Cameron Lowe.

Cameron Lowe is a horror and sci-fi writer, editor and student. He’s had fiction and articles featured in Speakeasy Zine and Empire Times. He loves to read, play video games, and drink green tea. He’s one of the 2018 editors at Empire Times. He tweets at @cloweshadowking.

Myth, Propaganda and Disaster in Nazi Germany and Contemporary America

‘What does this all mean?’ I’d love to tell you, but I have no flaming idea.

 

Last Friday night, while everyone else was gearing up to hit the town, some friends and I found ourselves at Adelaide University’s Little Theatre, ready for a wholesome, thought-provoking theatrical experience to round off our week. The play on offer was Stephen Sewell’s Myth, Propaganda and Disaster in Nazi Germany and Contemporary America. Did it fulfil our hopes for the evening? Let me just say this: it was a lot to take in.

We followed the character of Talbot, played by Nick Fagan, an Australian man working at an Ivy League college in America as a Liberal Arts lecturer. The audience watches him go off his rocker as he falls victim to societal questions about terror, ignorance, and the line between patriotism and nationalism. First produced in 2003, this ‘drama in 30 scenes’ deals with the carnage left behind after September 11. Sewell is renowned for his award-winning work, with this baby being one of his big ones.

The director, Erik Strauts, expresses a strong connection with the idea that society should, but never does, learn from history – this production was an active choice to explore how this concept applies to our modern world. The discussion that this play raises remains timely; it’s been kept in the spotlight by Trump’s rise to power in recent years.

As far as the set was concerned, designer Brittany Daw managed to reflect the vibe of an exceptionally uncomfortable merge between Nazi Germany and contemporary America: the colour scheme was red and black, spotted with white and blue finishes. During scene changes, the audience’s eyes would be directed up to a projection of an imposing American flag. As the play progresses the flag takes on another dimension, subtly fading to make way for an imposing icon – so keep your eyes peeled!

From where I was sitting, there were some stand out performances. The first one that comes to mind is that of James Black, who plays Max, the Aussie best friend of our poor mad-man, Talbot. Until a sneaky twist at the end, Max served as much needed comic relief – he was the familiar Australian perspective, uttering the word ‘mate’ here and there to dilute the sea of everything American.

And then there were Stan and Jack. Jack and Stan. Jarrod Chave and Tim Edhouse were highly convincing in their roles as staff members at the college and had an appealing chemistry on stage. Chave and Edhouse’s accents were also consistent and well-established.

There was one character which, for the life of me, I could not entirely wrap my head around. If any of you figure him out, please, get in touch. Halfway through the second act we are introduced to ‘The Man’ – yes, all I can think of is the Killers song. ‘The Man’ proves to be exceedingly problematic for our protagonist. He appears to resemble someone out of the Matrix: the big black coat, the white gloves, the wrap around sunnies. A 2000s icon if there ever was one.

I’m going to say that this University of Adelaide Theatre Guild production is not for the light hearted or impatient. It’s saturated with swearing and soaked with political and philosophical lingo.

Little Theatre pic

When you ask, ‘what am I in for?’ Well, it’s dense. It’s distressing. And it’s heavy in concept. It will challenge each and every one of its viewers. Without a doubt, it appeals to an elitist audience and, unfortunately, excludes the masses – in order to get the most out of this show, you need a thorough understanding of political and societal structures, as well as familiarity with influential writers and philosophers. Otherwise, you might find yourself in struggle-town. Perhaps this is a statement from the playwright about our ignorance. Or perhaps not.

In hindsight, I find it rather peculiar that I was sitting in the theatre at Adelaide Uni, watching a play, written by an Australian playwright, which picks apart the intricacies of the American dilemma. And within this play, Australia is spoken of as a ‘pretend country’ which really drills home how America seem to define us.

The movements of America – our so called ‘big brother’ – have become part of our everyday news headlines, absorbing our constant attention, and now occupying our theatrical spaces. Do we keep feeding the American ego by granting it all this attention? Or at the other end of the spectrum, are we becoming desensitised to the U. S. of A. because we are just hearing too damn much about it? Dare I say, we should now be looking a little closer to home, starting by centring our conversations around our own country. Because I would like to think that out nation is just as great, our issues just as urgent, and what we have to offer is equally as appealing.

Some things to think about between the many questions that will be left on your conscience after this doozy of a production.

 


Showing times: 17-19 May 2018, 7:30pm.

Venue: Little Theatre, University of Adelaide.

Tickets: $28 Full/ $23 Concession

Follow the link to secure your tickets.

 


Words by Michelle Wakim