‘Night Games’ by Anna Krein

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This book sits comfortably on the shelf that holds Helen Garner’s Joe Cinque’s Consolation, Chloe Hooper’s The Tall Man and indeed, Krein’s earlier book Into the Woods.  Like them, it starts with a court case as its springboard.  Here, it is the trial of Justin, a VFL player who hasn’t quite made it to the AFL standard, who is accused of rape after one of those numerous footy gang-bangs we read about.  They bubble up into the news, meet with momentary tut-tutting and ‘boys will be boys’ then submerge again until the next dreary occurrence.

Like Garner and Hooper before her, Krein sits in the courtroom, observing the procedures, watching the protagonists and their families, feeling her own sympathies being twisted and swayed by what is playing out before her.  “Playing” is the operative word here, because as observer, she is privy to what the jury is not: the blokey negotiation of what can and can’t be said in the court, and the effect of the enforced silences on the narrative that can be made to explain the events on the night of the crime.

For Justin may have been hanging around with the Collingwood Football Club big boys, but he wasn’t one of them.  At first the courtroom bulges with Eminent Legal People because there is a chance that Collingwood stars will be caught up in it, but once the involvement of The Club is negotiated, they depart.  Justin’s whole family will pay financially and dearly for the legal representation they are left with.

Justin’s family feel that Krein is on “their” side, but she is not completely.  Sarah, the rape victim, does not engage with her at all (as is her absolute right), but it does mean that the narrative of the book is somewhat slanted.

But Justin and Sarah and what happened that night are only one part of the book as it spins off into a broader exploration of sex, rape, power, celebrity and permission.  This is very much a join-the-dots exercise, as she narrates a series of sexual scandals that have arisen over recent years involving both AFL and NRL, all too many of which involve my own football team, St Kilda.  She teases out these threads even further by examining the treatment of women journalists in sporting culture (for example, Caroline Wilson on The Footy Show) and the ubiquitous Wives-and-Girlfriends who have their own reflected celebrity status.

In many places, she can find no definitive answers, only more questions. She often refers to “shades of grey”  (denoting uncertainty rather than That Book) both in her own response and in the issues that arise.  I must say that I found this rather frustrating.  Both Garner and Hooper, in their fore-mentioned books, also admit to “shades of grey” but somehow manage to come to some sort of definitive statement.  I don’t know that Krein ever does: she can say that there are connections and injustices here, but I’m not sure that she ties them together into an argument that you can take issue with.  You sense that she is dodging what she expects to be brickbats from feminists and football supporters, by raising questions and admitting uncertainty as a pre-emptive defence.

In recent weeks, the questions raised by this book have resurfaced with the publication of an article by The Secret Footballer, where he very much voices the arguments of the sporting fraternity: they (the women) are scrags and ask for it; what about permission etc. etc. etc.  [Interestingly, the article itself seems to have disappeared, but a commentary on the article survives here]. He says that what is driving change is not all the behavioural programs imposed by the clubs, or wider societal change, but fear of exposure through social media.  He never was involved in gang-bangs himself, he says, because he never did like to share his toys.  It’s rather chilling to hear all this voiced so definitely.  It reinforces everything that Anna Krein has written about in this book.

There’s a very good review of the book by Deb Waterhouse-Watson here.

I have posted this review on the Australian Women Writers Challenge website.

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Britsh Pathe on You Tube

Wot larks!  Here’s yet another way to avoid working on my thesis-  the British Pathe archive of newsreel footage has been released on You Tube.  You can see it here:

https://www.youtube.com/user/britishpathe

Pathe News started in Paris  and had opened a London branch by 1910.  The four-minute newsreels were issued bi-weekly and ran in cinemas as part of the mixture of features that were shown during a ‘night at the pictures’ .  They increased in length after 1918 and were silent until 1928.  It amazes me that they  were still in production until 1970.

‘Reflections on Biography’ by Paula R. Backscheider

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2001,  235 p. & notes

It’s not hard to find biographers writing about the act of researching a biography.  One of my favourite biographers, Richard Holmes has done it here and here, and there’s a whole literature on the theory and practice of biography. This book, however, looks at the writing of biography, rather than the researching of it. It concentrates on the creation of the biographical text as completed artefact, rather than the ‘journey’ that the biographer undertakes in an attempt to understand and convey the subject’s inner life.

In her preface, Paula Backscheider notes with frustration that reviewers of biographies often retell the subject’s life gleaned from the very biography that they are reviewing without engaging in questions of selection, organization or presentation. These questions are the focus of this book. Continue reading

‘Age’ article on Banyule Homestead

Today’s Age (19 April) had an article about Banyule Homestead too.  Expressions of interest to buy the homestead close on 7th May.

http://theage.domain.com.au/real-estate-news/landmark-heritage-homestead-banyule-homestead-on-the-market-for-5-million-20140418-36wfi.html

As you might expect, the Secretary of Heidelberg Historical Society had much more to say than this little snippet here.  Oh well.

Charcoal Lane

There was a birthday in our house yesterday: Mr J’s, not mine. Even though it didn’t end in ’0′, it was the birthday that the Beatles sang about, so that calls for a celebration, I reckon.

We went to Charcoal Lane, in Gertrude Street.  I haven’t been to Gertrude Street in a while and my, my- hasn’t it changed! The restaurant is situated in the old Aboriginal Health Service building, which is very appropriate.  The building is no longer decked out in its proud black, red and yellow but is instead a very stark white.  The building itself has had an interesting history: first the ES&A bank, then the VD clinic, then the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service where it served as a central spot for the local Koorie community.

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The restaurant is run under the auspices of Mission Australia as a training venture for Aboriginal and other disadvantaged young people- similar I suppose to those Jamie Oliver type enterprises.  The food is bushtucker-inspired and very good.  We had a tasting platter first which included a fantastic kangaroo chorizo, followed by emu fillets as a main course.  I’ve never had emu before- a bit chewy in places, but an interesting flavour, served with little brussell sprouts with kaiserflesch , potato gratin and a red wine jus. Then a double chocolate and wattleseed cake which was just a sliver, but a very rich sliver.  It ended up being $120.00 for the two of us.

The service was good-  enthusiastic and very attentive.  It was just right. The interior and fittings are beautiful- you wouldn’t recognize the place.  It’s a win all round.

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The local newspaper on the sale of Banyule

A good article today in the local newspaper about Banyule Homestead quoting (ahem) Yours Truly, who doesn’t represent the Heidelberg Heritage Society, but DOES represent the Heidelberg Historical Society.

See it here:

http://www.heraldsun.com.au/leader/north/heidelberg-historical-society-friends-of-banyule-hope-banyule-homestead-buyer-deserving-of-historic-mansion/story-fnglenug-1226884080789

Five million eh?  Given the money that the Council is going to put towards the arts ‘space’ on Banksia Street, thereby stealing public parkland for a restaurant and carpark with an arts ‘space’ attached, five million is a good buy, I reckon. I’m always worried by anything that is planned that has ‘space’ attached to the title.

A photo in the paper

There was a striking photograph in yesterday’s ‘Sunday Life’. It’s a double page spread as you open the magazine,  showing a smiling, short-haired, blonde topless woman sitting on a chair, with her daughter in a ballet tutu playing on the floor beside her. The woman has had a double mastectomy.

It’s a breath-catching image. At first I felt guilty even looking at it, and turned the page quickly with an ‘Oh! as if I’d disturbed her, and seen something that I shouldn’t. Then I turned back the page and looked more closely. I’ve never seen a double mastectomy before. It’s confronting, but became less so the longer I looked.  You see her smile more clearly than anything else.

The caption reads:

This is what matters to Lisa Wilkinson. Lisa took this photo of Marina and her daughter Sydney to capture the beauty and incredible strength of women. Visit canon.com.au/shine to upload your own image and shine a light on what matters to you.

I really don’t know what to think.  It’s a beautiful image: stark, positive and you sense that Marina is in charge of the situation.  But I wish it wasn’t tagged as part of some advertising campaign by a camera company.

What is its purpose of this campaign?  (quite apart from the licensing and ownership questions that arise). Would a photograph of someone with a colostomy bag have had the same effect from an advertising point of view?  It probably would have on me as a viewer- that instant flash of feeling like an intruder, followed by an almost guilty sense of curiosity – but would the camera company so ready to embrace it?

I’m trying to imagine the conversation around the board table when planning this campaign. I suspect that this blog post is exactly the reaction they were hoping for.  That (and not the photograph itself)  makes me uncomfortable.