The degree to which literature can influence or affect an individual is dependent on many factors, and is all but impossible to measure objectively. Even narrowing our focus to look only at the way gender is portrayed in children’s books, and the part these books play in shaping the attitudes and ideas a child forms in relation to gender stereotypes, is difficult to gauge. One person may say that a particular piece of literature had such an impact that all of their views on gender are based on just one book; for another, literature has played a tiny part in an immense amalgam of conflicting and complementary ideas and influences from all manner of sources; and for another still, literature may have no direct influence whatsoever. Read the rest of this entry »

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Stories

Stories is a collection of twenty-seven short fiction pieces, penned by separate contemporary mainstream writers. These are works of fantasy, but not fantasy in the traditional mainstream sense. Neither elf nor dwarf nor wizard makes an appearance. There are no dragons, no castles, and no kings in this book. There are a couple of vampires, some gods, a ghost, and an alien or two, that is true. But this is fantasy fiction that, for the most part, defies the traditional, stereotypical norm, each piece selected by Gaimann and Sarrantonio based on the fact they were difficult to nail to a particular genre; imaginative fiction, encompassing a broad range of subjects, intended to leave the reader asking “What happens next?”
And in this sense the book is a success. Stories gets you hooked and leaves you hanging for the next page’s fix. Read the rest of this entry »

Wasp

Vacant, unblinking stare. Brown eyes, lit by a cold white sun. The light is more grey than white through the black slats of the blind. Brown eyes gaze down the length of a soft forest of shadows cast by the raised thread-trees of a faded, laurel-green terrycloth zig-zag-patterned bed-cover. A bed-cover-plain. In the distance, over the bed-cover-horizon, an ill-proportioned composition of cool-grey carpet, beige wall and window form a bed-sky. And in that sky a single speck of dust catches the grey sunlight as it floats toward the floor. It could be a flake of skin. Her skin. Part of her being. Or it could be insect excreta, or cigarette ash, sentient life en route to the bed-planet perhaps. Whatever its origin, it is agonisingly slow in its angled trajectory, its movement determined by some immeasurably small draft or other. Brown eyes stare at that speck of dust until their vision blurs and the smudge of beige carpet, louvered by the cold, slatted sunshine, and the wall and window become one great grey mess.
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Alone in the land of others
An outside visitor I am to them,
Whenever a festival arrives
I miss you all the more.
From afar I know you brother
Climbing up the mountains,
The zhuyu plant is worn by all
Except for the one absent.

On the Double Ninth Festival: Thinking of My Brothers in Shandong

By Wang Wei
(Translated by Zong-qui Cai)

I sensed some kind of trouble, but nothing I could clearly define; a feeling akin to the time of menses, but as much in the head as in the hollow of my gut. A kind of tearing — a pressure in my ears of rising blood and whispered screams. Deep basal thuds I feel in my chest, coming through space as though something were being bludgeoned from my soul. I could not fathom it, but knew it to be central to my being. I thought of my twin brother. Read the rest of this entry »

Bladder & Trident

I shall never forget that feeling. His slimy, rigid skin moving under the grip of my shivering hands. Royalist or revolutionary it was impossible to tell, but I could feel his waterlogged flesh move, far too much of it, over his mortified bones and tendons. His body was coming apart and the tissue of his hands and forearms felt like it could come away in a solid sheet at any moment. I thank the Almighty it did not and will curse the Devil forevermore for contriving to place me into such a heinous undertaking. Read the rest of this entry »

Grey beach detail

Were my memory a book, the first page of the chapter that was the night I first met Georges Servan Aballaird would begin, “Here begins a new life.”
I felt no panic or fear. I embraced him tenderly, cradled his brow as he stared into the vast darkness below, gently took his hand, and as we floated away from that hellfire and toward the shore I heard a voice softly singing, “They do not know you anymore.”
The sea had become a shining blanket of reflected stars and Georges and I were flying, falling through them, arms outstretched, into eternal darkness, into fire and ice. Read the rest of this entry »

Jacob_philipp_hackert,_distruzione_della_flotta_turca_alla_battaglia_di_chesma,_1771

When I next came to my senses the first thought I had was that I had let my flint get wet. Why I’d ever be worried what those bastard officers thought important I’ll never know, but here I was; the words running through my head that I was “as good as fucking dead!”
Then I noticed the strange green flashes playing out in the strange gelatinous velum I was in, that I was unable to breathe, the multitude of black things trailing down around me and that never-fucking-ending headache that dogged me wherever I went these last… How long had it been? Weeks? Months? It was impossible to say.
January seemed years ago and yet only yesterday. Yet here I was, and this ever increasing high-pitched buzz in my ears that made the green flashes slowly fade to red and black, until it properly hit me. I was under water! This nauseating taste in my mouth was sea water and I had to move up, up, up or else I would be drowned.
To hell with the rummin’ flint! I didn’t even know where the musket was anymore. Read the rest of this entry »

Impressment

The Press Gang. Those great servants to the Admiralty.
They were always going to get a hold of me someday. You don’t spend as much time as I had done, all those… How long had it been? It was impossible to say. Weeks? Months? Sodden and unconscious from too much drink. Rum, ale, grog, sky blue, it didn’t matter a hell of a lot what really. Lucky you go a week in some parts without those sadistic bastards getting their paws on you.
But the timing is a blur. I do not remember anything clearly. Nothing since that cold night in January anyways. In the middle of the journey of my life and I found myself within an impenetrable darkness where the straight way was lost, where I turned to grog houses and inns and in the gutter and worse I found my repose. Read the rest of this entry »

John Three offered a Rosy.
“Lay down, Lady. Lay down!”
I ain’t no Melanie, but Rosy speaks to me, and if it folds and Johns are a-wavin’ ’em I’ll put ’em in my pocket, no second thinky-think.
Winky-wink, “Oh Darla dear. You see me? See? See Johnny Three? Hee hee!”
John Three looked Marmaduke, droopy-drippy, weazlin’ for a wash, and I pinched my beak, told him “Pee-ew!”
Up in The Pit I pulled a Rosy-posy. No rushing in-out needed when Rosy’s flashed about. Unclipped, struck-a-strick, lit
a Lucky Strike.
Put a foot up on the sill, show leg to Johnny Boy while he preened and oiled. I sent clouds out over the street, carefully positioned elbow on knee, all contemplative sex-a-tative, window gazing Venus. Waiting-wanting-ready.
We all know Rosy means Johnny Three gets himself a show. And Johnny knows best.
I try a little harder, “Oh yes, Johnny! Yes!”

Sally was a silly bugger sometimes. Bloody lucky to be alive actually.
Took no shit, gave a bloody good dead-arm to let you know it, and had a mouth on her that would make a sailor blush.
Walking home from school one day, along the railway line as we did – because of course that was safer than walking on the side of the road – we saw the 3:20 train to Melbourne, as usual, come under the Thistle Street bridge.
All cool and nonchalant, Sally, the silly bugger, always left it pretty late to step off the tracks, hoping to get a rise out of the train driver, provoke him into blowing the horn.
But this day, as she went to step down, some ballast moved under her feet and she slipped, lurched, and almost fell into the path of the oncoming locomotive.
“Fark,” she simply stated.
Sally, the silly bugger, looked pretty sickly and pale, silent all the rest of the walk home.
And from that day on we would pointedly stop as we made our way home, and watch the 3:20 train to Melbourne go roaring by, from the safety of the roadside.