Griffith Review 33: Such Is Life ed. by Julianne Schultz
Text Publishing $32
In this volume the Griffith writers look inward and backwards to gain some fresh insight into not only their own lives but the lives of us all. There are stories about family, the development of personal relationships, as well as many questions raised and addressed about how we came to live in this strange old world.
As always, the stories shimmer with a polished glow, delivering flawless prose about the most flawed thing of all: our pasts.
The collection opens with Lloyd Jones' startlingly familiar, Looking Back. This work focuses on his childhood obsession with rugby.
In some ways this is the story of every young boy who grew up in the 60s and 70s. This was a time when rugby dominated the provincial landscape and boys were indoctrinated into the covenant at an early age. Jones' work is a thick wedge of ideological nostalgia, and depending on which side of the rugby field you sit, you'll either jump for joy or cringe self-consciously as his story pulls at the strands of your own "rugby" memories.
Bisecting the book is the thought-provoking work, Nine-eleven-itis, by Shakira Hussein. Hussein takes a look at our post-9/11 world through the eyes of someone who doesn't quite fit.
When Hussein returns to her native Pakistan she feels too European, standing out to the locals as someone to fear. Conversely, when she is in Australia, she feels too Middle Eastern.
Having this dual perspective on fear, seeing how others look at you, has given Hussein a true insight into the human condition. Interestingly, on one trip to Pakistan, she is urged to move from the dangers of Australia to the security of sleepy Abbottabad - ironically, the place where Osama sought refuge and was killed.
The volume closes as it opened, with a standout piece titled Child's Play by Meera Atkinson. In this sticky sweet return to the era of flares and long playing records, Atkinson transports the reader back to the summers of her Sydney adolescence. Here, she teams up with her BFF to listen to Australian rock band Sherbet.
The girls embark on a mission to track down their idols and become "groupies" - in an utterly wholesome and innocent way, nicely reflecting the time in which it all took place. Over the years the girls moved their separate ways, but will always be bound together through time and space by the glue of cheesy music and sugared snacks.
Once again, Griffith has produced a stunning volume of excellent work. The pieces are diverse, the stories unique and real. But one thing remains constant - superb writing.
Steve Scott is an Auckland reviewer.