A little note on dark literature

Book cover

I ended my post on Gabrielle Carey’s Only happiness here: In search of Elizabeth von Arnim with Carey’s point that, although at her death there was a belief that von Arnim’s work would live on, “her style of conventionally plotted novels, however rebellious, insightful or entertaining, soon went out of literary fashion”. This was because, claimed English novelist Frank Swinnerton, “her talent lay in fun, satirical portraiture, and farcical comedy” and these, he said, were ‘scorned by the “modern dilemma”‘. He was referring to Modernism, which, as Carey says, “didn’t believe in happiness” – and this, she added, is a value that has carried through to today.

Modernist writer, Albert Camus, for example, wrote

Man stands face to face with the irrational. He feels within him his longing for happiness and for reason. The absurd is born of this confrontation between the human need and the unreasonable silence of the world. (1 January 1942)

Anyhow, Carey writes just a little more about this issue of our focus on gloom. She quotes literary theorist Terry Eagleton from his 2015 book Hope without optimism. Eagleton comments that it can be “arresting” when contemporary novels “fail to be suitably downbeat”. He said that for a contemporary novel to end on a “joyfully transformative note” – as Jose Saramago’s Blindness does – “is almost as audacious as if Pride and Prejudice were to conclude with a massacre of the Bennet sisters”. Love his example of course.

Eagleton goes on to say that

In this era of modernity, gloom appears a more sophisticated stance than cheerfulness.

Carey picks up this idea, suggesting that this attitude is the key to von Arnim’s demise. She says:

It has become more respectable to be depressed, an attitude that signals virtue, and almost socially irresponsible to be happy – a state that is associated with vacuousness. After all, if you aren’t depressed by the mess the world is in – ravaged by fire, flood and plague – you are clearly insensitive or uninformed. Perhaps that is precisely why no one reads her novels anymore, because amid our infatuation with darkness, being cheerful has become not only unsophisticated but morally suspect.

This made me stop and think … because, while most times have been difficult in one way or another, it does seem to be particularly so now. The pandemic, climate change, the current war in Ukraine, not to mention, in Australia, our government’s refusal to meet our First Nation’s people half-way, their inflexible hard-hearted policy regarding refugees and asylum-seekers, and the continuing violence against women, are all a bit overwhelming. No wonder we feel gloomy.

But, here’s the thing. My personal life here and now is going OK. Of course I’m concerned about all the things I’ve just mentioned – I’d be “insensitive” and “uninformed” if I weren’t – but in my daily life they are (with perhaps the exception of the pandemic) “just” concerns. What I mean by this is that I have the luxury of choosing whether to worry about them or not, rather than that they are issues that spoil my generally comfortable life. It should therefore, theoretically speaking, be easy for me to be cheerful. This is something that, coincidentally, I’ve been pondering rather a lot lately, so Carey’s comment hit a nerve. I DO feel it would be “morally suspect” of me to be cheerful.

This is because – to use the word du jour, if it’s not already passé – we are now “woke”. We are acutely aware of our privilege in a way that past generations may not have been, and this is not only uncomfortable, but we feel uncomfortable about being uncomfortable because, well, we are not really uncomfortable. It’s too easy, in the situation, to become smug in our “wokeness” …

So, where does that leave us? Cheerfulness in itself is not a bad thing. We achieve nothing by being gloomy all the time, but can we truly be happy being cheerful? I’m not sure I can. The best, I think, I can aim for, is to have a laugh every now and then – and what better way than through the arts – before I get back to the difficult job of living in this challenging, uncertain world.

What do you think?

(Meanwhile, for a different take on happiness in modern literature, check out this 2013 article from The Guardian.)

Monday musings on Australian literature: Defining the novel, in 1975?

During one of my forays into Trove, I came across an intriguing little piece by Canberra artist-educator-reviewer, Malcolm Pettigrove. Pettigrove was a regular arts reviewer in The Canberra Times through the 1970s and 1980s, but it was his article published on 31 January 1975 that particularly caught my attention.

It starts:

NO issue in the issue-filled business of literary appreciation has had as much wind and ink spent on it as The Definition of The Novel. Ironically, few issues are of less importance.

I like this, because I think definitions are fun, but ultimately unimportant. Actually, fun is not quite the right word. What I mean is that discussing definitions is a worthwhile exercise because it helps hone our ideas about form and can inform our understanding of creative works, but in the end, the important thing is the work, regardless of what category/form/type critics or reviewers slot it into.

So, with that understanding, let’s look at what Malcom Pettigrove had to say – in his review of three Australian historical fiction novels, Nancy Cato’s Brown sugar; Maslyn Williams’ Florence Copley of Romney, and Thea Astley’s A kindness cup.

He starts, in fact, by saying a bit more about the novel:

Whatever theorists might make of it, the word “novel” remains in reality nothing more than a convenient label for those fictional works of narrative, descriptive, expository, dramatic, or didactic prose which no other label will fit. […] No more comprehesive [sic] definition has ever been coined, and it’s quite likely that none ever will.

Now, I’m not going to engage much more with this. Wikipedia’s writers simply describe the novel as “a relatively long work of narrative fiction, typically written in prose and published as a book”. I could check my various books, but I think I’ll find variations on this theme, so let’s move on. Pettigrove says that this says nothing about a “lack of imagination on the part of the definition-makers”. Rather, “it indicates that the novel has a life and a mind of its own and is determined not to surrender to the definition-makers until it has exhausted all the variations of form, content and style that are available to it”.

The Australian novel, he says, is no different. He writes:

Most novels, whether Australian or not, are conservative, courteous, sociable things, with established habits, moderate expectations, and only a limited inclination to experiment. The bold innovation, being rarely understood and seldom well received, is left to the adventurous minority, some of whom die in the attempt leaving the successful ones to proliferate their own image in more or less conservative, courteous and sociable offspring which are established in their habits, and given to moderating our expectations by being limited in their inclination to experiment further.

I do like this description of how innovation leads to the next “standard” – until, of course, the next innovation comes along. It happens in all the arts, doesn’t it? Of the three novels he’s reviewing, you won’t be surprised to hear that he says that Cato’s and Williams’ novels belong to the majority, while Astley’s is an “offspring of the minority”.

He then discusses the three novels. Nancy Cato has appeared in this blog a few times. Her historical fiction, Brown sugar, is a “novel” he says, and also “a foreshortened saga”, a “history of the rise and fall of the north-coast sugar empires”, and “a romantic tale”. He sees limitations in this novel, particularly in terms of depth of characterisation. The extent of her historical research is evident, he says, but “in the hands of a Martin Boyd this material would undoubtedly have given rise to characterisations of considerable depth and subtle complexity.”

Maslyn Williams’ novel, Florence Copley of Romney, he says, shares with Brown sugar, its “contrast of values”. Overall, though, this story is “pleasantly romantic” rather than offering something interesting and challenging about the Australia in which it is set.

Book cover

Then, he comes to Thea Astley’s A kindness cup (for which there are reviews by Lisa, Bill and Lou on Lisa’s Thea Astley page). Astley is described on the book’s fly-leaf, Pettigrove says, as “a prose stylist”. It’s clear he’s not a fan – or not entirely a fan – of Astley’s “prose-style”, for which he gives examples, but he writes that:

If this brief and bitter tale succeeds — and I believe it will — it will be in spite of its prose-styling, not because of it. When Miss Astley drops the prose of the stylist and begins to function simply as a writer with a tale to tell her work becomes stark, tense, and most effectively dramatic.

Astley’s writing, he says, would intrigue “the reader who enjoys examining the intricate and often unfathomable relationships between a human action, its setting and its motive”. She evokes her cane-country town setting “with potent economy” and the motives of its characters “are exposed with the precision of surgery”. Indeed, he says,

The total impact of the book is considerably greater than its brevity might suggest possible.

All three books, he concludes, discuss the nature of man in their own way – though their understanding “is wonderfully simplified when the men depicted inhabit the philosophical no man’s land that nineteenth-century rural Australia has become in the minds of so many contemporary novelists”. “Philosophical no man’s land”? A discussion for another day, perhaps?

As for defining the novel? He suggests these novels provide no answers … just, the implication is, more questions. In fact, his piece peters out in terms of its opening salvo, but I did enjoy his perspective on these three writers.

Thoughts, anyone?

Monday musings on Australian literature: Contemporary responses to Coonardoo

Book cover

Ask and you shall receive, they say, and so when Lisa (ANZLitLovers) expressed interest in what Prichard’s contemporaries thought of her novel Coonardoo, I thought I’d love to know too. However, I’m sure Nathan Hobby will cover this in some detail in his upcoming biography of Katharine Susannah Prichard. I don’t want spoil that, so will keep this to a brief survey of some of the reactions I found in Trove.

First though I was horrified by the frequency with which Prichard’s name was spelt incorrectly. This must have driven Hobby mad in his research. She is frequently written as KathErine, not KathArine, and occasionally Catherine, and even Kathleen. Really? Then, there’s her last name, which was often reported as PriTchard not Prichard. It must have driven HER mad too, at the time. Sometimes, too, her married name, Mrs Hugo Throssell, is used.

Because I was looking for contemporary responses, I narrowed my search to 1928 to 1930, covering the time when Coonardoo won the Bulletin Prize (shared with M. Barnard Eldershaw’s A house is built). Most of the pieces I read came from literary and book pages (or B.P.s), with a couple of more extended articles or reviews, and one or two letters to the editor to round out the response!

Humourless and sordid

I’ll start with the comments relating to ideas about what literature should be, or, should not be: it should not be, many argued, grim, humourless or sordid. Heaven forbid, it seems, that writers address society’s serious issues. Much better to entertain with romance and humour. Of course, those can leaven serious books, I know, but we shouldn’t eschew grim pieces – Barbara Baynton is a good example – which can make important points.

A.T.C., writing in Perth’s Sunday Times (27 January 1929), calls Coonardoo “sordid and utterly destitute of romance”. Socialist and journalist S.A. Rosa writing in The Labor Daily (10 August 1929) was also critical:

Both Coonardoo and Hugh wasted their lives. Why? Is it really necessary, too, that there should be a persistent atmosphere of gloom in a novel dealing with Australian life in the interior? Is there no humor in such a life?

In Perth’s The Daily News (3 August 1929, the Books and Authors writer compares Coonardoo unfavourably with its Bulletin prize-winning mate:

‘A House Is Built’ is the more enjoyable, and the more robustly Australian than the sun-dried desolation of Katharine Prichard’s unhappy story of the North-West.

There are more, including “Austral” in Adelaide’s The Advertiser (4 September 1929):

I, at any rate, have never read a book which combines so much dreariness, sordidness, and monotony with such an utter lack of humor.

 Not all were so negative, however. The West Australian‘s (27 July 1929) Book Reviews page writer accepts that “there is a good deal that is undeniably squalid” in Prichard’s image of station life in the North-West, but argues that there is also great descriptive beauty and profound knowledge of “the Australian aboriginal in his native state”. (See below for more on this issue.)


Closely related to the above criticisms, and often contained in the same article, were accusations that the book is not representative of the bush. Some of these express concern that books like Coonardoo gave a bad impression of Australia for overseas readers, particularly the English. They are defensive about Australia, wanting to maintain the notion of “the wonderful personality of the outback man, his unbounded generosity, his unconventional hospitality, his self-sacrificing bravery and unostentatious generosity” (Capricornian, 10 October 1929).

A.T.C. (mentioned above) comments in the same piece on the Coonardoo‘s being published:

There should be a foreword in the book pointing out that it is but a phase of life in the North-west of Western Australia, and does not picture the real white social existence in that part of WA. It deals with the natives and their contact with rather dissolute whites … The pity of it is that a book of this nature will be accepted in England as typical of the country …

Similarly, the writer in Rockhampton’s The Capricornian (25 July 1929), quotes a friend in England, “a journalist of no mean order and a clever writer of book reviews”: 

‘If that is the class of story that is going to win the big Australian prizes I think it’s a darn bad advertisement for Australia, and Australians generally, and I’ll be frank, give me the failures rather than another “Coonardoo.” I would hesitate to think all Aussies were like the hero, or treated the natives so, and from comments heard from moving about amongst people, it does not appeal. It opens strongly but its end is woeful, almost disgusting.”

The aforementioned “Austral” picks up this theme too:

Australian life is not the dreary, hopeless affair outsiders are given to understand it to be, nor are our outback people the cheerless, despondent creatures such as some of our writers seem to delight in depicting. It is a pity that this type of literature should be given to the world as typical of the life and people of our glorious country, and I for one, being Australian born, of Australian parents, feel exceedingly resentful of the slurs which are cast upon both our country and our people.

“Austral” goes on to criticise Australian writers who ignore “the beauty and wonders of our great continent, the courage, cheerful optimism, and achievement of its outback people” to focus on “the gloomy, the sordid, and the depressing”.

It appears that there was some excited discussion among the B.P.s about Prichard’s depiction of “half-castes”, with various columnists weighing in with (unsupported) “facts”. One in The Capricornian (19 September 1929) argued that

One man of this class is often responsible for the existence of perhaps, a dozen or more half-castes, so why write a book that may lead strangers to believe the practice is common? Further, the book is devoid of humour and a book to be really entertaining must have, at least, a little humour. Mrs. Gunn’s “We of the Never Never” is absolutely true to life. It also has a vein of humour and there is not even the most delicate hint of such a being as the half-caste. 

Who said a book has to be “entertaining” (however we define that overused word)?

Again, not everyone agreed. The Ladies Realm writer (Adelaide’s Chronicle, 1 August 1929) claims that “the story is a truthful reflection of the lot of the pastoralist when seasons are against him”. Similarly, HH Ryall, in Sydney’s Evening News (12 October 1929), says

Brutal, lecherous individuals exist in every country where white men live among black, brown, or yellow. But then, so do others, who understand them, and play fair. […]

Australians should be proud of Mrs. Prichard’s effort to interpret for the outside world this outback phase of their country’s development. “We of the Never Never” left a fragrant memory. “Coonardoo” is not a pleasant sequel, but it is a story that demanded to be written.

On the “natives”

This brings me to commentary on Prichard’s treatment of Indigenous Australians in her book, but first it’s worth mentioning that Prichard’s research primarily comprised observation of station life, and information from white men. She is quoted:

‘About two years ago, […] I spent some time on an isolated cattle station in the NorthWest, and took the opportunity of gaining material for my book by studying the natives at close quarters. I wished to be as accurate as possible, and obtained very valuable help from Mr. Ernest Mitchell, inspector of aborigines for the whole of this State. Mr. Mitchell has been closely associated with the blacks for 30 years or more and is a recognised authority on the subject.’

She also says in this article that she “benefited by the long experience of Mr. James Withnell, a well known squatter, who had helped her with particulars of native songs and folk-lore. Through his aid she had been able to obtain the actual words of aboriginal songs, always a difficult task, and had incorporated such songs in her story.”

An “inspector of aborigines” and a “squatter”. This would not, of course, be acceptable now.

Some of the commentary is shocking, such as:

  • the previously cited SA Rosa who suggested that “it may be that it is easier to plumb the depth of the character of a member of a primitive race than of a race more complex”.
  • the previously cited Ladies Realm article which comments that “the lot of Coonardoo is sad reading at the last, but her young days reflect the childishly happy mind of the contented aboriginal”.
  • “Bush-Woman” who wrote in a letter to the editor in Adelaide’s Register (27 December 1928) that “at present there is far too much rash, sentimental sympathy for the blacks. Taken en masse, they are talking animals with a fair sprinkling of the types depicted in Coonardoo, which it takes a couple of generations of careful handling and working to produce. 

Not everyone thought like this, however. The West Australian (10 May 1930) quotes from a review in The New York Times, including this:

Nevertheless, ‘Coonardoo’ stands as a forceful piece of social documentation and bids fair to do for Australia what ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ did for America, and Mrs. Millin is doing for South Africa— to make the white race face the facts of its treatment and study of the black descendants of the aborigines, through an authentic piece of national literature which raises a parochial problem to the level of the universal.

Finally, there’s our own Nettie Palmer who, in an extended essay on the state of Australian literature, included a paragraph on Coonardoo, commenting that in all the books she discussed, there was “hardly … a glance at the aboriginal life of Australia. It remained,” she writes, “for Katharine Prichard, in her Coonardoo, to experiment with this theme”.

This is a superficial response to Lisa, but that’s ok, because Nathan Hobby is coming! We just have to be patient a little longer. Meanwhile, I hope you enjoyed this little taste of what the popular media, at least, was saying.

A belated contribution to Bill’s AWW Gen 3 Week.

Monday musings on Australian literature: American apologist for Australian literature

If you read my 1965 series Monday Musings post on literary visitors, you will know the subject of this post. It’s Professor Bruce Sutherland, who was credited with establishing one of the first university courses on Australian literature in the USA (at Pennsylvania State University, in 1942) and who became the first American Professor of Australian Writing in 1950. He was regarded as a pioneer in promoting the study of “Commonwealth literature.”

Tischler, writing about Sutherland in Antipodes, says that, originally a medievalist, he was converted, saying that “Nowadays, I prefer to feel the keen wind of the contemporary world blowing through my study windows.”

Hume Mystery of a Hansom CabSo, he offered his course for the first time in 1942, just after Pearl Harbor was attacked. Australian books were hard come by in the American market, and with the war, they became “almost impossible to import”. Tischler says that at the time he started the course there were four Australian titles in the Penn. State Library:

  • John Boyle O’Reilly’s Life … with complete poems
  • Henry Handel Richardson’s The fortunes of Richard Mahony
  • E.W. Horning’s Stingaree 
  • Fergus Hume’s The mystery of a hansom cab (my review)

I wonder how many Aussies know all these? I’ve only vaguely heard of two of them: O’Reilly and Hornung. Anyhow, Sutherland began collecting Australian literature, resulting in Penn. State having “one of the best research collections outside Australia”. Carter and Osborne write that Sutherland’s teaching and his collection of Australian books “became a touchstone for the organised study of Australian literature in America”.

His first courses, Tischler says, relied heavily on a Henry Lawson short story collection, a poetry collection, Katharine Susannah Prichard’s Moon of desire, Richardson’s The fortunes of Richard Mahony, Miles Franklin’s All that swagger, and Kylie Tennant’s Battlers. She praises this selection for its “openness” and “willingness to include women as well as men, popular and classically shaped pieces, modern and nineteenth-century titles.”

In 1945, Sutherland wrote an article titled “Australian books and American readers” for America’s The Library Quarterly. He listed some of his favorites, says Tischler,

noting that Richardson was “perhaps the greatest living Australian novelist”. Others, whose works he cites are Marcus Clarke, Lawson, Joseph Furphy, Prichard, Christina Stead, Tennant, Eleanor Dark, Edith Littleton [sic], and Xavier Herbert.

Edith Littleton? Ah, it’s Edith Lyttleton, who wrote as GB Lancaster. She won the ALS Gold Medal in 1933, but seems to have lived mostly in New Zealand.

In a Meanjin article in 1950, Sutherland described his course, explaining that he examined the general movements in Australian literature, using materials, writes Tischler, “covering history, geography, explorations, flora and fauna, customs and manners, travel, biography, and literary criticism”. He included all the major forms – novels, short stories, poetry, plays, and essays. Tischler suggests he was teaching at a good time, being before the explosion in opposing ideas about literary criticism. He could, she writes, “simply bring his interest in social, historical, and biographical criticism to bear on his criticism, rather than limiting himself to the text as the “New Critics” might have done, or questioning the text and its voice as the “Deconstructionists” might have done later on.”

Sutherland did visit Australia, as we know from my Monday Musings. His first trip, though, was not 1965, but 1951 on a Fulbright scholarship to study A.G. Stephens, that long-term editor of The Bulletin “whom he considered Australia’s foremost literary critic.” Sutherland was apparently an affable man who could get on with all sorts of people. Tischler quotes the Sydney Telegraph as saying that he looks like “the young Abe Lincoln, speaks like a college educated Gary Cooper, and has the homespun simplicity of Will Rogers.” He became good friends with Miles Franklin.

“There is more to Australian literature than most Australians realise” (Sutherland, 1952)

He also – and many of us won’t be surprised by this – found that Australia’s university students back then were mainly interested in “a classical, academic course of study” which limited their engagement with their own literature and culture. Sutherland’s response was to take “on the role of apologist and critic” for our literature! Nice that someone did, eh?

Things did improve, he noticed, over time. Nonetheless, in the second issue of Australian Literary Studies, in 1963, he noted that although there is literary criticism in Australia “no Australian author is in danger of being smothered under an avalanche of critical commentary”. Hmm …

In his Meanjin article “An American looks at Australian literature”, Sutherland, Tischler explains, said he was looking for an “indigenous” literature, “an honest and sincere attempt at self-expression in Australia”. Australia had “no Emerson, no Hawthorne, no Melville, no Poe, no Whitman” all of whom “combined a knowledge of old world culture with new world conditions”. But, it did have, he said, Shaw Neilson and Christopher Brennan. Also, Henry Kingsley was “a rough Australian equivalent to Fenimore Cooper”; and “in For the term of his natural life” could be found, he said, some of the moral indignation that produced Uncle Tom’s cabin”. He believed that there were many other parallels “among local colour and regional writers of both countries”. Indeed, he said, “Tom Collins could well have been an Australian Mark Twain had he been recognized soon enough and given the backing and encouragement that Twain received from the common man in America.” Darn it, eh!

Book coverI hope you’ve enjoyed this little portrait. I’ve loved discovering this American enthusiast for our literature. I’ll finish with comments he made about one of his favourite Australian authors, Henry Handel Richardson, after her death. He said (reported The Argus in 1946) that she’d been “snubbed by her old school and ignored for many years by the [Australian] reading public” but that “she nonetheless regarded herself as Australian” which was demonstrated by “her choice of Australia as the background for most of her work.” Of The fortunes of Richard Mahony, he wrote

in this family chronicle she reached her highest peak as a writer, as an analyst of character, and as a proponent of tragedy that is Shakespearian.

Oh, to have such a supporter, eh?


  • Book news: American Tribute (1946, July 27). The Argus. p. 15.
  • Carter, David and Bruce Osborne. Australian books and authors in the American marketplace 1840s–1940s. Sydney University Press, 2018. p. 338.
  • Praise for Australian literature (1952, June 17). The Age. p. 2.
  • Sutherland, Bruce. ‘Review by Bruce Sutherland.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 1, no. 2, 1963.
  • Tischler, Nancy. ‘Bruce Sutherland and images of Australia.’ Antipodes, vol. 7, no. 2, Dec. 1993, pp. 135-138.

Amanda Duthie (ed.), Margaret & David: 5 stars (#BookReview)

Amanda Duthie, Margaret and DavidMargaret and David, the subjects of this delightful, eponymously named collection of reminiscences and essays, do not need last names here in Australia. They are just “margaretanddavid”. But, since we have an international readership here, I should formally introduce them. Margaret and David are Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton, Australia’s best-known and best-loved film critics who retired from their television movie show in 2014 after 28 years on air! There were to us as Siskel and Ebert were to Americans. Their influence was immense.

This book, Margaret & David: 5 stars, is essentially a tribute book produced on the occasion of their being awarded the 2017 Don Dunstan Award, an award established in 2003 to commemorate the late South Australian Premier, Don Dunstan, who was a major champion of the arts, including film. The book contains mostly short reflections, but also an extended essay, on Margaret and David’s contribution to Australia’s film industry and culture, and, in fact, to world film culture. The pieces are written by a wide variety of industry people, from producers like Jan Chapman, through actors like Geoffrey Rush, and directors like Cate Shortland and Gillian Armstrong, to film business people, journalists, film festival directors, and even, Margaret’s son, Josh. It’s a delightful read – but a provocative one at times too.

Of course, I enjoyed the insights into Margaret and David’s personas and working relationship – and won’t go into these. If you’re looking for gossip you won’t get it here because Margaret and David were professionals, and were, and are, we are told, good friends. Sure, they disagreed, sometimes vociferously – we all remember Margaret’s “Oh, David!” exclamations – but these arguments always teased out ideas about film. Gillian Armstrong says, “they formed a lively, fiery, passionate, laughter-filled relationship.” If, on the other hand, you’re looking for insights into the history of the Australian film industry, you will get some here. This is not an academic work, but many of the reflections on these two can’t help but comment on the Australian industry and on film culture more broadly, from the mid 1980s when they started on television to the mid 2010s when they finished. Their contribution – and impact – was not only qualitative but, in some respects, quantifiable.

This all interested me, but what I want to focus on in the rest of this post is what the book offered me regarding …

The practice of criticism

… because, fundamentally, criticism is criticism, whether you are discussing film or books, drama or ballet. I enjoyed some of the commentary on this.

Director Gillian Armstrong, while teasing (and forgiving) David about his poor review of her Oscar and Lucinda film, describes perfectly the art of the critic, when she says

It is important to have serious discussions that actually discuss the craft of the director. They shared a real appreciation of the vision behind the camera angles, the lighting, editing, music and casting. But most importantly, their reviewing was about the very heart of those films, the content and ethics.

Leaving aside the terms “review” and “criticism” which tend to be used somewhat interchangeably in the book, I think this statement contains the guts of what criticism or, shall we say, serious reviewing is about: marrying analysis of technique with exploration of content (and ethics). Journalist Sandy George, in her extended essay, puts in this way:

They actively engage in talking about the narrative, the history of the production, what the filmmaker was trying to achieve, and how the film affected them; they don’t engage in reductive talk such as “this is good”, “this is bad”, “see this”, “don’t see that”.

There’s one memorable review they did which several writers commented on: their review of the violent R-rated movie Romper Stomper. Margaret gave it 4.5 stars and David refused to rate it. This review is now famous – and part of this is for the way their discussion was conducted. It was respectful, and considered. You can see the review here.

Other practical issues are teased out – such as reviewing works you don’t like, and reviewing works by friends. On the former, Sandy George quotes David Stratton on writing reviews for “the extremely influential” Variety:

‘I never gave a glowing review to something that didn’t deserve it … but knowing how important a Variety review is, I sometimes went out of my way not to review a film.’

A valid decision I think, though purists would probably say that you should review such films regardless.

George also quotes Margaret about reviewing works by friends. They tried, she said, “not to be friends with filmmakers, but it’s impossible”. She also says:

“I’ve always been kind to Australian films because I’m such a wimp … “

Indeed, one person said that because of this, a good review from David carried more weight!

George goes on to report one distributor’s comment that

one way the pair went above and beyond for Australian films was how carefully they chose their words when one fell short.

Notwithstanding my above comment about not reviewing at times, I also like this approach. Honest reviews are important, but there are ways of being honest. The arts are tough enough, without demoralising those working hard within it, don’t you think?

Anyhow, I enjoyed this book. It’s a quick read but not a frivolous one. I’ll close with a comment made by current SA Premier, Jay Weatherill:

Their love of cinema is real, undiminished and contagious, and they have helped me and countless other Australians to understand the critical role can play in telling our nation’s stories and presenting our values.

AWW Badge 2018Amanda Duthie (ed.)
Margaret & David: 5 stars
Mile End: Wakefield Press, 2017
ISBN: 9781743055137

(Review copy courtesy Wakefield Press)

My literary week (9), some thoughts about fiction …

It’s been a busy week, what with getting ready for our road trip to Port Macquarie, and then doing said road trip, so reading has been slowed down somewhat. However, that doesn’t mean that things literary have been forgotten.

Why write fiction?

Anos Irani, The scribeLike most of you who read this blog, I expect, I’m always looking out for discussions about what literature is all about, particularly from the writers who create this things we read. This week, I listened to a couple of interviews with authors, and loved what they had to say.

I’ll start with Anosh Irani whose latest novel The parcel I reviewed a few days ago. In an interview on Canada’s CBC, he said:

I had to tell the truth. For me that was the most important thing. Tell it in the form of a story but make it as truthful as possible.

Fiction is a beautiful way to get to the higher kind of truth.

There’s a difference between facts and truth. Factual information is what I learned when I did my research but truth can be an emotional truth; it can be a spiritual truth. These are things that you can arrive at through fiction, that’s why I love the novel. […]

The idea for me when I write a novel is to find what is human in the worst kinds of experience. […]

There are questions that the reader will also ask that have no answer and that is the whole point that sometimes there aren’t any answers. […]

I think literature should make us a little uneasy, a little uncomfortable, it should cause a shift in our unconsciousness because only when we are disturbed will we go in search of something [and he then refers to great novels like Rohinton Mistry’s A fine balance, Albert Camus’ The outsider and Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita as examples. Yes!]

SNAP, I thought, because the previous day I’d heard Richard Fidler interview Richard Flanagan, and Flanagan too had talked about truths and about questions without answers:

Novels are something we go to because they remind us that implicit in each of us is a universe of possibilities, some better, some worse […]

It’s said now that reality has outstripped fiction, and that fiction can’t deal with this new reality, but […]

I genuinely believe in the novel as one of the great spiritual, intellectual and aesthetic traditions and at its best it speaks to fundamental truths about the human condition. It’s not that it has answers but … it asks the necessary questions we need to ask, of ourselves and of our times.

As you will probably guess, I love this idea of novels’ role being to ask us questions without necessarily providing the answers. Irani certainly does it. He presents some complex if not discomforting moral questions, and leaves the reader to think about how to react. His only request, I’d say, is for us to react with humanity, to not be quick to judge (particularly if we haven’t walked in those shoes.) Sometimes, as he says, there are no answers.

MUBA (Most Under-rated Book Award)

The Invisible War book coverWhile on the road, I did check my Twitter feed every now and then, and one that caught my attention came from the Small Press Network (SPN). It announced this year’s MUBA award shortlist. I have written about these awards before, and have read the odd nominee, but this list comes completely out of left-field for me. The books are:

  • Briohny Doyle’s The island will sink (Brow Books, an imprint of Lifted Brow magazine): a debut novel that sounds like it’s in the dystopian cli-fi tradition
  • The invisible war: A tale on two scales (Scale Free Network): a surprising-sounding graphic novel for young adults set in the first World War and about bacteriophage that fights dysentery! This book has won educational publishing awards, but I guess is unknown/underrated in the general realm.
  • Susan McCreery’s Loopholes (Spineless Wonders, whom I’ve mentioned before in a post on Specialist Presses): a collection of micro-fiction about family life and relationship – no piece is more than 250 words
  • Christina Kennedy’s Horse Island (Zabriskie Books): set around Tuross Lake in NSW’s south coast, a beautiful part of the world only about three hours drive from me. This book chronicles Kennedy’s commitment to native Australian plants.

What a fascinating bunch. The winner will be announced next month.

How we read …

Another thing readers like me like to read about is how other readers read. I don’t mean what they read, or how many books they read, but how they actually read. This can include things like whether they write marginalia or not, or how many pages they read before they give up on a book, or whether in fact they ever give up a book once started. Consequently, I loved this from a Canadian blogger I love to visit, Buried in Print. It’s from her review of a book by Sarah Dunn called The arrangement, and she writes:

And when I say ‘entertaining’, I mean I chuckled aloud several times and paused more than once to let the book settle into my lap so I could enjoy the idea of the scene described.

I related to this. I often do the same. Not just for funny scenes, but for moving ones, or gorgeously written ones that I want to let soak in. It slows down the reading of course – but, when you are moved (to laugh, cry or wonder), you are moved, and you don’t want to rush that, do you?

Modern short stories, 1929-style

Pock, Modern short storiesAs I continue to clear out my aunt’s house, I keep finding little treasures. Most I move on. There are only so many little treasures, after all, that you can dwell on, let alone keep, but an old book of short stories? Of course, that captured my attention. Titled Modern short stories, it was my aunt’s school text around 1947. It edition date is actually 1929, and it belongs to a series of books, The Kings* treasures of literature, which was edited by Sir A T Quiller Couch*. Modern short stories was edited by Guy N. Pocock, who was “a novelist and educationist” according to the Wikipedia entry for his son Tom!

It contains twelve short stories, but I haven’t yet read them. I’m writing this post for other reasons. One is that my aunt wrote in the front of the book “Katherine Mansfield wrote good short stories”! Presumably the recommendation of her Methodist Ladies College teacher. Mansfield is not included in the anthology, although a couple of women (unknown to me) are. The book also has “Questions and suggestions” for each story at the back. The first story is “The lost god” by John Russell. Heard of him? I haven’t. Anyhow, one of the questions/suggestions for this story is:

“Good God!” breathed Bartlett. “He couldn’t get out!”

Explain this.

I think I’ll have to read this. In my search to find out who John Russell was I found a 2013 post on a blog called Pulp Flakes which describes itself as being about “Pulp magazines, authors and their stories. Adventure and Detective pulps”. According to the blogger, this story, written in 1917, was made into a film, The sea god. The blogger says that the story is “about an explorer who becomes a god. A standard pulp trope, you might say, and yet this has an unexpected ending. Or is it a beginning?”. One of the commenters calls it “one of the best short stories ever written”!

But, enough of that digression. I want to move on to my main reason for writing this post, Pocock’s introduction. Pocock commences by pondering how many short stories find their way into print. “Cataracts … come pouring out, monthly, weekly, daily, even hourly, from the American and English Press”, he says. And there are many others which are rejected. Of the thousands published, he asks, “how extraordinarily few are really worth the reading and writing – how extraordinarily few can be called great!” This, however, is not as extraordinary as it would appear, he continues, because “a great short story is a very difficult artistic achievement”. Of course, the stories he has chosen for this anthology are, he reassures us, “very good indeed”.

And so, in his introduction, he shares his ideas about “what constitutes a really good short story”. I’m going to dot point them:

  • it must be a story, that is, he says, there must be a plot – “however slight” (I like this qualification) – by which he means “some kind of development and crisis”. Otherwise, he suggests, it will be a sketch, a little snapshot from life or imagination”. To explain this, he describes going to “the ‘Pictures'”. (Interesting, given that going to the movies was still a fairly new thing at this time.) A sketch, he says, is like Pathé’s Gazette or Scenes from wild life, which are “just scenes”, while a short story is like Deadwood Dick or The adventures of Sherlock Holmes, because these comprise “a more or less artistic arrangement of scenes and situations developing to a climax”. What fascinates me about this is that he was clearly gearing his thoughts to young people – school students – by relating short stories to something they might know and enjoy. He was, in other words, “an educationist” as Wikipedia says.
  • it must be short, though there are, he admits, such things as “long short stories … a kind of literary dachshund”! Love it. Generally, though, they should be “brief and to the point”, ranging from a few hundred to two or three thousand words. In a short story, he continues, “there must be no padding out, no word-spinning. Every epithet, every phrase, every sentence should bear in some way upon the plot, character or atmosphere”. I think this is one of the reasons short stories are a joy to read. You really have to think closely about every thing the author writes.
  • if it’s an action story, the narrative must be rapid. This doesn’t have to be “breathless”, he says, but the sequence of events needs to be “swift and sustained”. And if it’s a more subtle, psychological story, the narrative still needs to move “rapidly”. There cannot be “loitering about and explaining the situation”. This is why short stories can be a challenge to read. If things aren’t explained, you really have to read all those words carefully – see the above point – to work out what’s going on!
  • we expect a consistent tone he says. He then discusses tone, such as how pathos is maintained or different sorts of humour injected, but he doesn’t really expand further on our “expectation”. I think he’s right, though. It’s the consistency of tone that tends to drive a short story on and give it much of its punch. When I think of my favourite short stories, it’s often not so much the actual story I remember as the feeling I’m left with, and this is usually created by the tone.

He then becomes a bit descriptive. He talks about “stories of Imagination”. The imagination can be “fanciful” taking us into “a world that lies beyond our everyday experience”, or “scientific” which may be beyond our experience but not beyond “possibility”. Stories, too, can convey an atmosphere of mystery (that is, be strange or haunting) or a sense of remoteness (that is, of happening, far away or long ago). “It is Style”, he says, “that works this magic; the personality of the author coming through”. I think I see “style” being broader than this – as also incorporating tone, pacing, characterisation etc – but perhaps I am misreading him.

Finally, he refers to characters, saying that

Their tongue betrayeth them. Either they are the real thing, or they are the author dressed up in borrowed and unfamiliar garb, which will deceive nobody.

The stories in this anthology, he says, are convincing – even those that are “most fanciful” – a qualification which suggests to me that he is a little wary of the “fanciful”? Then again, as one who tends to be wary of the “fanciful” myself, I understand where he’d coming from!

I’d love to hear what short story writers and fans think of his assessments.

* Kings has no apostrophe on the title page, and Quiller Couch is not hyphenated, though Wikipedia hyphenates it.

Monday musings on Australian literature: AustLit Anthology of Criticism

I’ve written about AustLit several times before, including their BlackWords and World War 1 in Australian Literary Culture projects. Today, I thought I’d highlight their AustLit Anthology of Criticism which was published online in 2010. AustLit, as I’ve mentioned before, is primarily a subscription service, but not all of the content is behind their paywall. Of course, I only discuss freely available content. What would be the point otherwise!

The AustLit Anthology of Criticism was funded by AustLit and the University of Queensland to be “a resource for students and their teachers at secondary and lower tertiary levels”. It contains 18 writers who, on first look, seem an eclectic bunch, with well-known people like Peter Carey, Les Murray, Patrick White, Tim Winton and Judith Wright represented alongside the less widely known like, say, Jack Davis, Michael Gow or Hannie Rayson. The choice of writers, editors Leigh Dale and Linda Hale say, “took into account [those] whose work was currently being studied in the senior secondary school English curriculum in all Australian States and Territories”.

The anthology contains a link to a brief biography for each author on the AustLit Database, followed by a small list of selected articles with links to the online content itself. The chosen articles are “criticism”, which the editors describe as “interpretation” and to be differentiated from “reviews” which they define as focusing more on “evaluation”. These “critical” articles they link to in their anthology can, they say, represent opposing points of view, and mostly come from academic or literary journals like Australian Literary Culture, Australasian Drama Studies, Southerly, and Westerly, or collections of critical essays. For novelists and playwrights, they have mostly chosen one work, but for poets, the articles can deal with a wider body of their work. 

David Malouf reading Ransom

Malouf reading Ransom, National Library of Australia, August 2009

So, for Peter Carey, the book chosen is True history of the Kelly Gang, for Patrick White it’s Fringe of leaves, and for Tim Winton it’s Cloudstreet. Interestingly, for David Malouf several of his works are covered including Fly away Peter, Child’s play and Remembering Babylon. I’ve read four of these six novels, but all before I started blogging. They would all have something to offer students studying them.

I’m interested, though, in what the selection says about what is (or was around 2010) being studied in schools and early tertiary courses around Australia. Only 5 (Dorothy Hewett, Sally Morgan, Hannie Rayson, Henry Handel Richardson and Judith Wright) of the 18 writers are women, and only two (Jack Davis and Sally Morgan) have indigenous background. All, except for the indigenous writers, are Anglo-Australian. These 18 aren’t the only writers being studied, of course, but from the editors’ point of view they are 18 of the most universally studied ones. Hmmm, I say, this probably means they are representative of the whole.

And that’s all I’m going to say now. Regardless of this bias, it looks to be a useful resource and one I’ll return to if I read any of the works they cover. I do like to read good criticism. Do you have favourite sources you go to for criticism versus review?


Monday musings on Australian literature: Debating Australian literature in 1908

Browsing digitised papers via National Library’s Trove yet again, I came across an intriguing 1908 article by Page Twenty-Seven columnist Norman Lilley. I gather that Lilley had made some pronouncements on Australian literature which had garnered some strong opinions. I haven’t searched hard for the original statements but we don’t necessarily need them to enjoy Lilley’s report of the ensuing discussion.

Lilley starts with two specific responses, which seem to be commenting on other opinions besides those of Lilley.

Tidminbilly (primarily a letter-to-the-editor writer I think) feels that 6×8 (pen-name of Dick Holt, about whom I’ll write more another day) was right to criticise “exaggeration” in Australian writing, but argues that the main problem is not in exaggerating “characters and incidents” as 6×8 had apparently said. Tidminbilly argues that the “defect” comes from writers exaggerating the importance of these characters and incidents. S/he says:

I cannot think, as our Australian scribes would have us do, that the harsh caw of the crow, on the top rail of the stockyard impresses the bushman more than the wealth of bird melody which greets him as he faces the early morning’s freshness. It is this diseased hankering after the abnormal which makes Australia, as viewed through its literature, appear more like a camping-ground than a home.

It is, Tidminbilly says, “the multitude of small joys and small sorrows which make up a man’s life”. Perhaps! But, not so exciting to write about methinks!

Talbot’s comments, as reported by Lilley, make me want to find 6×8’s comments. Here’s Talbot (please excuse the large chunk):

‘6×8’ makes himself ridiculous. Is it necessary for Lawson’s characters to exist? Characters do not “exist”: they are created. A story-writer is judged, by his ability to create them, ditto situations and scenery. Collection of fact is but a part, and a small part at that, of the writer’s business. If a writer uses South Pole matter, indisputably he ought to go there for it. Whether a writer spends 30 years or 30 days in the bush isn’t of any consequence. Perfect literal accuracy in small details is necessary to a traveller, but not essential to a story-writer. What is desired is the power to create situations, scenes, characters, and original incidents. … I only get THE WORKER occasionally, for its literary pages. Looking over such of the last few years, I find a considerable number of short stories ”by Phil Fairleigh”, ranging from Kanakadom in the far North to Western copper country and Bairnsdale (Victorian) hop land. The local color may or may not be correct, but of the writer’s power to correctly conjure up striking situations, invent new ideas, there can be no doubt. Let anyone who doubts this read “The Magic Stone,” “The Curse of Copper,” “Wire Netting,” “The Stowaway,” etc. The chief necessity of bush or any other writing your correspondents entirely overlook — style and originality. Can anyone deny in Phil Fairleigh the absence of that introspective egotism, bushranger glorification, and low-down pandering to not the best qualities in human nature which disfigure so much of Lawson’s work? The musical strength of Fairleigh’s sentiment, the melody of his style, the consummate ease of his long sentences — always a good test — will bear out a certain literary University professor’s statement: “He is likely to become the first stylist in Australia. A quality not much in evidence in Australia, which has been Bulletinized into snap sentences, so that the reader feels he is being shot at all the time, instead of passing easily and unconsciously on.”

First stylist? Lawson, whether he deserves it or not, has survived in our literary memory, while Phil Fairleigh hasn’t. Still, I agree with much of what Talbot says about what’s important in literature. Style and originality, the ability to “conjure up striking situations”, are more important than factual accuracy in fiction. (To me, anyhow).

Lilley then continues by discussing other opinions, such as those of “Simple Simon” (SS) and “Town Girl” (these could all be blog names today, don’t you reckon). SS, Lilley tells us, argues that “the secret why many readers are taking a dislike to Australian writing” is that it’s too “stolid”. SS says that Lilley’s own writing is “stolid” (which is defined in Lilley’s dictionary as “dull, foolish, stupid”) too! Lilley counters with:

If under any circumstances readers take a dislike to writings about their own country the fault is very evidently in the readers, not the writers. The writer must first please himself, then the editor, then the public: he could hardly do so by being either foolish, dull, or stupid.

Blame the reader, eh? Anyhow, SS apparently likes “imported reading matter” in which “there is absence of mere individuality”, but Lilley argues that writing, imported or not, that has no individuality is “rubbish”. That doesn’t sound like a “stolid” argument to me! Lilley goes on, presumably continuing to argue against SS, that:

Judging by the literary turnover of a single Australian publishing firm (Messrs. Angus and Robertson), amounting to about twenty thousand volumes per annum, there is no justification for the assumption that bush writers and their writings “fail to please the literary palate.”

He then praises Australian bush writing versus “drab stories … like the work of the Newlyn school of art, of Gissing and Gorky [which have] often proved very popular”. He continues that:

I do not think Lawson’s “handful of followers” (!) will be disturbed at the carping of “Simple Simon.” I have yet to find any “artificiality” or “stolidity” in the writings of Lawson or Sorenson. I should imagine writing of that description had no chance of getting past the eye of an editor.

I love his faith in editors and publishers. Anyhow, he then turns to 6×8,

6 x 8″ considers that no Australian writer has succeeded “in truthfully picturing bush life.” In the widest sense no one man could portray the life of a whole continent, but if he means to imply that Lawson, Barbara Baynton, Sorenson, Miles Franklin, Favenc, Edward Palmer, Gregory, “Nomad,” and a dozen others are incorrect with the section of it they deal with, he simply shows his own ignorance of that particular section. None of these writers “grossly exaggerate, caricature, or burlesque freely.” If any literary qualities are lacking it is those of fancy, passion, imagination, and invention, and Dorrington excels in these qualities.

Some of these writers, like the aforementioned Fairleigh, are no longer well-known to us. Clearly, though, we need to check out Dorrington.

Agreeing with Talbot, Lilley argues against a focus on facts, but says that

writers embellish and enhance on a basis of realism — the very thing they are required to do. It is a pity they do not do so to a greater extent. Editors will not print the simple fact: they want attractive fact. It is original skill, not fact, that is paid for.

There are the editors again!

And finally, he responds to “Town Girl” starting with an aside, “what is the matter with these girls?” Hmm… It seems that she criticised writing of his that had been published elsewhere. After defending himself somewhat and returning once again to praising Lawson, he concludes with, it seems, more references to her criticisms:

Will “6 x 8” particularise? Will “Town Girl” name an over-exaggerated bush character?” Lawson may have been “suckled by journalism”: he does not appear to be any the worse for it. … I did not say the yellow robin, which I know to be a silent bird, had a flute. I have been on the land several times my self; with the assistance of the undertaker I intend to go again. I hope there will be no girl critics there. The girl critic is usually better employed darning her brother’s socks.

Take that “Town Girl”! I guess this was 1908, but “6×8” didn’t come in for such a put-down.

Nonetheless, I found the article elucidating – combining a sense of “it was ever thus” with insight into some specific literary arguments of the times. I’ll continue exploring Trove …

Monday musings of Australian literature: The duty of readers and critics

Hmmm, my post title for this week’s Monday Musings sounds rather provocative, but I’m going to keep this post pretty light. It’s been a busy few days so I’m just going to share an interesting little article I read a few weeks ago while I was reading about Australasian Authors Week in 1927. It’s from the Evening News of 24 February 1927, and is by someone using the by-line, Zeno.

It’s a short article, but it caught my eye for its opening paragraph:

When the really brilliant Australian novelist arrives, he will not fail of joyous welcome, and is assured of his reward. Meantime, it is the duty of readers and critics to encourage, as far as possible, those who are in process of development, and to help them in their difficult path to distinction.

Don’t you love that (ignoring the traditional-for-the-times use of “he”)? It denies the fact that some excellent novelists had already arrived, such as Henry Handel Richardson (a “she”) – but I do like its optimism (albeit somewhat naive).

That’s by-the-by, however. My main point here is his* argument that readers and critics have a duty to “encourage” writers on “their difficult path to distinction”. Admittedly, he does qualify this with “as far as possible” which I suppose allows us to use our critical faculty and not encourage thoughtlessly. The interesting thing is that the two authors he then “encourages” are not well-known today – so they, rightly or wrongly, despite his encouragement, didn’t achieve distinction. The two authors and their books are Stephen Westlaw and The white peril, and James Pollard and The bushland man.

Stephen Westlaw received 23 votes in the Argus’ plebiscite. I’ve had trouble finding out much about him. AustLit writes his name as “Steven” (though the plebiscite listing, like Zeno, spells it “Stephen”) and indicates that his birth-name was John Pyke. This doesn’t help much, but I did find a newspaper article stating Steven Westlaw was a nom-de-plume because of a relative writing under his birth-name. The article also indicated that he wrote satirical material under the name R.X. Jackson.

Anyhow, Zeno tells us that Westlaw’s The white peril is “a startling story of an insidious evil which is creeping slowly, but surely, into our cities”. The subject matter is apparently drug traffic, and Zeno says that Westlaw’s “description of the method of distribution tallies with the disclosures made by the New York police and apparently the same conditions obtain to some extent in Australia”. He concludes that “to read The White Peril in the light of this knowledge, will give some idea of the direful consequences which will result if this evil be not nipped in the bud”.

James Pollard received 6 votes in the plebiscite. He was born in Yorkshire in 1900, and so was young, 27, when the plebiscite occurred. He emigrated to Australia in 1913, serving with the Australian Army World War I. He then became a soldier-settler but abandoned this focus on writing. He wrote three adult novels, two children’s novels, and short stories. He also wrote articles for Walkabout magazine, and a natural history column in the West Australian using the by-line, Mopoke. According to AustLit, he lobbied for and established free libraries for children – presumably in Western Australia.

Zeno describes Pollard’s The bushland man as “a romance of the open spaces”. It’s about a forest ranger with “an intense love of the bush”, and describes “crops and herds, bush-tracks and broken roads; country folk with typically Australian speech, acres of wheat, loads of wool; sheep skins and marsupials”. Zeno calls it “a book for all Australians and one which may go forth to the world. It contains neither fulsome flattery nor stupid libel”. So glad there’s no “stupid libel”! As it turns out, the assessment from our times is that his work is popular rather than literary, and that he presents “a somewhat romantic picture of the beauty of the South-West for a growing number of readers becoming interested in their own country – in fact, the discovery of it through the novel and stories” (Veronica Brady and Peter Cowen, ‘The Novel’, The Literature of Western Australia, cited by AustLit). 

I guess Zeno was writing for an evening newspaper, but these “reviews”, if that they be, tell us nothing really about the style or literary quality. Perhaps this is Zeno’s way of being encouraging – focus on the story, and get people to buy and read? Fair enough, but I think the duty of a critic is a little more than this.

* As Zeno is a male Greek name, I’ll use the male pronoun here.