“Is it too late to spit on Hegel?” From its first sentence, the editorial in the newly revamped journal The Lifted Brow feels a bit like a test: are you cool enough for this party? “We freebleed on Hegel,” it says, assuming we know what freebleeding is and what Hegel did to deserve that. By the time I come to “We tri cycles, circles, crystals. (Blood magic)” and “Knowledge is a tampon (writing)”, I fear that I am failing this test. When a publication describes itself as a “quarterly attack journal”, is it the reader who is supposed to feel under fire?
In the first essay, Dion Kagan holds forth on the American television series Transparent, about a transgender dad (Mort is now Maura) and the sale of the family home. Kagan has interesting things to say, though his fondness for academic jargon makes me wonder again, and not for the last time, how writers for a journal so politically committed to inclusion can be so exclusive in their expression. Give those French theorists a rest, folks; you’ll go blind. Following Kagan, I find “The Critic”, by Jana Perković, in love with Dada and out of sorts with her friend Karen, because Karen finds it meaningful to commemorate Anzac Day. The overweening air of self-affirmation makes me think it’s going to be a long night.
Then I meet Briohny Doyle. In “I was a Teenage Dystopia”, Doyle writes insightfully and with wit on the links between dystopian young adult fiction such as The Hunger Games and dystopian young adult life, arguing that such fiction, while flying the banner of rebellion, ultimately reinforces commitment to the neoliberal status quo. Now the conversation is picking up: Rebecca Harkins-Cross’s “All the Flesh That Says Yes” is a lucid, smart and well-researched essay on David Cronenberg’s 2014 film Maps to the Stars. I’ve got a second wind now, and push on, through the poetry (including three stunning poems by Margaret Atwood), drawings, comics, confessions and the terrific “experimental nonfiction” of Oscar Schwartz, right through to the last dance with the inimitable Benjamin Law and his mother, Jenny Phang, who dispense advice to the sexually bewildered. Like them, I had to resort to YouTube to understand a question about the “grapefruit technique”. Holy moly. (Benjamin said the video made him “possibly 800 per cent more gay”.) In conclusion: ignore the door bitch and take what works for you – we freebleed on the rest. CG
Lifted Brow, 128pp, $13.95
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on April 11, 2015 as "The Lifted Brow, Issue 25 ".
For almost a decade, The Saturday Paper has published Australia’s leading writers and thinkers. We have pursued stories that are ignored elsewhere, covering them with sensitivity and depth. We have done this on refugee policy, on government integrity, on robo-debt, on aged care, on climate change, on the pandemic.
All our journalism is fiercely independent. It relies on the support of readers. By subscribing to The Saturday Paper, you are ensuring that we can continue to produce essential, issue-defining coverage, to dig out stories that take time, to doggedly hold to account politicians and the political class.
There are very few titles that have the freedom and the space to produce journalism like this. In a country with a concentration of media ownership unlike anything else in the world, it is vitally important. Your subscription helps make it possible.
Select your digital subscription