Once Upon A Time in Oz
Griffith Review issue 42


Griffith Review1 (2) 

Everyone in Western culture knows what happened to Goldilocks. We know not to trust a wolf – just like we know that heroes rescue princesses, and that we should never take a bite from that suspiciously shiny apple.

Griffith Review‘s 42nd edition, Once Upon a Time in Oz, pays tribute to these ancient narratives. It’s a collection of memoir, essays and short stories designed to ‘reimagine the fairy tales that are deeply embedded in our collective unconscious.’

Throughout this gorgeous book-sized magazine, these fairytales emerge as primal myths that inform our reality, define our sense of self and often, limit our expectations.

Griffith Review is published quarterly by Griffith University, printing both emerging and established writers, and is sold around Australia in independent bookstores and the ABC shop. While essays make up the main body of work of most editions, there are numerous reportage pieces, poetry, memoir, fiction and artwork.

Editor Julianne Schultz ensures that the publication looks beyond the coverage of mainstream press, and examines notable Australian events in order to explore ideas that pervade our society. Speaking about public reaction to news and events at Griffith Review‘s tenth anniversary, Schultz said, ‘…the emotional resonance and the consequences of these events is harder to distill, more human, and in some ways of greater enduring import.’ It is the job of writers to deconstruct our world and  make meaning forindividuals.

It’s not just about what’s being said, but how; Griffith Review gives space to excellent writing. Prolific writers in the past have  includedDavid Malouf, Anne Summers and Frank Moorhouse amongst many others, and in December last year two journalists won Walkley awards for their individual contributions. As far as literary mags goes, this is serious stuff.

Once Upon a Time in Oz is 2013′s Annual Fiction Edition, and co-edited by Carmel Bird, arguably one of Australia’s most important authors. While this edition includes memoir and essay,  much more space is given to fiction as a vessel for exploring ideas (you can read some of the online-only pieces here).

There  are many stand outs in this collection. Michelle Law considers the Happily Ever After myth, and debunks the blanket relevancy of fairytale romance and the marriage/mortgage/kids script.  Mirroring this sentiment, Danielle Wood attacks the exhausting expectation of ‘The Good Mother’; the model parent seen on billboards and TV ads.

‘Snow White and the Child Soldier’ by Ali Alizadeh juxtaposes adolescent cruelty with a child soldier’s horror, while ‘A Touch of Silk,’ by Victor Marsh describes the process of identifying as a gay man. Marsh delves into the cultural narratives that define us and the freedom that comes from discovering alternatives. ‘Stepping outside of the Abrahamic traditions to learn of other possibilities of meaning,’ he writes, ‘Helps me to destabilise the presumed authority of forms of knowledge.’

Meme McDonald’s tender memoir ‘Child’ illustrates the sacred spirit of place. She explains how she and her family identify with the Aboriginal relationship to nature,  against the backdrop of Uluru. ‘Child is not the first, nor will he be the last, to sense the livingness in rock and mountain, in ocean and waterway, in dance of fire and whirl of wind…’

While it’s clear that Dreamtime, or Tjukurrpa, is not yet integrated into the Australian imagination, McDonald  is one of several contributors who shares  the ways indigenous storytelling has changed their lives.

John Bryson tells the indelible Australian story of Azaria Chamberlain, the baby who was mysteriously taken from a national park in the 1980s, supposedly by a dingo.  The media’s shaping of events, and indeed the evocation of a mythical character – that of the evil mother – influenced the outcome and put an innocent woman in jail for years, despite the outcry of officials.

Media, democracy, identity, behaviour – Griffith Review analyses these stories that weave into the Australian consciousness and inform our lives.


Edition 43: Pacific Highways will be published at the end of this month.


Lou Heinrich is a stone cold bibliophile who writes about pop culture and women. As well as being the Film Editor at Lip Mag, she drinks far too much earl grey, and celebrates life daily. Find Lou on twitter here.

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