This is a review of Voiceworks #98: Master, by Danielle Bagnato.
Voiceworks, Issue Ninety-Eight
Editor: Elizabeth Flux
The first thing that strikes me about Voiceworks 98 is the editorial. Elizabeth Flux is the new editor and, in her second edition, has written some wonderful words of welcome. With an anecdote about her own attempts and failings at “mastering skills which usually do not have any real world impact or relevance” like knitting and shuffling cards, she invites readers to do the same thing with their writing. She writes that “Voiceworks is a place where you can try stuff out with or without flopping to the floor”.
There are many intimidating places within Melbourne’s literary sector, but Voiceworks is not one of them. In the second editorial Rafael SW breaks the notion that writers are slaves to the page and are constantly waiting for inspiration by attempting to write 700 pieces a year. He ends with, “Freedom is possible, and inspiration can be manufactured. So you’ve got a choice. Here’s a pen. You know what to do.”
Rafael’s editorial, Slave or Master? is a perfect introduction to this edition’s ‘Master’ theme. Scattered throughout the magazine are non-fiction pieces about real struggles with illnesses, fiction pieces about complicated interactions with life and an image of The Hulk, who realises that regular clothes are not the solution.
This edition has seen Voiceworks change from an A4 format to A5. The new look has similar aesthetics to other literary journals like Meanjin and Going Down Swinging. Even though the old format contained beautiful work, the new one has a more book-like appearance which, when held it up next to other journals feels an equal. In terms of practicality, the layout is somewhat easier to follow. The various pieces of artwork within the magazine work well with the blue and red colours, although at times the bright fonts make reading a little difficult.
I enjoyed Harriet McInerney’s Body Language. I found the idea of a woman whose body physically manifests her subconscious through words on her skin incredibly beautiful. The piece centres around the woman and her boyfriend, who invades her privacy by reading her dreams while she sleeps. I particularly loved the passage:
“She takes off her top and around her waist stretches a think black line, below her ribcage, about her navel. It circles her body, reaching across the middle of her back. At first he thinks it’s a tattoo, but then the line starts moving. It coils and curves and arranges itself into neatly formed cursive”.
Allee Richard’s Pink is a piece of fiction that explores hair removal from the point of view of a year eight girl. This passage stayed with me: “A month ago Carly’s boyfriend fingered her at inter-school athletics. For two weeks after, Jarren and his friends were calling her ‘bush’ at school”. I loved the structure of the story which weaved in and out of order, moving from the beauty salon to a party and back again. The story reminded me of teenage uncertainty and the fact that she was pressured into making a decision about the hair on her body at a young age.
There are great illustrations in this issue but I found myself turning back to Cameron Baker’s the most often. He’s drawn The Hulk in his muscular state wearing shorts and a t-shirt with the caption, “It finally occurs to The Hulk to wear spandex” which made me chuckle – it seems like such an obvious solution for a superhero who’s constantly transforming.
Georgia Delaney’s Vulvo-terror and other Maladies is an honest and informative non-fiction piece about Vulvodynia. This is writing about a topic that is not spoken about enough in a very frank and open way.
“The lack of information and care for ‘invisible’ symptoms is not unique to vulval pain; I finally understand the depression of people who have chronic illnesses like fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue and other neurological conditions like phantom limbs which aren’t well understood and are difficult to manage”. She also conveys the anxiety she felt of visiting different doctors who may or may not have understood her condition before finding one that suited her. This is a beautiful piece that is a go-to read.
I found Andrew Connor’s Save the Princess/Murder the Princess to be one of the most interesting pieces in the magazine. His focus “on sexualised violence in videogames” begins with a real scene from the game God of War 3, where a woman is violently murdered for the purpose of holding open a door. Andrew argues that part of the problem is that sexualised violence is a requirement of many games, “there is no other solution to the puzzle. You cannot progress in the game until you murder this terrified, vulnerable, half-naked woman”. He then further explores the effects of these confronting video games past the “monkey see, monkey do mimesis” and talks about the long-term effects of playing games with sexualised violence. “If the game is trying to give male gamers a boner at the same time as it’s making them murder a woman, that’s a problem”. I found this piece even more wonderful because it was written by a man. I wondered whether I should mention his gender at all because it’s not exactly relevant except that he finishes the piece with, “As a guy, it’s hard to talk publicly about sexualised violence against women in videogames without inspiring a litany of knee-jerk and self-serving arguments. As a woman it’s hard to talk about without inspiring death and rape threats”.
I particularly enjoyed the non-fiction pieces that have popped up under Elizabeth Flux’s editorship – there’s a mix of pieces of varying lengths and styles. Many of the pieces intertwined anecdotes and informed research in a balanced way to create thoughtful pieces. I loved this edition of Voiceworks and, despite supposedly reviewing this magazine through a critical eye, I don’t have much to criticise. It’s thoughtful, diverse and offers an insightful view into young Australians. With the current craze of young people writing memoir, it’s nice to see writing that covers a wide range of topics outside of personal experiences. The pieces in this edition are frank, open and represent a group of assured writers and artists who are keen to write outside of themselves.
Danielle Bagnato is a writer and editor from Melbourne who is currently studying a Masters of Publishing and Communications at Melbourne Uni. She is a subeditor and contributor at Farrago, and has written for such publications as Lip.
Voiceworks takes submissions of poetry, fiction, non-fiction and artwork from contributors under 25. Check out all the details at their shiny website.
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