This is a review by Stephanie Honor Convery
Seizure magazine is a relatively new entrant into the sphere of Australian literary periodicals. Having only existed for a mere six editions, the magazine proudly proclaims itself ‘a launchpad for Australian writing’, and this sixth edition on sport launches the publication into a series of meditations on all aspects of the physical.
It’s a generalisation, and a rather unfair one at that — a cliché that editor-in-chief and founder Alice Grundy alludes to in her editorial — that writers are by definition not interested in physical activity. Thankfully, that conflict is not the primary concern of the works on offer here, but it is an issue that raises its head more than once.
Whether it’s Kelli Lonergan’s childhood rivalries depicted in ‘Tooth’, or the adolescent friendships made and broken in sport in Luke Carman’s ‘West Suburban Boys’ or Douglas Whyte’s ‘Locker Room’, or the much more adult but no less moving female companionship depicted in Zoe Adler Bishop’s ‘Ladies of Leather’, the pieces up for offering in Seizure: Sport are at their most striking when they examine not just the details of the competitive arena, but the relationships that ride alongside our participation in physical activity.
To be frank, the less interesting works in this edition are those that still retain some of that self-consciousness about the perceived dichotomy of sport on one hand and art on the other. Fiona Wright’s ‘Why I am a Writer, Not an Athlete’ is less a discussion about the author’s dislike of participating in physical activity than a series of vignettes about the intersection of sport and life in her youth. The frustrations of not being tall enough or strong enough and the fascination with observation and description rather than movement and muscularity are juxtaposed with an obvious enjoyment of particular kinds of exercise and movement. Yet, it feels slightly undercooked: as if the tension between those elements of the writer’s life have been artificially heightened, hiding other more serious narratives that leave the reader with more questions than answers. (Why did her BMI drop below 15? Why was her gym membership suspended? How does that relate to her love of yoga? And why isn’t she telling that story?)
By a similar token, Nick Marland’s ‘Parramatta Daze’ is at its best when detailing the hopeless devotion and futility of fandom for a perpetually losing team. His occasional attempts to address the perceived schism between literary and sporting communities is jarring and rather tired, and betrayed by the inherent contradiction of it featuring in a publication full of literary writing about sport. ‘Interviews With the Other Three Quarters’ is an oddball contribution about the cruelty of horse racing from Rosanna Beatrice Stevens, but the thoughtful analysis underpinning the piece is perhaps overshadowed by its gimmicky delivery, almost as if the writer had decided that the only way to make an article about horse racing interesting would be turn it into an almost-caricature.
Seizure: Sport is the publication’s last edition as a biannual print journal, shifting in 2014 to an exclusively online literary hub: seizureonline.com. Although understandable, given the state of the publishing industry, it’s rather a pity, as there is a cohesiveness on display in the print journal that would be interesting to watch develop and mature through further editions. Still: it’s a worthy final collection, and a thoughtful, original contribution to an under-credited field.
Stephanie Honor Convery is a writer of fiction, non-fiction, criticism and commentary. She tweets @gingerandhoney.