Sunday 16 October 2022

Tilly Lawless, Nothing But My Body

Tilly Lawless's feminist novel Nothing But My Body is about many things: sex and sexuality, class, race, immigration, gender, colonialism, climate change, addiction, mental health, physical health and bodily risk, femininity and masculinity, love, relationships, heartbreak, infatuation, friendship, motherhood. Like her narrator, Lawless is a queer Sydney-based sex worker and shields little from her reader, explicitly chronicling "Maddy's" (we don't learn the narrator's real name and are only given her work name) days at work, a variety of clients with different stories, bodies and treatment of her and her body. 

Nothing But My Body
's narrator challenges middle-class assumptions  about intent, desire, money as well as intelligence, as "Maddy" surprises clients with her knowledge of history (and her degree) and discussions during sex on things like GDP or medical tests and precautions. Lawless is not one for easy answers and that is because easy answers are not true or real - she pushes back against people's urge to neatly classify things as one thing but not another (such as the different shapes and forms of queerness or the inconsistent and impure workings of pleasure) bred from the impulse to facilitate their own more comfortable digesting and understanding of that which they cannot make sense of or which scares or threatens their stability or sense of self. 

This book is at once so unfamiliar to me, both personally and geographically—the Australian landscapes, animals and wildfires entirely unavailable to me in my own experience, and not readily accessible in my imagination—and yet is incredibly relatable and tender. "Maddy's" sense of humanity and compassion for the people she encounters is felt throughout and she considers the hardships or experiences of her friends, other sex workers (and how their circumstances differ from her own, for example as an immigrant or older woman), and some of her clients, such as a man who spent years at a detention centre seeking asylum. Through her capacity for love and her ultimate resolve to live, even in the face of climate change, coronavirus, and personal sorrow, "Maddy", who wants to become a mother, finds cause for hope, again and again. 

Saturday 15 October 2022

Michael Pederson, Boy Friends

What an absolute treat to see Michael Pederson read from his beautiful non-fiction book Boy Friends alongside the brilliant Hollie McNish reading poems at Storysmith this week. I adored Boy Friends - it is an incredibly tender, hilarious and deeply human book about how Pederson dealt with the enormity of grieving the loss of his dear friend and artistic collaborator, Scott Hutchison, whose music I have adored for years. Pederson is generous with his reader, who is there with him at times, sitting at the table enjoying wine and a delicious meal with chatter and closeness of beloved friends or with a murky mind, mourning that which has incomprehensibly become gone. 

Pederson's approach to writing about grieving is largely to write about joy. He also digests the absolute loss of Hutchison this in part by revisiting male friendships of his past that, for one reason or another, are lost or no longer part of the fabric of his current life but have shaped him in a crucial way. Breaking the taboo of male intimacy and love between friends, Boy Friends offers a new proposal for male love that is compelling, full and liberating that it makes you wonder why men have wasted so much time not telling each other I love you.