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Journey to the West and back

I have a feature essay up at the Sydney Review of Books about reading Journey to the West while traveling in Xinjiang and Kyrgyzstan last year. I have always felt uncomfortable about travel writing – surely we have heard enough from white fools stumbling through the Orient – so I disguised it as a book review (or recommendation, really). It’s a long read but I hope entertaining and at the very least it will give you an excuse to look at clips like these:

Journey to the West really did teach me a lot about Buddhism and China and the power of storytelling, especially fantasy fiction, and I encourage you to read the whole saga if and when you get a chance. Mostly I wrote the essay as a means of coping with the reality-adjustment of leaving Beijing and moving back to regional Australia, the two places being more or less polar opposites (Monkey would not be fazed).

I also have some short fiction of my own in the new issue of Meanjin, a story called Miracles (now free to read) – it has a place in a new collection I’ve put together and will probably take apart and put together again after the novel is out*. There’s a lot of great reading in this issue of Meanjin, from Ben Walter’s beautiful essay on the burning of the Tarkine to Frank Moorhouse’s cover essay on the politics and economics of the writing life, so do buy/subscribe. Frank has inspired me to keep a list of all the work I do for a year as a kind of self-audit. It’s already quite long, so I shouldn’t be doing it at all.

The last few weeks I’ve been away at a residency at BigCi in Bilpin, NSW, on the edge of Wollemi National Park. It was a beautiful place and a very interesting setting in which to think through some ideas about landscape and art and climate change that have been worming their way through my mind of late. I did this residency with my mother, who is a painter – she hadn’t done anything like it before and it was wonderful to share the experience with her. I’m putting some of those thoughts together in another long essay now… essays take a very long time to write but I am enjoying them, perhaps as an antidote to the modes of brevity and instant gratification that seem to dominate daily media.

*I should have a publication date for Dyschronia very soon – watch this space!