The editors of three literary journals tell us what they’re reading

Throughout winter, we are celebrating Melbourne literary journals with a new event series, Journal Assembly. In June, we’ll hear from Sam Cooney, Jeff Sparrow and Amy Middleton. Here, they share their current reading lists.

Amy Middleton, editor of Archer Magazine:

Having only recently sent the second issue of Archer Magazine off to the printers, I’ve spent the last couple of weeks reading, and re-reading, an incredible slew of articles on sexuality.

Outside of Archer, I’ve been thinking a lot about contrasting gay characters in literature – I revisited Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray after reading Alan Hollinghurst’s The Swimming-pool Library, to try and weigh up where erotica intersects with fiction when it comes to sexually diverse characters. It may be that giving a character a particular sexuality creates a space for sex within that text. But I enjoy reading literature in which we meet gay characters, or characters of alternative sexualities, but aren’t necessarily privy to details of their sex lives.

As a teenager, Sonya Hartnett’s Sleeping Dogs was among my first introductions to this sort of understated sexual diversity. The incestuous relationship between brother and sister in that young-adult novel wasn’t the focus of the book, nor was it hammered home. It just was.

Sam Cooney, editor of The Lifted Brow:

Now is a bad time to be a book around me because chances are that I will look at you (even if your blurb and recommendations and hype and cover all suggest to me that you are potentially excellent) and simply have to say out loud, ‘Sorry, book, but I don’t have time for you – yep, this sucks, but here, just hang out in this stack with your mates and I’ll give you a hoy when things have calmed down.’ This goes for newly-published books as well as books-I’ve-wanted-to-read-for-ages – any books at all, really. It’s a strange situation, because my favourite thing to do is read books; it’s why I started in this ‘industry’ in the first place.

Recently or currently, I have been reading:

  • The 113 manuscripts entered into the 2014 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards Unpublished Manuscript Award, of which I was a judge. Our shortlist contains three killer manuscripts, and in particular, Miles Allinson’s winning Fever of Animals trapped me immobile more than any other work of fiction I’ve read this year.
  • Submissions for the print edition of The Lifted Brow, namely for our upcoming ‘Ego’ (late June) and ‘Medicine’ (late August) themed issues.
  • The Saturday Paper – I find time every weekend to sit down and read this cover to cover. Some weeks are better than others, but there’s always journalism within that resonates.
  • Copies lying around the house of The New Yorker, Believer, The Monthly, Overland, Meanjin, and other magazines and journals people in my house subscribe to.
  • MFA vs NYC: The Two Cultures of American Fiction, edited by Chad Harbach, from the crew at n+1.
  • The Tribe by Mohammed Ahmad. This short book did more to open my mind’s eye than any other I can remember. A truly exceptional debut.
  • Poetic Justice: Contemporary Australian Voices on Equality and Human Rights, the new anthology from Right Now. Vital reading if you want to stay up-to-date with the real issues that matter.
  • Lots of academic texts about the history and theory of newsprint publishing, for an essay I’m working on for Meanjin.
  • The internet. I read it always and forever, lovingly and regretfully, in a Borgesian-Orwellian astounded/astounded kind of way.

Jeffrey Sparrow, editor of Overland

Utopia or Bust: A Guide to the Present Crisis by Benjamin Kunkel (Verso):

It’s difficult to read of Benjamin Kunkel’s evolution from literary novelist (Indecision) to Marxist intellectual without thinking his story suggests something more general: the encroachment, in an increasingly urgent political climate, of social problems upon a generation. In Utopia or Bust, Kunkel presents review essays examining the work and careers of an array of leftist intellectuals, from Zizek to David Harvey. The book’s distinguished from other introductions to political theory partly by Kunkel’s elegant prose but also by a sense that you’re following the author’s own journey as he grapples with (and embraces) various radical ideas.

Digital Labour and Karl Marx by Christian Fuchs (Routledge):

I’m not very far into this but it promises to re-open the debates about information communication technology by focussing on labour, something that’s glaringly absent in most discussions of the digital world.

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent (PanMacmillan)

Somewhat embarrassingly, I’ve only just finished Hannah Kent’s much acclaimed debut novel – a book that deserves all the praise it’s received.

Unwrapped Sky by Rjurik Davidson (Tor)

Rjurik’s a friend and a former co-worker but irrespective of that, this is a terrific book: an intelligent, literary reworking of high fantasy tropes from a writer, a mash-up of George R.R. Martin and Victor Serge.

Come along to our first Journal Assembly on Tuesday 10 June at 6:30pm. Find out more here.