Ocean travel without a boat

Journal of Peter Greenwell

Month: April 2016

One night at the table (play)

A play I did for uni


CHARACTERS

TRAVIS A welder by trade in his late forties, loves his
cricket and his footy. Working class traditionalist.

LISA His nineteen year old daughter, first year uni student
Progressive minded.

SETTING

A dining room with a long oblong table in the centre. The table is set for a meal for two. A single fluorescent light on the ceiling. Sparse furnishings – some paintings of nature scenes on the walls, a wall unit with associated knick-knacks. There is a kitchen in the background.

TIME

It is dinner time. Light through kitchen window gives the impression of twilight.

SCENE 1

AT RISE: (LISA is bringing two plates of food from the kitchen to the dining room table. TRAVIS is sitting at the table already, busy with a mobile phone.)

LISA
(Reaches table)
If I have to cook at Christmas, I’m gonna scream.

TRAVIS
(still looking down at phone)
Hmm? Well, we can’t eat grass for Chrissy, can we?

LISA
No, but we can have something cold. You know? Salads, cold meat, rolls and stuff. We don’t need to cook. You’re too stingy to buy air-con for this place.

TRAVIS
(looks up at LISA as she sets the plates down)
Stingy? You know how much a decent reverse cycle air-con costs? To say nothing of the power bill. So much for Tony nuking the carbon tax – freakin’ bills keep going up. Nothing’s getting cheaper.

LISA
(sits down)
More reason to have cold stuff. You don’t want high bills, then don’t make me cook at Chrissy. I buy cold stuff from Coles – coleslaw, green salad mix, mesclun and a bunch of sliced meat, and we’re good to go.

TRAVIS
(shaking his head)
Bullshit. That sounds like a granny’s Sunday lunch at the nursing home.

LISA
Think of the environment, Dad. If I don’t cook at Chrissy, there’s less carbon polluting the air, making summer hotter. Everyone wins.

TRAVIS
Except for me. I get rabbit food for Chrissy. (stops eating and glances at LISA) What the hell is a “mesclun?”

LISA
It’s NOT rabbit rood. Look, you don’t get enough vitamin C and iron, Dad. All that shit you eat for lunch now, pies and sausage rolls and so on. Unhealthy crap, every bit of it. Dr. Gordon at uni, he’s a geologist and he says that pies have thickener added to them to bulk them out. That stuff’s carcinogenic.

TRAVIS
It’s what?

LISA
And you’re making me cook in forty degree weather. All because you won’t buy an air-con. Well, I’m bringing in that big fan from out in the garage and I’ll be gunning it all day if I have to slave away in there.

TRAVIS
I don’t think it works.
(HE chews, and stares down at his food)
What’s this purple stuff?

LISA
It’s cabbage.

TRAVIS
Purple cabbage? Really? I think you’ve added some of your Greenie chemicals to it. I’m gonna end up a socialist now, aren’t I?

LISA
(shakes head slowly)
Dad! It’s a cultivar of cabbage that’s purple. It’s the same damned thing as regular cabbage. Brassica oleracea, the cabbage of yore. Same stuff, trust me. Another teacher at uni, Professor Wilkins, he teaches calculus and says cabbage’s iron content is as good as spinach. There you go, an expert, so it’s good for you, green or purple.

TRAVIS
You’re not making this shit for Chrissy, I can tell you that right now.

LISA
Shit? My cooking is shit?

TRAVIS
(covers his mouth apologetically)
Well…no, just this cabbage.

LISA
But it’s still something I cooked! Me! Did you call mum’s cooking shit?

TRAVIS
(coughs)
No. Of course not…um. I’m just saying I prefer cabbage that’s the right colour.

LISA
Try it.
(emphatically points at her father’s food with a fork).
Just give it a go. I bet you like it.

TRAVIS
All right, it’s good.

LISA
Told you. We’re having it for Chrissy.

TRAVIS
Yeah, but you gotta cook it, don’t you? Slaving away in the kitchen.

LISA
Boiling vegetables isn’t the same thing as roasting stuff in an oven. I can make cabbage, toss some salads together, some nice sliced meat, like ham, mortadella, pastrami, some hot English mustard, cranberry sauce. What do you think of that?

TRAVIS
Morta-what?

LISA
If I get all the meats and salad vegetables Christmas Eve, it’ll only take like ten minutes to sort out Chrissy lunch. There’s this guy in America, Doctor Oz, a world-famous medico. He says that doing things like slaving away in the kitchen isn’t a productive use of your time. He’s an expert on health, so he would know all about time and motion, right? Makes perfect sense to me.

TRAVIS
Yeah, he sounds like a genius. Still don’t think it’s right not to cook for Chrissy. It’s a tradition, you know? We’ve been cooking big baked dinners and lunches for Christmas for donkey’s years. What would your mum think of not having a roast dinner for lunch? Think of what she’d say?

LISA
She’d say “buy a damn air conditioner, you cheapskate”

TRAVIS
They cost thousands for a decent one. Already told you that. I’m not made of money so think of my bank balance, please.

LISA
Get a halfway decent one then. I’m still getting that fan out of the shed if you’re gonna make me cook.

TRAVIS
It’s un-Australian not to have a roast at Chrissy. Like not having Coon in the fridge.

LISA
Plenty of Australians have salads and cold meals at Chrissy. Coon cheese is nasty, and it’s racist. Just ask that guy in Toowoomba.

TRAVIS
(gives LISA a long, hard stare)
No true Australian has cold meals at Chrissy, Lisa. It’s completely not dinky-di.
(TRAVIS turns to the audience)
I just can’t understand it with her. This family has had Christmas dinners for ages, since I don’t know when. Nice, hot, big Chrissy lunches and dinners. Sometimes turkey, sometimes roast beef or ham, but I gotta say, I don’t care for turkey much. The Yanks love their turkey, but I reckon it tastes like old mutton. But either way, we don’t have cold stuff for Chrissy. I don’t care if it’s summer here and the wallpaper’s falling off the walls – it’s how we do things. How we’ve always done it. It’s our way and there’s no reason to change it. We cook for Chrissy. It’s too easy, you know? You don’t fix things that aren’t broken, and a good old fashioned Chrissy lunch, with ham, taters, asparagus and stuff is how it’s good. Not damned salad and sliced meat from Coles’ Deli. If you want that, have it for lunch some other day, but not Christmas Day. Traditions are traditions for a cause and there’s no godly reason to change them.
(turns back to LISA)
It’s not ridgey-didge, Lisa. It’s not what any true Australian would do.

LISA
I guess we’re not true Australians then. I’m embarrassed to be an Australian sometimes anyway, Dad.
(LISA turns to the audience)
People booing champion Aboriginal football players, our speaker of Parliament on the take and all that. Our manufacturing base is no more, everything has been outsourced or sent overseas. Everything! And people need to recognise Indigenous Australians in the Constitution! Harmonisation of the people! Reconciliation. What Dad wants me to do is indicative of the old-ways zeitgeist. The woman cooks, the man sits and watches, goddamnit! If only Mum had stood up for herself more with him, but no…old school she was, pathological housewife, born female to be nothing else than a sow-breeder, kitchen slave and dogsbody. At least she had the sense to finally realise her place in life was tainted. I wonder if she’ll even call us this Christmas from wherever she is now. I just know Dad spoke shit about her cooking too. Well, no more!
(turns back to TRAVIS)
I’m gonna go get that fan. If it blows up then you watch – I won’t need to cook anything this Christmas.
(LISA gets up and EXITS through the kitchen)

(TRAVIS grunts and returns to his mobile phone)
I wanted to put ten bucks on that four year old I saw at Rosehill, whatever it’s bloody name was. How the hell do I place a bet again?…What do you mean, no credit? I just got paid yesterday…ah stuff it, I’ll go down to the TAB. Can’t beat the old way.

(LISA returns to the dining room, carrying a tall metal fan. She puts it in front of her father and plugs it in to a power point.)
Watch this thing conk out!
(SHE turns on the fan. It starts up smoothly, oscillating strongly.)

TRAVIS
Looks alright to me. Look at it go. If it wasn’t gonna work, it would’ve stopped by now.

LISA
I thought you said this probably wouldn’t work? It looks like it’s never been used to me. Probably hasn’t been.

TRAVIS
(another long and hard stare to LISA)
Are you gonna cook Chrissy lunch?

LISA
(distracted)
Hmm…yeah why not?

TRAVIS
Good girl, I knew tradition would win out in this house…what’s a mesclun?

Edgar Allan Poe – Ligeia

LigeiaLigeia by Edgar Allan Poe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Tumultuous vultures of stern passion! With this short sentence, Poe continues the alliterative colour of Shakespeare, even if the subject matter is grimmer and darker than anything the Bard conjured up. This, probably more than any story written before or since, is testament to love transcending death – or a cautionary tale about taking opium. Your choice.

This story creaks but it’s lost little of its power over the years and is probably required reading for any serious student of the Gothic or the Dark Romantic.

View all my reviews

Honours coursework – annotated bibliography

Something I did for uni


Wells H 1894, The Red Room, The Idler, March 1896

H. G. Wells’ short story stresses that fear is an internalisation, and that hauntings exist only in the mind of those who take their fears with them to an ostensibly haunted location. This brief and seminal work is an important addition to the Gothic canon as for practically the first time in literature, there were no outward forces involved in the fear and horror experienced by the protagonist – no ghosts or phantoms.

This short story is useful to research as it much as a work on psychology as it is Gothic horror. The protagonist’s fears trump his reason and rationality, blinding him to the putative reality that there is nothing in the Red Room other than he himself. This inwardness and loss of control is integral to the Gothic genre as it is a fiction of emotion and solitude in the face of a frightening scenario.
This work is also relevant to my research as it demonstrates that fear, as an internalisation, is not limited to dungeons and mansions, in spite of the setting. It shows through narrative that the sensation of lonely fear is apt in any situation or environment, therefore it is an appropriate work for research and the purposes of intertextuality.

Turcotte G 1998, ‘Australian Gothic’, in Mulvey Roberts, M (ed), The Handbook to Gothic Literature, Macmillan, Basingstoke

Within this book chapter, Turcotte discusses that the innate nature of the vast Australian landscape had a daunting and oppressive quality to the European colonisers upon their arrival. Thus, Turcotte argues, this made the Australian setting ideal for Gothic literary works. This argument is tempered by the exposition of early literary failures to account for Australia’s Indigenous people, and as Turcotte states, the country was too new and immature for early writers to consider it in possession of a Gothic legacy.

This trend of ignoring the original inhabitants and their relationship to their land continued in Gothic literature, Turcotte points out, until fairly recently, with the advent of newer fictional approaches and thinking in the 1960s, namely in the works of Patrick White, Thomas Keneally and Frank Moorhouse.
Turcotte’s research is chronological and features mostly creative works, beginning with the earliest Gothic fiction by Barron Field in 1823 (a collected body of poetry) through to the writers emerging on the scene at the time this chapter was written (1998). It is useful and relevant to research as it gives a clear and concise chronological outline of Gothic fiction in Australia.

Dinçer, F 2010, The light and dark Romantic features in Irving, Hawthorne and Poe, The Journal of International Social Research, 3(10), pp. 218-224

Dinçer argues that American dark romanticism is a natural evolution from the literary Romantic movement that began in Europe in the 1820s. The author has chosen three seminal works of American dark romanticism specifically to illustrate this profession. While doing so, Dinçer delineates what he perceives to be the difference between light and dark romanticism. He states that Washington Irving’s Rip Van Winkle is an example of light romanticism; full of hope, light and colour. Dinçer cites Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter as dark romanticism, due to the underlying and pervasive feelings of guilt and sin. The author also examines the various horror stories of Edgar Allan Poe and their themes of gloominess, fate and sad introspection.

This paper is of use to research as it clearly outlines the themes and moods that these three American authors used in their works. Dinçer argues that dark romantic fiction is one of bleak revelation, where new knowledge leads to grim realisation and the general atmosphere is one of brooding loneliness in mind and spirit. As such, this work will provide a valuable resource as to the methods employed in crafting dark romantic works.

Correa, D & Owens, W (eds) The Handbook to Literary Research, Routledge, London

The editors of this book have compiled a comprehensive resource on the various methods of literary research. The purpose of this book is to guide students and researchers through logical steps in methodology to produce accurate, concise and well-argued papers on any literary subject. The methods used by the editor include compiling a step-by-step approach to literary research, employing the talents of various authors across several different fields, including interdisciplinary work and editing texts.

Apart from traditional printed sources, this book also deals with the ever-growing abundance of research material that is available online, with strategies specifically written to best utilise the internet and electronic databases without becoming lost in the virtual world. The book is especially useful as it is a purposely written guidebook on research, and gives clear tools on how to plan and edit a thesis or paper, and strategies on presentations. It demonstrates methods and plans for proper and effective research and as such is both highly relevant and of great use.

Chudy, T, Cook, N & Costello, M 2010, A ‘ruined or fractured’ sublime: voice, identity and agency in reading and writing the gothic/noir in subtropical regional Australia, Strange Bedfellows: Refereed Conference Papers of the 15th Annual AAWP Conference, 2010

In this paper, the three authors demonstrate that the landscape and degraded environment of the Northern Rivers is a prime setting for Gothic literature. They draw upon their own experiences as residents in the area, as well as from Australian creative literature and non-fictional sources. In the paper, the authors draw the conclusion that Gothic literature is a work of unresolved emotions and unsettled relationships with their environments. Thus, the Northern Rivers, with its huge swathes of cleared forest, sundered Indigenous tenure and humid summer heat is a prime setting for Gothic literature.

This paper is of great benefit to research as it demonstrates that Gothic literature can exist and flourish beyond its traditional confines in European fiction. The authors cite a variety of Australian works (including their own) that ably show that Australian landscapes, and in particular, the subtropical regions, are choice places fertile with possibilities for Gothic fiction. The findings of the authors show that there is much yet to uncover in this genre and is ripe for further study. In summary, this paper is eminently useful for research as it explicitly demonstrates through exegesis and exposition that the Northern Rivers is a productive location for Gothic literature.

Hogle, J (ed) 2002, The Cambridge Companion to Gothic Literature, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

This book traces the history of Gothic literature from its early days in French and British writing to the modern postcolonial period. The editor has sourced different scholars whose specialities lay in differing eras and sub-genres of Gothic literature and has compiled a comprehensive chronology of the fiction. The underlying theme that the various authors have highlighted is humanity versus the unknowable. Common is the idea that foreign places and climates are as alien and oppressive to the newcomer as the darkest dungeon or dustiest mansion. This aspect is useful as it shows that Gothic fiction can readily transcend the oft-held illusion that it is about haunted castles and dungeons.
There is a chapter on postcolonial Gothic literature which deals with the literary theory concept of “Other” and how Europeans viewed their subjugated peoples and the landscapes in which they dwelt. This is of relevance to research as the Northern Rivers is a region that was inhabited (and still is) by Indigenous people and their cultures for many millennia before the advent of European colonialism. The sense of “Other” is strong in the region and this book, particularly the chapter on postcolonialism will be of tremendous benefit to research.

Dawson, C 2006, A practical guide to research methods, How To Books, Oxford

This book aims to guide a student through the research process using a chosen methodology. It is similar in scope to the Correa & Owens book annotated earlier, though it is directed at entry level and gives instruction in more basic English. The author presents the book in logical order, from what question is the researcher trying to answer through to ethic concerns in research. It differs also from the Correa & Owens book in that there are chapters on interviewing techniques and constructing questionnaires, with less emphasis on online research methodologies.

This work is not as useful as the Correa & Owens book as it lacks that book’s comprehensive treatment of research methodologies. It also places less stress upon traditional book and journal researching methods in favour of more interactive approaches such as focus groups and face to face interviews. However, it is a smaller and more compact volume than the Correa & Owens book and will have some use as an adjunct to that work.

Lovecraft H 1926, The Outsider, Weird Tales, April 1926

The Outsider has been interpreted as Lovecraft’s setting himself against the world, or placing himself beyond human company while obviously still desiring it. He is outside, but wishes to be within, among his fellow people, but it fated to be shunned or misunderstood. While this seminal short story is not often regarded as Gothic fiction, there exists within it many of the themes and tropes of the genre; loneliness, unease of mood, unresolved tragedy and a brooding melancholy air that pervades the story. The Outsider truly is a story about a human being totally and utterly alone, and this aspect gives it a weighty sense of darkness.

This story has great relevance and practical use in research as it is subject to varied interpretation with regards to Gothic fiction themes. It could be seen as a dream and or as allegory; a being that has spent an eternity existing in tedium suddenly sparked into some kind of existentialist motion and a search for meaning and truth.

Smith, A 2007, Gothic literature, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh

This book is an adjunct to the Hogle book mentioned previously. It differs from that work in many ways, not the least of which is its simpler English style and even stricter adherence to a timeline. The book begins with a multi-page chronology, listing what the author views as key works of Gothic fiction by year, both in novel form and those of shorter format. Using this tightly-formatted chronology, the author compiles a history of the fiction dating from the 18th century.

There is a preponderance of attention given to European and American works with little examined from elsewhere in the world, however, this book is also aimed at students researching Gothic fiction whereas the Hogle work is a more formal “reader’s companion”. This aspect makes it both relevant to research and of great use, and the amount of student resources included in the book make up for its shortcomings with regard to concentrating on American and European Gothic fiction.

Hawthorne, N 1850, The Scarlet Letter, Ticknor, Reed & Fields, Boston

This work by Hawthorne questions the basic nature of sin and guilt as well as one of the hallmark works of dark romanticism. The author sourced the basic ideas for this story from the events surrounding the Salem witch trials in 17th century New England and within he postulates that guilt and sin are concepts that can eat away at a person. It is also a work of redemption and rebirth, with the lead character attaining salvation by the story’s end. The Scarlet Letter is an integral work in the dark romantic canon, and demonstrates that darkness and danger lie within the psyche, in a framework of a society consumed with the expunging of sin and guilt.

This story is invaluable to research as it clearly shows through deed and narrative that guilt and sin are destructive forces to the individual as well as the society constrained by them. Additionally, there are themes of revenge and envy throughout, showing that these self-generated emotions are internalisations and can exist independent of the environment.

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