Advertisement

KILLINGS, daily columns and blog —

KYDYAC

KYDYAC – Loving Athena by Joanne Horniman

by Stephanie Van Schilt , August 14, 20122 Comments

Today’s KYD YA Championship post sees YA specialist Judith Ridge explaining why the beautiful Loving Athena should win the glory.

I’ve long been a fan and even something of a champion of Joanne Horniman. I think she’s one of the great under-recognised Australian YA writers. Yes, her books from time to time get a nod in the CBCA or state Premier’s awards, but somehow they still seem to fly under the radar when people think or talk about Australian YA. While readers may be familiar with her more recent and more ‘successful’ novels ­ About a GirlSecret Scribbled Notebooks and even Mahalia ­ for me, it all began with the first novel, in what I can’t help but think of as her ‘Lismore cycle’.

Loving Athena is the story of Keats, who has lived his whole life at Elysian Farm (an actual place, fictionalised in the novel), a shared community inland from Lismore. Raised by Jack, who is neither father nor grandfather, Keats has lived his life overseen by his ‘sort-of mothers’ ­ midwife Juliet and the other women of the Farm who fed the infant Keats their own milk after his own too-young mother drowned. Their babies ­ girls all ­ became Keats’ sort-of sisters, but despite all this mothering and love, despite his beloved Jack, Keats remains somehow alone, conjuring up a substitute mother and muse ­ for Keats has lived up to his name and is a poet ­ in the form of Euterpe, goddess of lyric poetry, who pads silently through Keats’ life as he seeks love and family, and solace for the unresolved loss of his infancy.

The ‘Athena’ of the title is a young woman Keats meets in the streets of Lismore one hot summer day at the start of his final year of high school. Athena’s real name is Etta, and she’s newly moved from Sydney, bringing with her other people’s half-told tales. (‘Give me every one of your memories,’ she says to Keats. ‘I want to make them my own.’) But so struck is Keats by her long-legged, grave beauty (‘awkward and graceful at the same time’) and courageous, forthright way of taking on the world, that to him she is instantly Athena ­ goddess of wisdom and justice, and motherless like Keats (although Etta has the classic nuclear family: mother, father, younger brother). It’s not until Athena-Etta can confess her own great loss, and Keats understands his own, that she becomes to him a grounded, fully human girl, and they make steps towards what will be their first adult romance.

I think I’m personally attached to Horniman’s novels because I lived and worked for a year in and around Lismore ­ —the places she so effectively evokes through her at times sometimes lush, yet also often spare, and always lovely prose. But Horniman does more than describe familiar landmarks; she evokes the very character of this part of the world: the pulse of the streets and countryside through its extremes of climate through the year’s cycle, and the emotional climate of the people who live in town and country, suburb and commune. In doing so, she transcends the specific to explore the universal, as the very great writers do.

The author’s note at the back of my battered 1997 paperback quotes Horniman as saying that Loving Athena completes a trilogy of sorts that began with her early YA novels Sand Monkeys and The Serpentine Belt: ‘They all concern young people who are searching for a lost parent, and characters making strong familial connections with people who aren’t related to them.’ Horniman wasn’t done with those themes after Loving Athena, but much as I love and admire her subsequent novels, I’m not sure that she’s ever written anything that matches Loving Athena for its compassion and insight, for the deceptive simplicity of its prose and its great heart. It’s a comparatively short novel, too, and all the more effective for it, with every word and phrase, every narrative turning carrying more than their share of meaning and nuance. It’s a book I love to return to, for all its grave and graceful beauty. I hope others may now also seek out its considerable pleasures.

Judith Ridge is internationally recognised as one of Australia’s leading experts on children’s and young adult literature. She has worked as an editor, community arts coordinator, writer and critic and has written about children’s and youth literature for journals such as Viewpoint and Magpies, The Horn Book (US) and The Melbourne Age. Judith has twice been a judge on the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards, is a Churchill Fellow and has an MA in children’s literature. She is currently project officer on WestWords: the Western Sydney Young People’s Literature Project. Judith blogs at http://misrule.com.au/wordpress

If you want Loving Athena to win the KYD YA Championship, you can cast your vote for it here! Vote now and you can also go into the draw to win some amazing prizes.




  • http://www.beantherereadthat.com Kate O’D

    I’ve long been a champion and ardent fan of Jo’s work, for all the reasons you note above. I love how smart her books are, how perfectly written the words are, the small observations and the big ideas – and the characters I fall in love with. I’ve never been to Lismore, but her books have given me this very weird romanticised idea of the place.

    This is a wonderful post about Loving Athena and I can’t tell you how pleased I am that you chose this book, Judith.

  • http://www.eglantinescake.blogspot.com Penni

    I think Joanne is one of the most intriguing and intelligent writers writing in Australia at the moment (along with Ursula Dubosarsky and Margo Lanagan). She’s the kind of writer that makes me love YA and what it can do, how the body can inhabit the text: the wonderfully disruptive unreliable leaky revealing body.

    I haven’t read this one though, thanks for the heads up.

monroe

James Tierney

Survival and Contradiction: Jacqueline Rose’s Women in Dark Times

This book’s most impressive trick is in the way it pulls together seemingly disparate figures. In this fierce, insightful and wide-ranging collection, Jacqueline Rose calls for nothing less than a reformulation of feminism. Read more »

Clive-James-typical-mix-o-014

Cosima McGrath

The Unreliable Truth of Clive James

Some authors hermit themselves away and are unknowable to the public except through their writing. Clive James, on the other hand, carries his own spotlight. Read more »

9781926428659

James Tierney

Converting the Nonbeliever: Science fiction, climate change, and James Bradley’s Clade

For most of my reading life, I passed right over the fantasy and science fiction genres. As far as I was concerned, The Lord of the Rings was a decent doorstop, Dune was a prime spot on the beach from which to check out the swell, and 2001 meant only a year of once-distant promise, and now spiralling dread. Read more »

article-2301242-18FA52E4000005DC-314_470x763

Rebecca Shaw

An Inconvenient Truth: Social stigma and menstruation

If you have heard of menstruation, you would know that it is an essential process in a little tiny thing called the EXISTENCE AND CONTINUATION OF HUMAN LIFE, and it is something that most (not all) women experience for about five days every month for a large part of their lives. It is a topic (besides shopping, lol) that women think about frequently. Read more »

fx-2015-winter-tcajpeg-069cb_c0-146-3500-2186_s561x327

Rebecca Shaw

Billy, Don’t Be a Homophobe

As a non-heterosexual person who has lived my entire life in a heteronormative world, I have a finely tuned antenna for homophobia. Loaded terms, like those used recently by Billy Crystal, are becoming more common, as it becomes less acceptable to state openly that you get an icky feeling when you see two people of the same sex kiss. Read more »

B5QJwMhIYAAfjxG

Rebecca Shaw

A Tale of Two Penises: Double Dick Dude and the invisibility of male bisexuality

For the past year I have found myself fascinated by penises. If I’d been to the races, I would have created a monstrous dick fascinator to wear as a beautiful physical representation of my mental state. But let me be clear, I have not been captivated with all or even many penises. My fascination has solely been aimed at the two penises owned by the man known only as ‘Diphallic Dude’, or more casually ‘DoubleDickDude’. Read more »

girlwalkshomealoneatnight

Anwen Crawford

Bad Cities

A Most Violent Year has an atmosphere of all-pervading dread, like a film noir, as if the polluted air of New York itself was causing people to act against their better intentions. Even more haunting and more noir is A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, a memorably audacious debut feature from American-Iranian director Ana Lily Amirpour. Read more »

cdn.indiewire

Kate Middleton

On the Trail: Wild and the voyage of the modern woman

Strayed articulates the question that drives so many pilgrimage narratives: ‘What if I forgive myself?’ That same question perhaps suggests why female-driven journeys are resonating with audiences now: self-reliance and the abandonment of a conventional life have long been male-dominated themes. Read more »

Film Review Selma

Anwen Crawford

An Urgent and Motivating Anger: The politics of Selma

How to approach a figure with the reputation of a secular saint? One achievement of Selma – and it is a film of many achievements – is to reanimate King as a living, breathing man; a man of politics, strategy, and absolute, underlying resolve. Read more »

video-undefined-22D54AFA00000578-784_636x358

Matilda Dixon-Smith

Insufferable assholes and grown up Girls

Yes, our girls are growing, learning, discovering. But all they’re really discovering is how toxic and unheroic they are, and how to use that to their advantage. They’re not going to grow out of their asshole tendencies, because they are actually assholes. Read more »

agent-carter-7683

Danielle Binks

Agent Carter and the future of the female superhero

Agent Carter has been described ‘a Triumph for Women, Marvel and TV,’ and heralded as an important new chapter in comics culture. If this supposedly groundbreaking new show fails, does it spell doom for the future of female-led superhero franchises? Read more »

39154_4f8f076801b89b442752af76ac226fc0

Anwen Crawford

Satire and Scandal: Revisiting Frontline

Frontline’s makers could not have anticipated the long, web-based afterlife of their creation, though they might not be surprised that their targets – the rampant egotism and moral hypocrisies of tabloid journalism – remain just as current. Read more »

ss_f6a450fbf737eb04c58b973f72e8817bb2b50285.600x338

Katie Williams

Brain Candy: Are game jams diluting the potential of video games?

In a world where YouTube gameplay videos narrated by hollering amateurs hold as much clout – if not more – than professional game critics, I worry that developers may be swayed to choose an easier, unimaginative, and more vacuous path to success. Read more »

cher_horowitz_closet-010_2

Katie Williams

Fashion Forward: How hidden algorithms are dressing up technology

Though we increasingly rely on technology to simplify our lives, we still want to believe that behind the scenes is a happy, human face, rather than an impassive machine that does the dirty work for us. Read more »

wowx5-artwork-012-full

Katie Williams

Killing Monsters and Making Memories: How virtual worlds facilitate communication

When I hang out with my brother, we joke, make fun of each other, and swap stories about mutual friends. Sometimes, we’ll each pack a bag of stat-enhancing potions and go out to kill large monsters. It’s been well over a year since I saw my brother in the flesh – but thanks to World of Warcraft, I interact with him on a daily basis. Read more »

Before Us_3

Jane Howard

Stuart Bowden’s Unfamiliar, Universal Worlds

It’s hard to classify the work of Stuart Bowden. His one-person storytelling theatre works are at once hilarious and melancholy. They exist in a particular space of fringe theatre: intricately crafted stories built for small rooms & small audiences, they lift and rise that audience, gathering us all up in the magic of stories & the closeness they can breed. Read more »

The-Rabbits-2015-1280x470

Jane Howard

Thinking Outside the Box Seats: The future of Australian opera and musical theatre

If we want to see new work and innovation grow in opera and musical theatre, we need to consider how they might develop within our culture. Read more »

MovingMusicAndreCastellucci1

Jane Howard

The (Sometimes) Beauty of Being Alone at the Theatre

I often go to the theatre on my own. One of the great joys of writing reviews is that even when I attend productions solo, I still get to talk (write) about them at length after the fact. Seeing theatre is a wonderful activity to do unaccompanied, because as soon as the performance starts, everyone is alone in some way. Read more »