KILLINGS, daily columns and blog —

Books, Reviews

Of seadogs and fisherwomen: Sarah Drummond’s Salt Story

by Elizabeth Bryer , December 12, 20131 Comment

Salt Story

I have been fangirling at A WineDark Sea for a while now—it is, hands down, the best blog I have had the luck to read. Its author, Sarah Drummond, was a commercial fisherwoman when I first happened on it, and she blogged about the south-west of Western Australia, the characters she met fishing and, sometimes, her studies on Australia’s sealing past.

The blog’s overarching topic was fascinating, so there was that, but there was also the lyrical language, the way a moment would be captured and mined for meaning; there was the ear for dialogue and the instinct for material that could be woven into a fine tale. And, of course, there was the blog’s narrator. How not to fall in love with that gutsy, amusing, clear-sighted, wild-haired woman?

Often there were several posts a week, all of them sparking with fascinating detail, all of them generous for the insight and entertainment they offered up.  You can imagine, then, how keen I was to get my hands on a copy of Salt Story: Of sea-dogs and fisherwomen, which grew out of, or perhaps in tandem with, A WineDark Sea.

It was also with some trepidation that I opened it. It hardly bears stating that blogs and books are very different beasts. Part of the joy of a blog is its immediacy: the way an experience can be rapidly turned into a published piece that is, from that moment, accessible to the reader. As a WineDark Sea reader, I could be sitting at work, bored, and so decide to click through to the blog and dip into what Sarah had done that very morning: interview a fisherwoman, say, or spot the calling card of a shark in the Sound. There is such a thrill in knowing that the experience-turned-tale I’m reading right now has played out a long way from me spatially but very close to me in terms of time.  Another difference in form is the need, in a blog (something I struggle with!), for pithy posts that begin in medias res and capture a moment, which doesn’t necessarily translate to a book-length work given the aim, there, of immersion. How then would the tales-as-book, in sacrificing the illusion of time shared by author and reader, and in being translated to long form, fare?

I needn’t have worried. The book is divided into 62 short chapters with most hovering around the 1,000-word mark, but in Drummond’s hands this works perfectly for another reason: a much more relevant formal antecedent to this work is, appropriately, the campfire yarn or fisher(wo)man’s tale.  While each of the individually titled tales/chapters would work as stand-alone pieces, the steady accumulation of them—of the happenings and conversations and encounters—presents a life and a lifestyle so rich and intricate you won’t want to look up from the book’s pages. Characters are affectionately drawn, in all their contradictions and wily ways, and their humour and wisdom give cause for chuckles one minute and introspection the next.

Drummond’s book also acts as quiet but firm advocacy for an endangered way of life. These fishers’ practice—which is sustainable, unlike the unseen, huge operations that trawl offshore—is made impracticable by the whims of Fisheries, and by Fisheries’ pandering to the ‘reccies’ (those who partake in recreational fishing) in a project to gentrify the sea and inlets, to turn them into spaces visited for leisure rather than places known and loved intricately by those who work them.

Salt Story is an important documentation of a living history. Drummond’s gaze is that of both insider and outsider, and this twinned perspective gives depth to her book, in that it allows her to trace a geography she knows intimately, while also ensuring that she is attuned to what is special and eccentric about her topic. Drummond writes with language by turns lyrical, colloquial and specific to the realm of fishing (‘carvels’, ‘seiners’, ‘clinkers’), and has a fascinating story to tell: an intoxicating combination.

Elizabeth Bryer’s writing has recently appeared in Seizure, Etchings and the December issue of Meanjin. Her online home is Plume of Words.

Her essay Untying the Tongue: The Elusive Art of Interpreting appears in Issue Six of Kill Your Darlings. 




9781863957434

Kill Your Darlings

What We’re Reading: Readings staff share their June picks

Looking for a book recommendation? Staff from Readings bookshop share what they’ve been reading this month. Read more »

lisa-gorton_the-life-of-houses

James Tierney

A Novel of Longer Exhalations: Lisa Gorton’s The Life of Houses

It’s sometimes said that each book teaches you how to read it. That each way of telling a story needs to not only beguile anew but needs to tutor the reader in the ways to best attend its pages. Read more »

9781743316337

Danielle Binks

Finding Books for Young Readers: The Reading Children’s Book Prize

James Patterson once said, ‘There’s no such thing as a kid who hates reading. There are kids who love reading and kids who are reading the wrong books.’ So how do we get the right books into the hands of budding bibliophiles? Well, the Readings Children’s Book Prize Shortlist is a great place to start. Read more »

clouds-of-sila-maria-1

Rebecca Shaw

The curse of the ‘gal pals’

As a well-known humourless, angry, hairy arm-pitted, feminist lesbian, I encounter daily issues that I can place on a scale from things that mildly irritate me all the way to things that completely offend me. Read more »

2691149967_01b38304f3_b

Rebecca Shaw

Fuck Yeah: Swearing like a lady

I had been trying to pinpoint exactly why the HBO television show Veep brings me such joy. Yes, it is a very funny, very well-written show with a great cast, but that didn’t quite go far enough in explaining the immense enjoyment it gives me. The eureuka moment finally struck when I stumbled over a compilation video of the best insults from the show. Read more »

AnneEdmonds-300dpi-sml-860x450_c

Alexandra Neill

Curse of the Comedienne: When comedy comes before gender

At this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival, I saw only shows by women. I did this for several reasons: to support great comedians, to force myself to see more shows I knew nothing about, and because I really like comedy by ladies. I also did it because I was curious. I love comedy, but increasingly have been bothered by the obvious gender disparity. Read more »

Zombies

Michelle Roger

It’s All Just Preparation for the Zombie Apocalypse

‘She’s just another Walking Dead hanger-on,’ I hear you say. Well, yes, I am partial to a bit of walker action. And yes, I may have entertained the odd erotic daydream about a crossbow carrying, scraggy-bearded redneck – but this is not where my zombie obsession began. Come gather around people. Hear my obsessive zombie-loving origin story. Read more »

tom-cruise-jack-reacher-premiere-postponed

Chris Somerville

A lit match in a box of wet dynamite: Tom Cruise is Jack Reacher

I first watched Jack Reacher a few years ago, in a spate of insomnia. The plot is a confused mess, both needlessly intricate and incredibly simple. I’m not going to go into it, mainly because I don’t actually know why the people in this movie do anything. Read more »

Partisan

Joanna Di Mattia

To experience the world with blinkers on: Ariel Kleiman’s Partisan

Partisan beautifully evokes that complex space between childhood and adulthood, when we start to question the worldview we have inherited – when we begin to see the world through our own eyes. It is both a coming-of-age story, and an innocence-coming-undone story. Read more »

Zombies

Michelle Roger

It’s All Just Preparation for the Zombie Apocalypse

‘She’s just another Walking Dead hanger-on,’ I hear you say. Well, yes, I am partial to a bit of walker action. And yes, I may have entertained the odd erotic daydream about a crossbow carrying, scraggy-bearded redneck – but this is not where my zombie obsession began. Come gather around people. Hear my obsessive zombie-loving origin story. Read more »

OITNB2

Anwen Crawford

Still in Prison: The limitations of Orange is the New Black

No, I haven’t binge-watched the entire new season of Orange Is The New Black in one sleepless, bleary-eyed frenzy. This season, the show’s third, doesn’t lend itself to that kind of viewing. The pace is slower, the cliff-hangers missing. Read more »

kim-kardashian-selfish-cover-main

Brodie Lancaster

We Are All Kardashians

For the past five years, I have loved and been obsessed with the Kardashians. Specifically, the E! reality series that made them famous. I often feel the need to intellectualise why I like these series and the people on them – you know, because I’m not a moron, and these are shows about morons, for morons. Read more »

ss_8df8236403f5aad45eeedd33d2bd545e45435b39.1920x1080

Katie Williams

The More Things Change: Choice and consequence in Life is Strange

You can either be a benevolent hero or a monster, but few games deal with the multitudes contained by actual people. And what does it matter, anyway? There’s no such thing as regret when it comes to in-game decision-making – not when you can so easily restart the game to see what outcome will result from choosing Option B instead. Read more »

svfw crop

Katie Williams

Silicon Valley Fashion Week?: Fashion, technology, and wearability

Last week saw the inaugural Silicon Valley Fashion Week? (yes, with a question mark) unfold in San Francisco. The show promised ‘drones, robots, and mad inventions’, and tickets sold out swiftly; attendees were clearly eager to see more inventive clothing in this heartland of nerds. Read more »

AnimalCrossing copy

Katie Williams

Digging For Meaning in Utopia: Storytelling in Animal Crossing

Animal Crossing is a series of games in which – as my partner once remarked incredulously – ‘nothing ever happens.’ In its latest incarnation, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, you become the unwitting mayor of a town populated by anthropomorphic, bipedal animals. Read more »

CrawlMeBlood_20150607_261_LoRes copy

Jane Howard

Adhocracy: Lifting the curtain on the creative process

Every June long weekend I wrap myself up in several extra layers and make my way to the Waterside Worker’s Hall in Port Adelaide for Adhocracy, Vitalstatistix’s annual hothouse that brings together artists from around the country for a weekend of creative development. Read more »

Orlando #2 - THE RABBLE

Jane Howard

This Is a Story of Artistic Excellence

This is a story of the first four plays I saw at Malthouse Theatre. It’s a story that can only continue as long as support for independent artists continues; it’s a story that can only keep growing as long as support for independent artists grows. It’s a story of where artistic excellence comes from, and how we get to see it on our main stages. Read more »

AnneEdmonds-300dpi-sml-860x450_c

Alexandra Neill

Curse of the Comedienne: When comedy comes before gender

At this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival, I saw only shows by women. I did this for several reasons: to support great comedians, to force myself to see more shows I knew nothing about, and because I really like comedy by ladies. I also did it because I was curious. I love comedy, but increasingly have been bothered by the obvious gender disparity. Read more »