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The Lost Blend

I have almost resigned myself to the fact that I may never more be inclined to write another story, nor to record local history events. I am afraid that, like my mother foresaw in her later years, there comes a time in one’s life for ‘The end of stories‘.

The rapid onset of this COVID-19 pandemic has, I suspect, accelerated a change in attitude toward the telling of stories … and where once I would write of characters from a recent past generation, using storylines of a recent past era and with a style of the “author as objective observer” … such a genre and style is now also of a thing past … the COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions have created a population, I believe, that has shrunk more inside itself … become more insular, more introverted … where once I would describe my style of writing as “they and those” … now there is more a demand for “me and thee” … the author now more a “subjective participator” in the story itself, becoming a central character themselves and the reader, vicariously joining with the author in a kind of “identity persona” in the plot and storyline.

Mind you, I doubt the passing of Joe Carli as author will create even the slightest ripple in the calm mill-pond of Aust’ literature, but what is happening here is a bigger picture event … I believe we are witnessing a decline in cultural renovation that begun with such cinematic classics as Sunday too Far Away on through to the cheekily arrogant Crocodile Dundee and a host of Art-House delights in Indigenous films that demonstrated a rising confidence in risk-taking in the Arts … But now we are seeing that risk-taking that is the proving-ground of cultural confidence being wound back and mainly “safe-house” genres of performance and bottom-line payables are being considered … a tragedy in itself.

It’s the price we pay with conservative governments holding the purse-strings of artistic development … conservatives who most likely have little artistic imagination beyond a mental picture of ANY art other than that metaphoric Nordic ‘fat-lady-sings’.

I have been challenged many times to describe what exactly is Aust’ culture … and of course there is this perception that there really is no solid foundation that can be called “national cultural identity” … I disagree … after all, I grew up amongst it … and like all national cultures, you can’t really pin it down to an absolute … to point a finger at something and say; “THIS” is Oz culture .. because it is a “moveable feast” as Hemmingway described Parisian society back in the 1920s … and you can read of it in Gertrude Stein’s Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas … but Oz culture is there all around us in the cynical strine of the rebellious individual against conservative social structures … the “won’t take shit” confrontation of both vulgar boganism and wry intellectual witticism of the clever wordsmith … We see it in Kelly’s Jerilderie Letter and in common front-bar repartee ..

A bloody excellent example of the latter was Gough Whitlam’s sudden interjection at a Town Hall meeting to Sir Winton Turnbull (a Victorian MHR) who was raving and ranting on an adjournment and shouted ‘I am a Country member’ … Whitlam interjected with; “I remember” … Which brought the house down!

It is this singular style of twisting the language from straight comprehension to sardonic irony … that is inherent in every dialect and ethnicity … but has been given freedom of expression in this expansive, wide-open country that (ought to and once DID) allows broad interpretation to both logic and lies with neither fear nor favour and has the ability to liven the conversation in any room. This freedom of idiosyncratic, laconic expression is the foundation of many iconic stories and displays in book or audio/visual art … Sidney Nolan’s Ned Kelly series springs to mind, as does Russell Drysdale’s The Cricketer, with the stark image of the individual batsman lighted against the imposing backdrop of the huge structure there … truly a contrast of determination against odds in a lonely landscape … likewise a short story I remember of Peter Carey’s “The Windmill in the West” … and that hilarious song by The Tennants; You Shit Me to Tears … of the individual battling a lonely vigil against seeming impossible odds .. yet battling on … a central theme in many Lawson stories like Water them Geraniums … and I would like to think that I too in my own humble way, have carried on with that tradition … strength of character vs. imposing power of the seeming inevitable.

But now things have changed … that window of voyeurism on the past has shut and a new window brought about by the immediacy of confrontation of both COVID-19 pandemic and a distinct change in social confrontations of extreme politics and gender issues … neither of which allow contemplative reflection on history. In my case of “where to from here?” … I cannot find a sympathetic connection to a rising generation that places “self” at centre and “them” on the outer with accusatory condemnation … for there seems so much injustice in our immediate vicinity, that there must be at least someone to blame, even if that someone is a closest companion … Myself … call me old fashioned … but I like to sling my arrows of accusation at that old bogeyman; the conservatives … after all, their style of stubborn refusal to admit even ethnicity into their comically insular environments gives opening for any number of ‘taking the piss’ moments.

So I have to accept that a rising generation that is more inclined to demand that the 1st person singular be central to plot and character, has little interest in a broader picture of the wider complexities of work and the outside world around them … truly, the vicissitudes of life that were once grist for the “mill of life” of a hardy pioneer generation have now become a means of income for a legion of New-Age therapists servicing the vainglory of a materialist/consumerist society …

And good luck with all that!

PS: The title for this piece comes from a O’Henry story about a couple of shady characters seeking vainly for the blend of salubrious ingredients for a cocktail of accidental mixing that created an alcoholic elixir of sublime delight … worth a read …

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15 comments

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  1. Joseph Carli

    How can we create art without a connecting cultural affinity?

  2. paul walter

    As Hobsbawm said in the intro to “Age of Extremes”, in late capitalist times we are witnessing “the death of historical memory”, involving a sort of culture shock induced of rapid technological change that renders the lived experiences of older people irrelevant to the young and vice versa..the first wall of community, resistance and solidarity is breached as the system finds more effective ways to atomise society and isolate the various sheep from the herd as humanity becomes morphed from “people” into mentally straightjacketed “consumers”.

    Back in the sixties and seventies, Herbert Marcuse, developing Frankfurt School thinking, also grasped the notions of repressive tolerance and repressive desublimination tolerance in writings like “One Dimensional Man” and from that era the pulping process has only tightened its grip on the modern mind. Morons like Morrison and Dutton continue as enthusiasts for dumbing down and surveillance as soft power alternatives and it is true that since Marcuse the public has been lulled by the idiot grin of the “sideshow”at the cost of dislocation from humanity and reality of the sort that would recognise the suffering in a place like Yemen, a sort of mobile shooting gallery for the trialling of new weapons systems on non-people. Much more important to sturated with escapist trivia about Kardashian’s implanted butt or the World Farnacling Championship latest result.

    Every so often a complacency-induced event like the Meltdown or the current one, Covid, throws up uncertainty and when this happens the oligarchy DOES get touchy, lest unpredictable results have its toys taken from it. But the various apparatus and organs of the system still keep the populace in an affably benign state of mind where we get given the great boon of choosing the colours of our face masks.

  3. Trish Corry

    I don’t agree with you Joe. Art comes from within. Write wherever your muse takes you. However, if you are adamant, there are always dystopian tales merged with historical facts. Stephen King writes in the third person in the first person and he does a hell of a lot of world building. He does just fine. This is your unique contribution to art and writing. I enjoy your stories and I hope you keep at it.

  4. Joseph Carli

    Trish..yes..” Art comes from within. “…but that “within” is shaped and influenced by what is outside one…a reflection of the world around ourselves..and when that world becomes so strange..so absurd that many cultural beliefs are turned upside down and many familiar persons, people one lives next to in neighbourhoods, adopt very strange behaviours and opinions, one has to reflect if one wishes to portray such in story or tale..and when those situations one felt most comfortable with are fading or gone, never to be replaced….well..what can one do except withdraw from the circus of clowns to contemplate and think on things…

  5. Joseph Carli

    As example…: There’s these two little cameos I can tell you about; One about a young Greek/Aust’ woman who consented to the childless, bachelor Mayor of a Greek village where her family originated from, to have a child by him in exchange for his bequeathing the old family house (which the Mayor had commandeered by law) to her in his will…and the other of the two local farmers whose tractor breaks down on the back road (Swamp Road) where the “Truro murders” serial killer Christopher Worrell had buried his victims…Upon reflection, I do not think I would want to make them into stories for publication because, as of the latter one..”a very dark” ..place to go…the other; the young woman who, in effect prostitutes her gender capability (to have a child) for economic reward…although not necessarily a rare thing in the realities of life, still to actually negotiate the wording of a (I should imagine) contract of agreement, would be taking a kind of commodity exchange to a wincing level I would not wish to pursue..

    In the other instance, while the creation of a story-line that centres on the idle everyday chatter between the two farmer friends ( Rosenswieg [Rosie] and Schwertzfeger [Swertzy] ) about mechanical odds and sods and the business of family waiting and general time-tabling because of the inconvenience of the breakdown, would make for excellent study of the contrast between the “innocence” of the mundane and the horror of what is just over the other side of the fence-line….I don’t think I can condone delivering to the reader the ghastly reality of just how close we “everyday people” live out our lives in juxtaposition to the sinister bizarre.

    That when telling me of that moment when he – Rosenswieg – smelt that strange, sickly/sweet odour of death, and that he was about to climb through the fence out of curiosity to investigate, but ‘Swertzy’ called him back to help fix the steering arm of the tractor and to get a move on as he had to get back to the farm for his wife’s arrangement for relatives coming for dinner that night, saved ‘Rosie’ from perhaps discovering the horror of the suburban psychopath killer’s reign of terror of those five poor victims…and the resulting memory-picture of what he would perhaps see…for even the memory of that strange smell of death still lingers, he said….one would have to be somewhat reticent in delivering such horror to the imagination of an innocent reader.

    For while many would say that the storyteller has a duty to reveal the truth, even in all it’s depravity..I disagree..I would leave THAT duty to the journalist or documentary producer and I believe that the storyteller’s duty is to create and deliver the “emotional desire for a kind of truth to believe”…and that “truth” needs be one more elevating than mere cruel or brutal absurdity…

  6. Kronomex

    Joe,

    “I have almost resigned myself to the fact that I may never more be inclined to write another story, nor to record local history events. I am afraid that, like my mother foresaw in her later years, there comes a time in one’s life for ‘The end of stories‘.”

    Don’t go down that road because you will regret it. Keep writing, if it makes you feel good about yourself then don’t stop now.

  7. Joseph Carli

    Thanking you for your concern, Krono’…but as you can see by the above article, I have not stopped completely…I still “thumb through the memories” and scribble little missives now and then…but as to constructing plot and storyline..THAT is on hold for the time being. I do have several minor medical conditions that exacerbate my usual garrulous mood..one becomes pensive and curmudgeonry when confronted with irritations of health…and the discovery, eluded when one was in youthful vigor that by the time one reaches the agreed human “use by date” of three score and ten, there is very little chance of avoiding age related infirmities..sometimes light, sometimes severe…but AT NO TIME AVOIDABLE !…

    As I have stated many times on this site, writing stories was a spinoff from a lived life in the trade of building…if you took time to read such stories that I placed on this site (rather than spitefully scorning them..and you know you did!) you would see many references to experiences gleaned from the workplace..

    I have recently gathered those scattered stories into around ten or eleven “E-Books” and put them up on my blog..you can go there and start with :

    https://freefall852.wordpress.com/2020/12/13/the-making-and-marring-of-a-baby-boomer/

    ..and work your way down..do not be put off by the nom de plume of one “Ambrose Quint” there that I use in telling of “Down the Aisle” shopping experiences…I am one and the same..it was just a little fillip fantasy of mine that I thought a more curious “Anglo” sounding name would appeal to those subconscious racists that meander about our community who would much prefer any writings concerning Aussie cultural idiosyncracies to be penned by an Anglo rather than a bloody dago!..forest for the trees . . . if you get my drift.

    But there you go..at the moment, I am quite satisfied with my output of story, cameo and tales..if I do decide to scribble more..so be it…nothing lost, after all, who really does read all those extrordinary tomes of really great writers any more…and if THEY are ignored..what chance my dross ?

    Again, Krono’…thanking for your concern and I will take it as a kindness given.

  8. Bronte ALLAN

    Well said, as usual Joe! Please do not stop writing your excellent “diary” entries, at least as long as you are physically able to anyway! Always enjoy your thoughts etc.

  9. Joseph Carli

    Thank you, Bronte…there a those whose words of encouragement I really do appreciate…I know their names..

    I still have some things..in reserve..that I will perhaps present for Michael’s consideration in the future…

  10. Anne Byam

    Became alarmed that you were hinting ( rather solidly ?? ) you would quit writing. Please DO NOT do that. It would not be a good thing – for you, and for many readers of your great articles/stories here on AIMN.

    I have always thoroughly enjoyed your stories although this one I had a little bit of trouble with. Evaluating various types of writing is ok in one way, [ dystopian, humour, horror, mystery, romance etc. etc. ] but realism is also a very valid writing reference.

    …… delivering to the reader the ghastly reality of just how close we “everyday people” live out our lives in juxtaposition to the sinister bizarre.” …. thing is Joe, that is exactly what we all do. But to dwell upon how close we DO come each day to the sinister and bizarre, is to invite a depression of sorts, or at least low spirits. We get enough visual imagery from our news services which over time have become more brazen, fear inducing, leaving not much to the imagination – to get a taste of the sordid and bizarre each day. In writing, as long as reference, if needed for the story, is made in a reasonable and not overly dramatised way – of a horror ( e.g. Rosie and Swertzy in your above comment ) I don’t believe there is anything wrong with it.

    Unlike the Australian author Tim W., who likes to drop grossness in the middle of the telling of a yarn or story line – a visual horror-plus not in any way associated with the story line – THAT is nasty even bad writing. So much so that I have abandoned reading him altogether. No need for that kind of shock value garbage.

    I agree with Trishs’ comments too re the merging of historical facts with dystopian tales – – – – and of the art that comes from within.

    Stay with us as long as your health permits…. please.

  11. Joseph Carli

    Thank you for your words of encouragement and good sense, Anne…and certainly, the telling of such dystopian contrasts of life may make for interesting art..as we see in many examples in both gallery and print, I was more thinking of myself and what “damage” the investigation of such a story-line would do to my psyche…after all, the actor who goes so deep into some gruesome real life character must retain a certain “dark-centre” long after the part has been played…I believe there are examples of a kind of PTSD experienced by such people…and the writer, I believe, would not be invulnerable to the same…esp’ THIS writer!…and the fact that those Truro Murder victims were buried only a few kilometres as the crow flies from where I live now is an added worry..Plus there is this peculiarity that so many psychopathic killers of these days have “learned the lessons” of the ones of yore and have ratchetted up a notch or two in both numbers and cruelty…

    I also would point out for general knowledge that many of those brilliant writers of old…: Dostoyevski, Hemmingway, Woolf etc did not fare well at the end of their days and I would suggest they were perhaps consumed by an overwhelming imagination that pladed themselves into a very dark place…

    I would also make note that I grew up with a person who joined the police to become a forensic police officer…and at the end of a long career, he was involved in those “Snowtown – bodies in the vault” killings..and the “visuals” that he experienced (according to his father) did for him…he had to take leave after and he retired on stress leave to die (I do not know what of) not long after…but his father said it was because of that last “job”…

    So no…I am too much of the romantic..not for me the gazing into the abyss…

  12. Bob

    That is true Joesph, I have met a few WW2 soldiers and all were worse for wear but all, in some respect, were a portal for this or that virtue. Given the circumstances they must have gone through they have my compassion. Personal trauma also leaves its mark on those nearby, rippling out in concentric circles over time, each subsequent associate a domino in a never-ending process, another person who themselves must transit a mindfield of psychic depression and upheavals. There is a saying that you are what you eat, and if what one eats is trauma-based literature, horror/zombi/psycho/fearfilled themed movies etc then that must have an impact on the psyche as you suggest. Such a diet is not a smart if one is looking for health but perhaps the all too common weakness of being addicted to excitement or whatever is then the issue. Some seek peace, some excitement, some just be.

  13. Joseph Carli

    Well said, Bob…

  14. Joseph Carli

    The Slight of Aphrodite.

    With love betrayed, all reason to stay
    And substance for existence gone.
    Now…; falling, falling away..
    Without sound or purpose,
    To lay silent like Autumn leaves forlorn,
    On the forest floor…
    And with eyes turned
    From salvation’s door,
    We strike out alone down barren roads,
    Under the stern disdain
    Of the slight of Aphrodite.

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