TEXT review


Offset: a literary journal

review by Tessa Chudy

 

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Offset
No10 Anniversary Edition
Alison Whan (Managing Editor)
Offset Press: Victoria University, Melbourne, 2010
ISBN 97800646539058
Pb, 160pp, AUD19.95

 

Offset no 10 is a tenth anniversary edition of Victoria University’s annual creative arts journal. The journal is edited and produced by third year students in Professional Writing, Digital Media and Communications. This edition showcases work of current and past students.

Offset is a solid and rather attractive journal which is neatly presented and contains works of fiction, poetry and fine arts. Accompanying the journal is a multimedia DVD containing works of animation, music and short film.

The idea behind Offset is a nice one – to present and showcase the work of students. However this may also be its greatest weakness. Too many of the pieces feel like works derived from generic class exercises and fail to transcend the feeling of limitation and constraint. These pieces often have a strong emphasis on science fiction, horror and character snapshots, like Samuel Pearson’s ‘In The Evening Light’ which looks at a man in his vegetable garden, Charles Mallia’s ‘The Pilgrims’ which focuses on the trials of pioneers, and the disturbing ‘Green’ by Emilie Goegan about a spurned lover.

There is however some excellent writing: Lucia Nardo’s ‘Something Broke’ is an extremely evocative piece that explores domestic discontent. While Kirsty Stuart’s ‘The Special Place’explores loss from a child’s viewpoint and Ashleigh Wilson’s ‘The Train’ is an intriguing piece that creates a strong sense of dislocation:

The carriage is empty. The seats are littered with abandoned newspapers and magazines. The only movement is an empty Coke bottle rolling back and forth across the floor with each sway of the train. (102)

The journal feature, ‘Where are all the (Non-White) People?’written by Nazeem Hussain, explores the theme of multiculturalism and race relations, and these are powerful recurring themes throughout Offset, particularly notable in the poetry which deals repeatedly with terrorism and cultural perceptions. As in Ryan Samuel’s ‘You Can’t Hug Your Children With Pipe Bombs’:

herald sun headline reads – front page, bold type –
            ‘Australia corrupted by Islamic hype’

The images presented are vivid and suggest a very strong fine arts program. My big complaint here is that there is no description of media used – works could be paintings, or digital images, photographs or mixed media – it’s hard to tell from the reproductions and even the artist biographies often fail to explore the artist’s preferred mediums.

As an object Offset is quite pleasing with its striking cover image by Uyen (Katie) Doan. However, beyond Offset’s aesthetic qualities and outside the confines of Victoria University, it is less satisfying. Yes, I am probably being a little harsh in my judgement here, but for someone approaching Offset from outside, it really doesn’t bring that essential something that makes you willing to drop everything and lose yourself in its pages. Perhaps a little more clarity in the presentation and explication of its content may help. There is too much overlap in the fiction presented with multiple works exploring similar themes or styles such as Andrew Hobbs-McIntyre’s ‘Helpless’ and Janet Mann’s ‘Do You Hear Me?’ which both revolve around suicide by train.

This is not to say that there are not certain delights to be found in the pages of Offset. The artworks by Melody McCormick and Amy Milne are striking and Delia Sinni’s story ‘The Virus’ is an imaginative delight that follows a young tourist struck down by a truly bizarre virus: ‘The main side effect of human contraction of this virus is that the human takes on the characteristics of the ingested vegetable’ (46).

The trouble with Offset is that it fails to become more than a beautifully presented sum of its parts. However, the value of Offset and other university publications like it should not be understated as it is both a wonderful opportunity for students to present their work and for university outsiders to evaluate the strength of the various programs offered by the University.

 

Tessa Chudy is currently undertaking a PhD in creative writing at Southern Cross University. She is especially interested in the intersection of gothic and noir and the role of the landscape in fiction. Tessa is also a visual artist and lives on the mid north coast of NSW.

 

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TEXT
Vol 15 No 2 October 2011
http://www.textjournal.com.au
Editors: Nigel Krauth & Kevin Brophy
Text@griffith.edu.au