Marketing the Boundaries: the fiction of Margo Lanagan

I’ve just read my first Margo Lanagan books, two collections of short stories titled Red Spikes and Yellowcake. The colour theme is upheld through two other collections, Black Juice and White Time. The covers are also consistent, each showing a feminine figure in a mysterious landscape with totemic creature spirit: butterfly, beetle, spider. I mention this because marketing a writer with a consistent approach is one of the themes of my review; it intrigues me in Margo Lanagan’s case because it says much about the state of literature in this country.

Lanagan is a literary writer, a writer’s writer with a beautiful turn of phrase (drops of salt sorrow in its strands here and there like smooth-tumbled crystals in a cunning necklace The Golden Shroud) and a rigorous style. The quality of her writing has been recognised with several World Fantasy Awards and Printz Honor Awards. What intrigues me is why has Lanagan’s work been corralled within the definition of Young Adult fiction? I am not suggesting there is anything lesser about YA fiction, nor do I know how Lanagan herself feels about this.

To me though, classifying Lanagan’s work as YA makes about as much sense as classifying Angela Carter, Italo Calvino, Jonathan Swift or Robert Louis Stevenson as YA writers. Just because some of her protagonists are young and just because there are fantasy elements in her stories do not seem valid reasons.

Lanagan’s subject matter is dark and adult, though I think teenagers should read it. They should read Carter, Calvino, Swift and Stevenson too. In Red Spikes, for example, there is a clever, brutal story, Monkeys Paternoster, about the overthrow of the alpha male of a monkey colony, told from the point of view of a young female. She sees baby monkeys butchered by aspiring bachelor males who then rape their mothers; her own rape is vividly described. In what sense is this story not adult?

The controversy that blew up in 2011 over Tender Morsels at the Bitch Media website originates partly in this confusion over what is/is not YA. The website published a list of 100 Young Adult books for the feminist reader. After a complaint accused the novel of failing to critique characters who used rape as a tool of vengeance, Tender Morsels was removed from the list, sparking furious debate.


Read the rest of the post here.

Review on NSW Writers’ Centre Blog 366 Days of Writing

Women writers are often accused of dealing with the domestic but Corbett takes to the sky and shows us the panorama of human relationships, deceits and the meaning of love. I am not a devotee of speculative fiction but Corbett has realized a rich and complex society, and for that alone this book is a must-read.

– Meredith Jaffe

Review of Catch-22 on Kill Your Darlings

Like many great satires, the true subject of Catch-22 is violence done through manipulation of language. The insights of Catch-22 into war and bureaucracy have only grown in power during our never-ending War on Terror, with its ‘weapons of mass destruction’, its ‘extraordinary rendition’ and ‘redaction’. Ad man Heller knew that language is the main tool used by institutions to control their subjects, even if such control is ultimately backed with violence.

Read more here.




Shearer’s Books Blog

‘This unmissable book from a strong new talent should be put at the top of your to-read list…

I was totally immersed in this book, and the world that was created. When We Have Wings works as crime fiction, speculative fiction and literary fiction.’ Mark Harding, Shearer’s Books Blog