Baggage anthology from Eneit Press

Baggage is a new anthology of short stories, published by Eneit Press and edited by Gillian Polack. You may remember Gillian being mentioned on here before – she was kind enough to officiate for me at the book launch of MageSign late last year. This anthology that she’s put together is a pretty awesome concept and I’m really looking forward to reading it. As part of the blog tour promoting it, I’ve got a post here with some of the contributing authors and Gillian herrself talking about the concept of baggage.

That concept is described on the back of the book thusly:

Humankind carries the past as invisible baggage. Thirteen brilliant writers explore this, looking at Australia’s cultural baggage through new and often disturbing eyes.

Sounds pretty cool, huh? The Table of Contents is:

Vision Splendid — K.J. Bishop
Telescope — Jack Dann
Hive of Glass — Kaaron Warren
Kunmanara – Somebody Somebody — Yaritji Green
Manifest Destiny — Janeen Webb
Albert & Victoria/Slow Dreams — Lucy Sussex
Macreadie v The Love Machine — Jennifer Fallon
A Pearling Tale — Maxine McArthur
Acception — Tessa Kum
An Ear for Home — Laura E. Goodin
Home Turf — Deborah Biancotti
Archives, space, shame, love — Monica Carroll
Welcome, farewell — Simon Brown

As my part of the blog tour, I asked three questions of a cross-section of those contributing authors. The cross-section in question being Kaaron Warren, Deborah Biancotti, Laura E. Goodin and the editor herself, Gillian Polack.

The questions were:

1. The anthology is called Baggage and explores the cultural baggage carried by people, from a specifically Australian perspective. When you first saw/concocted this theme, what was your initial reaction? What do you see as Australia’s baggage?

2. Do you think baggage is essential? Would we be better off without cultural baggage?

3. What actual baggage do you always take when you travel? What’s your essential piece of physical baggage?

Their answers are below.

Kaaron Warren:

The anthology is called “Baggage” and explores the cultural baggage carried by people, from a specifically Australian perspective. When you first saw this theme, what was your initial reaction?

I thought, Rats, so I can’t pull that zombie wishing he was a werewolf married to a vampire story out of my to-be-finished pile and submit that.

I was also struck by how many layers of thought it was going to take to get to the heart of the theme. I liked that; it’s the first time I’ve been asked to write a story based on an almost abstract idea rather than something more specific.

What do you see as Australia’s baggage?

Australia’s baggage is like the really good set you get from your friends for a wedding present if a lot of them get together and are pretty generous. The history people bring with them as well as the shared history. Ditto for culture; the things people bring and the things that have been created here.

We have some shameful baggage and plenty of heart-breaking history. I think it’s the details which hurt. I recently saw the Dunera Boys exhibition at the National Library. One item was a case full of notes and stories written on toilet paper because there was no other paper available.

Do you think baggage is essential?

I think it’s inevitable. You can’t live even the quietest life without gathering some. There will have to be hurts, bad memories, loves, losses.

Would we be better off without cultural baggage?

Of course this is impossible, but I think we are better off keeping our cultural baggage. A lot of it can be negative, with slights going back hundreds of years. Memories of murder, rumours of betrayal, who scored the best position on the boat over. These things are remembered and handed on.

But these are the things which give us substance. They are the things which form our decisions and make us different from each other.

What actual baggage do you always take when you travel?

My big brown handbag. Room for a book, some lollies, travel sickness pills, the travel documents, things for the kids to do and read, phone, diary, note pad, many pens, keys…it really is very useful.

What’s your essential piece of physical baggage?

I usually travel with husband and two kids.

***

Deborah Biancotti:

The anthology is called “Baggage” and explores the cultural baggage carried by people, from a specifically Australian perspective. When you first saw this theme, what was your initial reaction?

I thought it was brilliant. Australia has such a tapestry of histories I couldn’t wait to see what people had come up with, what cultures we’d find in the book. I thought it was the perfect theme for our country!
For me, though, working to the theme proved to be tough. I’ve never really related to Australia. I’ve never understood ‘what it is to be Australian’. I tell people I didn’t feel at home until I *left* Australia in my twenties. (I came back, of course, but coming back was hard.) And so for me the only way to write a story of the Australian experience – my Australian experience – was to write about homelessness.

What do you see as Australia’s baggage?

Well, we don’t have a great track record on human rights. And we’re embarrassingly good at wars. All up, that seems to suck.

Do you think baggage is essential? Would we be better off without cultural baggage?

Maybe it’s a necessary evil. Baggage can make you wise, and wisdom can stop you from being overwhelmed by all your inevitable baggage.

What actual baggae do you always take when you travel? What’s your essential piece of physical baggage?

Nowdays it’s my phone. Boo-yah for inbuilt GPS and that whole data downloading thing! How else can you find the best Mexican in San Francisco while you’re on the run, eh?

***

Laura E. Goodin:

The anthology is called “Baggage” and explores the cultural baggage carried by people, from a specifically Australian perspective. When you first saw this theme, what was your initial reaction? What do you see as Australia’s baggage?

When I heard about this project, I thought, “Wow. An anthology for people like me!” I’ve been an expatriate for, oh, about 15 years now [Laura is American – Alan], and I’m acutely conscious of my difference, of my non-belonging to the society in which I live. I’ve been forced to confront a lot of my cultural baggage, just in the course of learning to get through the day and do some meaningful and valuable things while I’m here. I’ve been forced to shed the assumption of rightness, that my people’s way is the way that makes sense, and everyone else’s is second-best. Of course, no thinking person consciously decides that his or her culture is, by the very fact of its existence, the one that any rational person would choose if they had the chance. It’s just that until you’ve lived overseas, you’re not compelled to decide otherwise.

Obviously, it’s not just expats who carry baggage, but host-country people as well. I wouldn’t presume to stand here and wag my finger at Australians about their assumptions and cultural preferences, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have them. This obsession with bringing back Hey Hey It’s Saturday, for example – but no! No, that’s just none of my business. You people do what you think is best. No, really. *makes surreptitious “Oh my God” faces* [In our defence, I don’t know ANYONE that thought it was a good idea to bring back that show – Alan]

Do you think baggage is essential? Would we be better off without cultural baggage?

I do think it’s essential, and I find the term “baggage,” with its pejorative overtones, ambiguous at best. Rather, you can consider it “context” or “cognitive framework.” Cultural baggage is how people make sense of what they’re witnessing, thinking, and feeling. Cultures evolve because they meet the needs of a group of people (or some of their needs, anyway). That’s a strength: to have a system of thought that both meets your needs and offers you a way of evaluating what you’re going through. Of course, as my karate teacher told me once, our greatest strengths are our greatest weaknesses, and the same framework that gives us strength to get through the day in a confusing world is the framework that can limit our thinking and make us bigoted, parochial, and paranoid. That’s why being a compassionate, open-hearted traveller is such a wonderful thing to strive for.

What actual baggae do you always take when you travel? What’s your essential piece of physical baggage?

Hm. I always take more warm clothes than I’ll probably need (I have a horror of being cold). I usually take my laptop. I always, always take a notebook, a pen, and a book to read. Perhaps the most unusual thing I never travel without is my radio. It’s an AM/FM/shortwave, which means I can always listen to the cricket (joke). But, in all seriousness, when I’m in another country, or even another city, the way I key into what’s happening and what things are like for the people who live there is to listen to their radio stations. Even if I can’t understand the language, I can hear their music and at least get an inkling of their news. Radios. Radios are cool, and immediate, and random in a way the Internet is not. You take what you get with radio: no picking and choosing, no clicking until you find someone who only reinforces what you thought already. Radio can surprise you. Moreover, the batteries last way longer than a laptop’s.

***

Gillian Polack (editor):

The anthology is called “Baggage” and explores the cultural baggage carried by people, from a specifically Australian perspective. When you first concocted this theme, what was your initial reaction? What do you see as Australia’s baggage?

I must have seen the theme for the first time, but it feels as if it’s been with me always. Finding a way of expressing it so that other people saw what I saw: that was tricky.

What is Australia’s baggage? See my answer to the next question. It’s shared stuff. Some of that shared stuff is amazing and positive. Some of it is sad. Some of it is quite nasty. We’re not aware of it all – in fact,
we carry most of it around all the time without expressing, explaining or even understanding it.

Do you think baggage is essential? Would we be better off without cultural baggage?

Without cultural baggage we don’t have any tools for communication, for living. How do we know when to wake up in the morning? How to smile at someone we love? How to cut steak? Cook steak? Eat steak? Some cultural baggage is strongly negative, but the vast bulk of it is the stuff we carry with us all the time without even knowing. The shape of your bed; how you get out of bed; what you do when you’re out of bed: cultural baggage.

We have eyes, but it’s our cultural baggage that trains us how to use them. It’s the shared aspects of that cultural baggage that enable us to look at each other and interpret what we see in a way that enables us to live in a shared world.

What actual baggage do you always take when you travel? What’s your essential piece of physical baggage?

I always try to carry a handbag big enough to fit at least one book. If the voyage is going to last more than 3 hours, then my netbook is slipped into my handbag, all powered up, with several books loaded. I also always carry paper and pen – and I always need it, too.

***

Thanks to everyone above that took the time to talk a bit about their perceptions of this great collection.
Get your copy of Baggage here
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(Incidentally, the awesome cover art shown above is by the very talented Andrew McKiernan.)

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2 thoughts on “Baggage anthology from Eneit Press

  1. Thanks Alan! I love the differences of approach the writers has taken here. You can see from their answers to your questions that their stories are each going to be quite, quite different.

    Baggage will be available very soon – there were printing delays. You can check back on the Eneit Press site in a little to see if it’s in yet, or you can keep an eye on my blog to find out when it’s available. (I hate glitches – I want everyone to be able to read it NOW.)

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