Monday, April 28

The Meaning of Liff - Douglas Adams' Dictionary

You know how there's always something you can't quite describe because there's no word for it?  It's agonising!  But trust Douglas Adams to come to the rescue with his "Original Dictionary Of Things There Should Be Words For."  

The "New and Unimproved" edition of The Meaning of Liff was published last year on the book's 30th anniversary.  I was surprised and delighted to receive it as a gift.  This book is best described as a genius, hilarious gift to the world - you can stop fluffing about for words that don't exist and experience the great relief of knowing that someone else knows exactly what you're talking about.

If you need any more convincing, here are a few highlights:

Abilene adj.  Descriptive of the pleasing coolness on the reverse side of the pillow
Beppu n.  The triumphant slamming shut of a book after reading the final page
Dewlish adj.  (Of the hands and feet.)  Prunelike after an overlong bath
Essendine n.  Long sigh emitted by a fake leather armchair she sat on
Frolesworth n.  Measure.  The minimum time it is necessary to spend frowning in deep concentration at each picture in an art gallery in order that everyone else doesn't think you're a complete moron
Kettering n.  The marks left on your bottom or thighs after sunbathing on a wickerwork chair
Malibu n.  The height by which the top of a wave exceeds the height to which you have rolled up your trousers
Perranzabuloe n.  The squirty function in an electric iron
Scosthrop vb.  To make opening or cutting movements with the hands when wandering about looking for a tin opener, scissors, etc., in the hope that this will help in some way
Shoeburyness n.  The vague uncomfortable feeling you get when sitting on a seat which is still warm from someone else's bottom
Thrupp vb.  To hold a ruler on one end of a desk and make the other end go bbddbbddbbrrbrrrdrr
Wigan  n.  If, when talking to someone you know has only one leg, you're trying to treat them perfectly casually and normally, but find to your horror that your conversation is liberally studded with references to (a) Long John Silver, (b) Hopalong Cassidy, (c) the Hokey Cokey, (d) 'putting your foot in it', (e) 'the last leg of the UEFA competition', you are said to have committed a wigan

Adams, Douglas and Lloyd, John.  2013.  The Meaning of Liff.  30th Anniversary ed.  UK: Faber and Faber.  

I hope you enjoy these as much as I did and rush to procure your own copy.  This is a sensational mashup of quirksome ideas.  

Friday, April 25

Zadie Smith for Interview Magazine

Remember how much we fawned over the gorgeously wise and witty Zadie Smith, author of groundbreaking debut White Teeth?  Her conversation with Christopher Bollen for Interview Magazine is a must-read.  

Follow the link to read the interview: Zadie Smith for Interview Magazine

Photo credit: Sebastian Kim 2012
Zadie Smith has come back under my focus for a research paper I'm in the process of writing.  This 2012 interview has reaffirmed my adoration for her.  Not to mention, it's a profound and challenging insight into her writing career and views on writing.  She looks back on her experience of White Teeth to evaluate the change in her writing direction.  

Coming from such an important writer for this generation, the ideas she presents are exciting.  Reading this has riled me up with passion for the art form.  She reminds me of the supreme power and beauty of writing.  

Please take the time to savour this glimpse into Smith's life. 

Follow the link to read the interview: Zadie Smith for Interview Magazine

Saturday, April 12

Theatre Review: "Cimarrón" at Brisbane Metro Arts

Sally Lewry's brave new performance work Cimarrón is a call to the wild.  I wrote this review for uni after going to see it in March, but I thought I might as well share it with you too!  

When I read that Sally Lewry’s new performance work Cimarrón hoped to reveal its audience’s inner “savage beast”, I felt a touch of dread that my viewing experience might involve eating dirt and making animal noises at my fellow theatre-goers.  I’m a shyish person so audience participation is exactly the sort of thing I like to avoid.  Brisbane’s Metro Arts celebrates risk-taking theatre and often hosts unconventional works with confronting messages.  With this in mind, I arrive more scared than excited about what is in store for me. 

The Sue Benner Theatre is mood lit with plush red chairs sloping to a dirt floor.  It makes me think of a horse corral.  My friend and I make up one third of the audience for tonight’s performance: the brave few?  When the lights dim, the small room seems to grow huge.  Despite my wariness, I find myself squinting into the shadows for signs of life.

A wild woman (played by director Lewry) tiptoes into view.  Wearing a hessian mask and a fur coat back-to-front to expose her semi-nakedness, she represents the pure and primal animal part in us all.  A hunter (Tamara Natt) lures and captures the wild woman.  She strips her of her mask and coat and begins the gruelling process of breaking her spirit into submission.  Observing ranchers breaking in wild horses inspired Lewry during the process of creating Cimarrón.  This analogy is central to the narrative.  Clever control of the lighting transforms the space into a cage or corral where the performers’ silhouettes on the walls heighten the sense of entrapment.  

Like the use of lighting, the costuming choices also help to convey meaning.  With so little else present on stage and only minimal dialogue, the costumes work overtime to double as props.  There is a great deal of symbology at work.  As the wild woman is gradually ‘broken in’ (horse analogy) she becomes more and more like her captor until she finally adopts the same uniform her captor wears.  This uniform consists of a black sack-dress with two sashes attached at the neck.  These sashes act like horse’s reins to control both women, revealing their submission to a higher power.  This begs the question, does climbing higher on the social ladder mean becoming more enslaved by the system that structures that society?  This is one of many challenging questions Cimmarón prompts its audience to consider.

Lewry’s goal as a performance artist and director is to create “evocative” and “original” works that wrestle with socio-political issues.  She achieves this through physical and visceral theatre, of which Cimmarón is representative.  Lewry and Natt’s performances in Cimarrón are highly physical.  There is an exhausting amount of galloping around and digging involved.  Because there is so little use of dialogue in the work, it puts faith in strong physical movement to impart the narrative.  I doubt it would have been nearly as successful in presenting its poignant message if the story had depended on dialogue.  Like all English teachers will tell their classes, it is better to show than to tell.  Cimarrón tackles complex issues and puts forward a powerful message without leaning on the use of dialogue as a crutch.  The experience of puzzling the meaning from the visual clues is much more engaging and memorable.

The title of the work, Cimarrón, is a Spanish word meaning “that which cannot be tamed”.  Lewry points out it is also a word used to refer to slaves that have escaped captivity to live on the edges of society.  In a crucial scene near the end of the performance, blaring music stirs the wild woman into a gallop on the spot.  Her abandonment of self-control is infectious.  She allows her primal instinct to run wild, spitting, sighing, hair flicking, completely freed.  This is an intimate moment that has a remarkably immersing quality.  If there was a real horse galloping onstage it could not have been any more captivating.  For the first time during the performance, the tension in my body relaxes and I feel completely at ease.  If only she could gallop forever.  If only I could join her.  I realise this moment unlocked a small part of my own inner animal.  When it ended, I felt disappointed to leave it behind.  It speaks to the ability of Cimarrón to inspire a visceral reaction and stir up from within a bit of “savage beast”: that which cannot be tamed.

I entered Metro Arts timid of having to do things that made me feel uncomfortable.  I left that shyness behind.  Practically galloping down the stairs and out into the Brisbane twilight, I felt riled up inside with an animal energy I couldn’t yet explain.  Through its narrative of domestication, Cimarrón urges its audience to ask if we have become slaves to the socio-political structure we created.  Lewry argues we have.  The story of the wild woman is a cautionary tale, warning against letting the conventions and structures of society enslave our inner animals.  But it is also a call to the wild to stop silencing that inner beast.  It may not have been as confronting as I dreaded beforehand, but what I didn’t expect was to be quite so moved. 


2014.  “Artist – Sally Lewry.”  Accessed March 14, 2014.

2014.  “Metro Arts Brisbane – Artistic Statement.”  Accessed March 20, 2014.

2014.  “Metro Arts Brisbane – Cimarrón.”  Accessed March 14, 2014.

Huxley, Matt.  2014.  “The Domestication of the Human: A Review of Cimarrón.”  Accessed March 11, 2014.

Lewry, Sally.  2014.  Cimarrón.  Writer Sally Lewry.  Performed Brisbane, Sue Benner Theatre: Metro Arts.  Performance: Theatre (viewed 12 March, 2014).

Lewry, Sally.  2014.  “About.”  Accessed March 14, 2014.
Lewry, Sally.  2014.  “Cimarrón.”  Accessed March 12, 2014.ón/