PERTH, AUSTRALIA: AMPERSAND MAGAZINE

Posted by Gemma on the 1st of December, 2011

Considering today is the first day of summer, I'm behind the times posting about something in a magazine's Spring edition, but this article is keeping itself on my mind, so I thought it'd be worth sharing.

Last week I finally got around to reading the outgoing edition of Ampersand Magazine: Spring's From the Heart of the Forest to the edge of the Road. loosely themed around potent middle of nowheres. Amongst the issue's pocket sized pages is a piece by media arts lawyer Julian Hewitt on Perth.

Written with the clean palette of a returning expat and approached here from the perspective of an insider, Hewitt's picture of Perth is so accurate it hurts, a bit. It has the elegant bemusement and incisiveness of Joan Didion reporting on the idiosyncrasies of California, something Hewitt must know, because he quotes her. For this reason I'm also slightly jealous of it because it preempts something I was also trying to write connecting Didion's California dreaming (portentous weather, true crime, pioneering hangovers, landscape angst) to Perth, because it would work: something like her geomancy, her shrewd sense of articulating place could be easily transplanted and really valuable here. He even uses the quote I have written down and circled and underlined:

"California is a place in which a boom mentality and a sense of Chekhovian loss meet in uneasy suspension; in which the mind is troubled by some buried but ineradicable suspicion that things better work here, because here, beneath the immense bleached sky,is where we run out of continent." ("Notes from a Native Daughter," Slouching Towards Bethlehem)

Does that feel familiar to anyone else?

It's heartening I guess, for someone who lives here, to find that someone else can identify that something strange is happening here, right now, and that the particular history and character of this place, despite often being portrayed as sluggish and dull is in fact alive with colour and melancholy and weirdness and that it is in fact able to support analysis and poetry, that it's worth the time and attention. At last, someone else has noted the surplus of society columns in the 'press', the historical forgetfulness indicated by the city's tendency to eradicate its heritage architecture, the unforgiving sprawl of the suburbs, the hang up of Perth on being known 'worldwide' in 1962 as the City of Lights and has thought about what that might mean. It's also a valuable text as it provides a neatly balanced counter-action to the often polarized portrayals of Perth from its residents: the bitter vitriol or the blind, stubborn enthusiasm.

Hewitt also reminded me that Honolulu is in fact the most isolated capital city in the world, so we'll have to get over that one soon.

I'm not sure what I'm trying to say about it, actually, other than it's well worth reading - as is Ampersand itself, which dubs itself as a 'Curiosity' magazine and has a varied and enthusiastic approach to culture. You can buy it in Perth from PICA in Northbridge, from Oxford Street Books in Leederville, from the Planet empire in Mount Lawley and Crow Books in Victoria Park, or online from Ampersand's website.

Issue 5 will arrive for summer, sometime soon.