Recently I read, and commented on, a review of a play that, but for its shortness, almost felt like a careful (correct and astute) evisceration. The reviewer, Alison Croggon, was unfamiliar to me, though a bit of Googling put me in touch with a trove of articles she did (and possibly ongoing?) for a publication called Overland, which I had only recently seen in another context.
As it turns out, I quite probably had seen one of the pieces there previously, through a Facebook friend’s link, as one of the sentences (quoted below) rung with the familiarity of something heard before. Usually a line makes an impression, and you can never remember where you heard it; but here a circuitous route brought me back.
I know little of the author; only that Alison Croggon, like Elizabeth Alexander the inaugural poet, is almost my exact contemporary. It is always exciting to find a new writer; but to find a peer, even more so, because the yardstick with which to measure—compare and contrast—is so nearly equivalent.
I read a few essays sporadically, then decided to return systematically, and as I did, jotted down a number of quotes, either a sentence or a paragraph, that struck my interest, whether or not I endorsed the sentiment. Here they follow with links to their original source. Because I originally had not intended to make extractions, I have probably omitted some juicy bits. All quotations by Alison Croggon at Overland followed by the (linked) title of the article whence they come:
“Some writers, like the poet Basil Bunting, think of writing as if it’s a kind of masonry. ‘Words! / Pens are too light. / Take a chisel to write.’ Something in me admires that manly confidence, the assumption that, once written, the word is there forever. Another part of me feels that it’s an understanding of language that diminishes its power, the equivalent of taking a live butterfly and pinning it to a board.”
“Power is always flexible in its own self-preservation. I often remember the rebel aristocrat Tancredi, in Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s masterpiece The Leopard, advising the Leopard on how to preserve his family’s privilege: ‘If we want things to stay as they are, everything will have to change.’ Think, for example, of how the right wing has so successfully adopted the politics of grievance and victimhood, and pushes the prominence of the odd exceptional women to bruit its own denatured version of feminism.”
“The so-called reason that exists without imagination or feeling seems to me to be the opposite of rationality, a maimed thing that substitutes authority for critical thought and that, in its application in the world, can only lead to horrific irrationalities.”
“Kindness is, first of all, an act of solidarity.”
(“On Acts of Solidarity”)
“[M]y egocentricity awakens a dread of solipsism.”
(“On the Black Dog”)
“If art is useful, it’s because it generates meanings.”
(On Art as Therapy")
“The courteous racist insinuates that non-white people are – at the core of their natures – inferior human beings…"
(“On Rude Words”)
“I live in a culture in which literacy is privileged, often savagely, at the expense of other kinds of knowledge.”
(“On Reading Time and Memory")
“Every judgement on art is an impulse towards hierarchy. These judgements may be hotly argued rankings of material or intellectual or aesthetic value; they may be as simple as a person claiming they love one movie and hate another. But these hierarchies are fatally volatile, doomed from the outset to collapse inward on themselves. Aesthetic – the quality most identified with art – is inherently inimical to hierarchy. Judgement is an order that must always be imposed after the fact on an experience that radically destabilises the very existence of authority.”
“Art isn’t moral in itself – it cannot be moral in itself – but it activates and articulates moral thought.”
"In even its most perverse forms, art is radically innocent.”
“Art is a technology for consciousness…"
“When I think about art, I mean freedom.”
“Without public funding, many people would never encounter art at all.”
“[F]or me writing remains, at a profound level, significantly about not having a career.”
(“On Not Having a Career”)