Fire Flood Plague by Sophie Cunningham [8/10]

Instinctively reaching towards our modern scribes, I’ve been obsessively reading lockdown and post-lockdown writings. Consummate curator and editor Sophie Cunningham has produced one of the very best of these of-the-moment records, “Fire Flood Plague: Australian Writers Respond to 2020.” Hefty, with a couple of dozen contributions from Aussie writers famous and less well known, Fire Flood Plague ranges all over the terrain, and none of the entries is less than absorbing. Stellar, thought-provoking essays abound. “Where is it from, I wonder, the ash falling on Marrickville?” Kirsten Tranter writes in a piercing essay “Black flowers: Mourning in ashes,” referencing, among other things, the Sex Pistols and one of my favorite TV series, Edge of Darkness. “After the fires,” muses Delia Falconer in “Living in the time of Coronavirus,” her immersive, global and local panorama of lockdown life, “I was bracing for another disaster, although I can’t help feeling that this one is only the grace note…” I’ve read plenty of Joëlle Gergis; never has she sounded as bleak as in “The great unravelling”: “Something inside me feels like it has snapped, as if some essential thread of hope has failed.” I was fascinated by Tom Griffith’s “Drawing breath,” in which he tosses up between describing our era as the Anthropocene or the Pyrocene. “But wouldn’t it be something to behave courageously? To see the threat and step forward to meet it?” wonders Jane Rawson in “Don’t blink,” capturing my own thoughts precisely. Fire Flood Plague is a must-read destined to launch a hundred skeins of inquiry and action.

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