Write like You Play

By Hames, Sara | Hecate, November 2008 | Go to article overview

Write like You Play


Hames, Sara, Hecate


I left my prestigious undergraduate education with an immediately scheduled acceptance to a postgraduate degree in writing. To the surprise of friends and family, I turned it down. 'Someday I'll go back to school,' I said. 'But not right now.'

There was, even then, a distinctly unsettling subtextual implication to the words, 'Someday I'll go back to school.' The phrase seemed intimately bound up, in my social sphere, with threats of derailed dreams, ennui, and failure. After three years working, I could feel the world and words of academia slipping out from under me, and I wasn't sure what terrified me more: that I might never go back, and lose the language completely, or that I might go back and find myself distressingly mute. I remember standing in the post office on 181st and Broadway in New York City, with my postgraduate application to the University of Sydney in my hands, trying to convince myself that the flipping in my belly was over the fifty dollars for the postage, not a deep-seated fear of permanent intellectual rejection.

I paid the fifty dollars. Four months later I moved to Australia, and went back to school. I had left my undergraduate degree as a long-haired, sandal-wearing painter with a penchant for brilliant colours and a sense of unflagging optimism. I was returning to postgraduate work as a short-haired, slightly sardonic and much more distrustful queer activist and (I hoped) budding writer.

Day one. My first time in a classroom in three years, and I spent the first few minutes obsessively lining up my new black notebook and new black pen over and over. A projector stood against the front wall of the room, casting a bright block of light, silhouetted by the green chalkboard. After a round of introductions, during which we each groped our way through the raw thoughts brought about by the class description of 'fictocriticism,' we were asked to take a few minutes to write upon the idea of an 'unruly hybrid.' I picked up my pen and stared at the blank page, envisioning the stretching of rusty academic muscles and joints.

Then, I wrote:

 
   The word 'unruly,' to me, is a word of youth and play and leather 
   jackets. It's a word I would use to describe my friend Aaron, all 
   decked out with his silver spray-painted knee high stomping Doc 
   Martens, leaning on a street lamp somewhere in the East Village 
   of New York City, with his mohawk curling down around his face, 
   flashing that wide, warm, feral grin. 
 
      And even Aaron would bow to the inevitable branding of 
   hybrid. Indeed, he would embrace the word, cuddling it to his 
   soft flat chest. The word 'hybrid' is stuck fast to his skin ever 
   since he was a teenager, and before. Every since the time he 
   switched all his pronouns over, cut off his double-D breasts and 
   abandoned his given name. 
 
        Charlotte. (1) 
 
      Can people embody writing? A genre? A system? If we were to 
   put Aaron under a microscope, fillet him gently with our 
   academic razors, we might conclude that he embodies the 
   fictocritical, the unruly hybrid of opposing and entangled 
   cultural/literary norms. He is firmly rooted in androgyny and yet 
   deeply invested in the cultural and social polarity of gender. 
   Aaron is stretching the spaces in between. 

I realised three things, as I was pouring this scrawling muse across the pages of my notebook. The first was that I could feel those academic muscles limbering up again: I had not, apparently, lost them completely. The second was that I had managed to craft a quickly personal approach to fictocriticism that I would be hard pressed to shake off: I had, essentially, gender-queered the genre.

The third thing I realised was that I had read this style before. Almost a year ago as I'm writing this, I went to the East Village to attend a sex-positive salon, essentially a bar night designed to bring the educators and activists of several different alternative sexualities together. …

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