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Post-grunge lit

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Post-grunge lit is a genre of Australian fiction from the late 1990s, 2000s and 2010s. It is called "post-grunge lit" to denote that this genre appeared after the 1990s Australian literary genre known as grunge lit. Ian Syson states that the first "post-grunge" novel in Australia may have been as early as 1996, with Andrew McGahan's 1988, a novel which Syson states "...put paid to the to the tradition of young, sexually-charged, contemporary, angry, ahistorical, amoral, nihilistic" text that was seen in McGahan's Praise, the first novel named as a grunge lit work.[1]

Michael Robert Christie's 2009 PhD dissertation, "Unbecoming-of-Age: Australian Grunge Fiction, the Bildungsroman and the Long Labor Decade" states that there is a genre called "post Grunge [lit]" which follows the grunge lit period. Christie names three examples of Australian "post-grunge lit": Elliot Perlman's Three Dollars (1998), Andrew McCann's Subtopia and Anthony Macris' Capital. Christie's dissertation interprets and explains these three post-grunge lit works "as responses to the embedding of Neoliberalism in Australian and global political culture".

Kalinda Ashton (born 1978) has been called a post-grunge writer, in part due to influences from grunge lit author Christos Tsiolkas. Ashton is the author of the novel The Danger Game. Samantha Dagg's 2017 thesis on grunge lit and post-grunge lit states that Luke Carman is a post-grunge writer.[2]

Kalinda Ashton[edit]

Kalinda Ashton was a member of the Trotskyist organisation, Socialist Alternative,[3] and is now an associate editor of the literary journal, Overland.[4] She has taught literature and creative writing at various universities in Australia including RMIT and Flinders University. Ashton is a long-standing social justice activist and a vegetarian. Her short stories have been published in Meanjin, Overland, Sleepers Almanac, Kill Your Darlings and other journals and anthologies.[citation needed]

Luke Carman[edit]

Luke Carman's first book, An Elegant Young Man, won the NSW Premier’s Literary Award for New Writing.[5] An Elegant Young Man is a collection of short stories that are linked together, and which are semi-autobiographical.[6] The stories have a protagonist whose name is also Luke and who lives in the author's hometown. Carman stated that he used Liverpool, Australia, as a setting because Australia's "western suburbs have been largely absent from the face of Australian fiction", with an effort to show the "...ugliness of working class suburbia and the pain of being an outsider" with "...authenticity, warts and all." [7]

In one of the stories, a teen who "...dreams of fame fade[s] into an adulthood of blue collar work"; the narrator/author is described as a "...passive force, constantly in the midst of the action but solely as an observer who cannot save anybody", as if in "paralysis", until characters' lives are "quietly lost to monotony."[8] In another story, a female character who faces an abusive relationship becomes addicted to drugs.[9] Carman used a "writers’ network" to hold discussions about draft versions of the book and perform the drafts, which helped him to develop his writing. [10]

In 2016, Carman wrote an essay criticizing Melbourne arts adminstrators and arts organizations (e.g., funding panels, journals, writer's festivals). The essay's vitriolic tone and content garnered attention in Australia and elsewhere in the world, including from The Guardian writer Ben Eltham.

Anthony Macris[edit]

Anthony Macris' Capital novels examine "the increasing penetration of market forces into everyday life" (Sydney Review of Books), and the effect of "the last several decades of capitalist ‘progress’ … [on] ‘the life-worlds of ordinary people" (The Conversation). In Capital, Volume One, Macris does an impersonal tracking of the movement of dead commodities in a London Underground train station. He presents a dystopia of the marketisation of quotidian, globalised life, alluding to Marx's study of the commodity form and to the journey of Leopold Bloom in Joyce's Ulysses. These impersonal chapters are contrasted with assemblages of neoliberal capitalism--combining with pop musical and film culture, with the petroleum industry, with the higher education and restaurant sectors. This disorienting experimentation with subject, time and place, producing something like a sublime rhythmic composition that, rather than falling into the negative, critical gravity of the novel's content, suggests ways out of this neoliberal dystopia.

Elliot Perlman[edit]

Elliot Perlman's fiction "condemns the economic rationalism that destroys the humanity of ordinary people when they are confronted with unemployment and poverty".[11] This is not surprising in a writer who admires Raymond Carver and Graham Greene because they "write with quite a strong moral centre and a strong sense of compassion".[12] However, he says, "Part of my task is to entertain readers. I don't want it to be propaganda at all. I don't think that for something to be political fiction it has to offer an alternative; I think just a social critique is enough."[12] He describes himself, in fact, as being interested in "the essence of humanity" and argued that exploring this often means touching on political issues.[12] Perlman often uses music, and song lyrics, in his writing to convey an idea or mood, or to give a sense of who a character is. However, he recognises that this is "a bit of a risk because the less familiar the reader is with the song, the smaller the pay off".[12]


  1. Syson, Ian. "Smells like market spirit: grunge, literature, Australia". Overland 142 (1996): p. 21
  2. Dagg, Samantha. "Still digging: from grunge to post-grunge in Australian fiction". Thesis, 2017. http://hdl.handle.net/1959.13/1342404
  3. Terrorism is not the problem, Socialist Alternative, Edition 55, January, 2002. Accessed: 27 December 2009.
  4. Kalinda Ashton, Readings.com, 5 August 2009. Accessed: 2 December 2009.
  5. "Luke Carman". www.sbs.com.au. SBS. Retrieved 22 December 2017.
  6. "Luke Carman". www.wheelercentre.com. Wheeler Centre. Retrieved 22 December 2017.
  7. Cregan, Ellen. "REVIEW: An Elegant Young Man by Luke Carman". umsu.unimelb.edu.au. University of Melbourne Student Union. Retrieved 22 December 2017.
  8. Cregan, Ellen. "REVIEW: An Elegant Young Man by Luke Carman". umsu.unimelb.edu.au. University of Melbourne Student Union. Retrieved 22 December 2017.
  9. Cregan, Ellen. "REVIEW: An Elegant Young Man by Luke Carman". umsu.unimelb.edu.au. University of Melbourne Student Union. Retrieved 22 December 2017.
  10. Neave, Lucy. "Revision, community and performance: the role of a literary network in the development of Michael Mohammed Ahmad’s The Tribe and Luke Carman’s An Elegant Young Man". New Writing: The International Journal for the Practice and Theory of Creative Writing. Volume 13, 2016 - Issue 2.
  11. Perlman, Elliot, austlit.edu.au
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 Perlman, Elliot (2001) "The world is closing in: an interview with Elliot Perlman by Byrne, Madeleine", Antipodes, 15 (1): 10–12

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