Monday, May 5, 2014

Writing on Salt Story

Salt Story had a really good book review in the UWA mag Uniview recently. It's in the back pages where the trajectories of university graduates come to rest, for the moment. As someone wrote to the magazine, it's also the first place where other graduates go to see who is doing what. I agree.
So here it is ... or bits of it:

Reviewers are unanimous that UWA graduate Sarah Drummond has produced a heart-felt book that sweeps readers into a community of professional South West fishermen who battle storms - natural and political - and struggle to make a living in changing times.

"It's a lovely read," concluded The West Australian. "There are times you can almost feel the small boat bumping against waves and taste the salt spray as they lurch about in storms, navigate netting politics and haul in their catch."

Salt Story: of sea-dogs and fisherwomen (Fremantle Press) is Sarah's first book and it's a tribute to the inshore and estuarine commercial fishing industry and a fading way of life that, as one reviewer put it, "is under threat, dying of a thousand government cuts."

The author admits that as a wayward teen she was drawn to the jetties and beaches and to the lot of fishermen, yachties and truckies whose 'purposeful shiftlessness and nomadism raised a middle finger to the myth of the Great Australian Suburban Dream.'

Interesting that bit ... the author admits. Of course any Australian teenage girl looking for mayhem, meaning and adventure will be beckoned by seafarers and artists, roadhouses and jetties.
I'm leery of the words 'admits' or 'admission' in this context, because it reminds me that society demands that women rescind or regret their earlier wild child experiences, and at the same time it strives to censure those brave, girly new worlders of the next gen - to make sure they behave themselves.

Anyhoo, that is another thesis or book. In the meantime, this is one of the nicest reviews of Salt Story that I've read, and particularly because it comes from my peers, from the uni where I found my feet as an academic and a writer. Plus the reviewer mentioned that Salt Story had sold out in two months and that a reprint is already in the bookstores. Which was very cool.


  1. Really nice review Sarah. And I agree, the use of 'admits' is a bit loaded. It was probably writtten by a 'bloke'.

    1. Wasn't, but maybe that is not the point. I just find the word interesting in its 'loadedness' (new word. Hah.)

  2. Of course any Australian teenage girl looking for mayhem, meaning and adventure

    I think the worst aspect of my youth was that I never looked for meaning with my mayhem and adventure. I was a nihilist who didn't particularly believe in meaning, the value of life, or moral consequences. As such, I did some pretty horrible things that I think I'd rather not admit to. And I certainly wouldn't want to encourage the next generation following in those footsteps.

    1. Oh, I know those nihilistic youth. I once had to explain to a police officer what the word meant, after he'd arrested a family member acting up and shut her in a cell for the night. (He was completely shitty with me by the way. "What does nihilistic mean again? Actually, I don't care. Just sign here.")

      I've gone through quick phases of death wishes and nastiness but it never lasted long. The main thing for me was finding meaning and some kind of structure within stories and experiences, and for that I headed to the jetties. I still don't see it as a moral slide, that yearning for something outside my cultural square, and it makes me a bit cranky that others do. If I was a bloke and from some elite class, I'd have been called a sojourning adventurer.
      Raised middle finger.

    2. Mmmm, I know what the inside of those cells look like. I don't think I ever had someone try to explain nihilism to a copper for me though. I like that story.

      I suppose it depends on how you think of the idea of a death-wish, but I never really wanted to die, per-se. It was more that, since I didn't believe in an afterlife (still don't) and saw death as inevitable no matter what (still do), I had no reason to fear dying. In fact, in the back of my mind, I had a notion that if I ever got into an unbearable situation, death would be a fine place to escape to. That made me quite dangerous.

      What finally brought me around was that I woke up to what it would be like for my folks to have to bury another child. Thinking about it, I'm probably lucky I never fell out with them.

      I still don't see it as a moral slide, that yearning for something outside my cultural square, and it makes me a bit cranky that others do. If I was a bloke and from some elite class, I'd have been called a sojourning adventurer.

      This absolutely clarifies your point for me. What you're talking about is a completely different kettle of fish from what I was thinking about from my own wayward youth. And I agree about the way these things are judged differently in relation to sex. I wonder if it has anything to do with these sorts of things being judged as riskier for women, especially if they don't have a bloke to look after them?

      Meh ... Raised middle finger, indeed.

    3. Alex, firstly, I rather enjoyed explaining that word to a copper a decade or so younger than me. Even then I understood power and how it works. I'm sure he did too.

      And secondly, yes, I was talking about the gender kettle of fish. 'Risk', whether it be sexual or otherwise, is kind of sanctioned against young women (or any women) and galloping behind those sanctions come the moral mores and strictures that I have always found repugnant. Not having a bloke to look after us ... well in the past it would have meant our children were put into institutions, or worse.
      So yes, Meh.

  3. Very cool review especially including the bit about it selling out so quickly and going to reprint. YES! And about the hanging around at jetties etc, and the use of the word 'admits to' - I agree. It pricked my eyes as I read it. I saw it as a part of your childhood and beyond that was an interest that has clearly been a part of your development into woman and writer. Not all females are fey insipid creatures who need to be protected from, er, life. But we all know that, right?

  4. Don't we?
    I'm glad it pricked your eyes too Melba x