Guest review: Elena Gomez on Kill Your Darlings Issue One

I was really excited when Ange asked me to review the very first issue of new literary journal Kill Your Darlings, created by some hip Melbourne literary-types, edited by Affirm Press’s Rebecca Starford.

Then I read its opening article: Gideon Haigh’s scathing piece on the Australian book review landscape. I got a little stage fright and have only just crawled out of my hiding hole to write this. Haigh’s ‘Feeding the Hand That Bites’ does exactly what its title indicates, as Stephen Romei pointed out in his response on the Australian Literary Review blog A Pair of Ragged Claws. It is brutal, controversial, and definitely delivers the punch that one would expect from a magazine whose slogan is ‘literature that bites back’.

Clementine Ford’s ‘Internet Dating’ is as much a comic look at the hilariously tragic side of the online courting process, as it is an elegy to the bright-eyed optimism of youth. The reflective essays from Paul Mitchell (on shopping with his daughter), comedian Tracy Crisp (on moving her family overseas), and even Georgia Gowing (on the Australian roller derby scene), through internal reflection, explore the search for real sentiment in a world of hyper-consumerism and brand obsession; the risks we take in order to pursue a dream; and the kinship and camaraderie of belonging to a group with a common interest.

Justin Heazlewood (aka The Bedroom Philosopher)’s ‘Lying In Intensive Care: The Plight of the Album’ tail-ends the nonfiction section. He expands on Thom York’s recent declaration of the death of the album since iTunes grabbed hold of the music industry and shook it till all the pennies dropped out. He sympathises with the poor musicians and album creators who spent precious time laying out tracks ‘painstakingly’, only to have them raped by technology. According to Heazlewood, CD audio = good, MP3 = bad. It’s a little (I hesitate to use this word) pretentious, he looks down his nose at those who are happy 21st century consumers of digital music. But then again, I found myself agreeing with most of his arguments.

Fiction from Emmett Stinson, Patrick Cullen, Kalinda Ashton and Chris Womersley, to name a few, touch on the the complexities of relationships, revenge, the ardently opposing forces of a father and his son; and then there’s Ricki-Lee Coulter’s Idol diary entries, in cartoon form, just when you think this literary magazine might be on the verge of (gasp) taking itself seriously.

While the interview with Sarah Waters is interesting and, as interviews should be, a conversation between two people that readers get to share in, the standout is Anthony Morris’s ‘Shit Never Fucking Changes’, a rapturous review of television series The Wire. While it’s generally a knee-jerk reaction to be suspicious of a review that is full of praise (I mean, the story leads with the claim that The Wire is the best television drama series ever made), Morris goes on to critically analyse the show without raving. He explains that ‘the central genius of The Wire – why it is in many ways a giant slap in the face to those who think that genre fiction is somehow a lesser artistic form – is that it takes the traditional view of the underworld and shows us how it applies to Western society as a whole: cop and criminal, drug lord and mayor, schoolkid and dockworker alike.’ Unlike other cop dramas, Morris says, The Wire doesn’t contain the underlying theme that police are making a real difference, and the result is, surprisingly, ‘far from depressing to watch.’

Kill Your Darlings is literary with street cred. Hopefully it will be able to maintain its street cred while pleasing the high-brow tastes of its readers (you know, learned, wine-drinking, Wire-watching types who listen to albums in their entirety). But with a punchy first issue like this, we can only look forward to what comes next.

Elena-203x300Elena Gomez is an aspiring writer, blogger and journalism graduate turned publishing noob. She discovered she could write when she won the QLD Courier Mail Young Reviewer of the Year Award 2000, age 12, with a review of Luke’s Way of Looking by Nadia Wheatley. She now writes for

LM: Kill Your Darlings also have a blog. See here.

2 thoughts on “Guest review: Elena Gomez on Kill Your Darlings Issue One

  1. Pingback: April 12: What’s happening, Melbourne? « Thuy Linh Nguyen

  2. Great review Elena – I might actually go out and buy this one!

    however, I must add: the constant claim made about The Wire “best show ever” is so antithetical to a true criticism, it’s hyperbolic at best, and adds nothing. Drives me crrrazy!! Are we to now assume that nothing can ever be better? That entertainment is bunk?

    I posted on this subject last year. There are plenty of cop dramas that explore the darker side. Not least of which is Homicide: Life On The Street, David Simon’s original ode to Baltimore, and The Shield: which in many ways goes deeper, darker and more ambiguous than The Wire dares to. It also came out about the same time, and went an extra two seasons… I only mention it because I happen to have blogged on the subject today!

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