The Lifted Brow is a self-described ‘quarterly attack journal’ that prints stories, essays, poems and comics by talented young artists from Australia and overseas.
I first read this magazine in 2013, when I was given a canvas bag full of issues as part of a short story prize. They were printed like old-fashioned newspapers, frail A3 sheets without staples. Although I made it through a few interesting pieces, the format was too impractical for me to handle. After learning that I could order the newest Lifted Brow for whatever price I wanted, I decided to give the journal another chance and bought a new copy for four dollars. The presentation has been radically improved, now The Lifted Brow is a cardboard paperback with all the pages glued to a spine, just as they should be. It’s great.
Usually in Australian literary journals, the creative non-fiction bits are the best part. Fiona Wrights There’s No Dirt in my Food was an insightful look into how nutrition and morality have become entangled in popular culture, and the disturbing health outcomes such thinking can lead to. Scott Esposito’s review of a Bansky film that danced on the edge of the viewer’s disbelief was appropriately mindboggling, at times to Borgesian levels. And while I found Daniel Levin Becker’s detailed attempt to explain Kanye West entertaining, I think I know the solution. I’m fairly certain Kanye is bipolar.
The fiction was pretty good, too. Allee Richard’s Australian story was a satirical fake autobiography of Bindi Irwin, exploring her rise to fame and the crucial role remembering her father’s death has in that fame. Bindi is never explicitly named, probably for legal reasons, but the slightly blasphemous defamatory nature of the whole thing was delicious. There was an extract from Cesar Aire’s novel Ema the Captive, describing the financial dealings between an American fort and the local native tribes with a slightly Magical Realist atmosphere, which was also pretty good, though not as fun as the Richard story.
Poetry and comics were also contained within this edition of The Lifted Brow, and neither did much for me. Finding poems I like is hard, the best way I can describe it is like finding a good novel in a world where novels aren’t classified by genre or ascribed to authors. Reading poetry is always going to be a gamble, and for me it’s rarely worth the effort. The comics weren’t bad, but as an avid reader of American superheroes I feel that there’s something missing when a comic story focuses on mundane day-to-day matters. Australian comics always seems to be either realistic or inaccessibly avante-garde, and while there’s a place for both of those qualities in comics, I really wish we had an iconic graphic novel about a protagonist whose name ends with ‘man’. Someone needs to make a book about Condoman so daring and insightful that it wins a bunch of prizes and triggers an important National Conversation about whether graphic novels count as Literature. That’s what I want for the Australian comic scene. The comic stories The Lifted Brow had were good, but they don’t have what I look for in comics.
If The Lifted Brow offers future issues on a name-your-price basis, I’ll get them. I wouldn’t pay the recommended retail price though, not because I don’t think it’d be worth it, but because my finances are far from what they should be. Were I to have more money I’d probably read more Australian literary journals. I like Meanjin and I’ve tried Southerly, but there’s a few others that deserve my attention.
You, on the other hand, ought to check out The Lifted Brow, if you’re interested in supporting young Australian artists. You can buy it here.