Reference Books

Against the Grain: Beverley Farmer's Writing,
UQP Studies in Australian Literature by Lyn Jacobs

Beverley Farmer’s writing is valued for its clarity and intellectual breadth, its perceptive appreciation of people and place and its lyrical, evocative and stylish prose. Lyn Jacobs’ comprehensive critical study of Farmer’s art surveys her poetry and prose and subsequent criticism to assess Farmer’s contribution to contemporary Australian writing.

Farmer’s interrogations of the sites and rites of cultural formation and change and the effects of memory and time are evaluated. Jacobs read this work in relation to postmodern revision of writing and reception: shifts in gender politics, departures from modernist paradigms, problematisations of self-expression and authenticity, redefinitions of performative, fictocritical and queer writing-spaces and increasing hybridity of genre and form. Jacobs argues that Farmer leads readers beyond familiar thresholds, writing ‘against the grain’ to convey a sensuous and intellectual appreciation of life experience.

Lyn Jacobs is Associate Professor in Australian Literature and Australian Studies and the Flinders University where she has taught English since 1979 and lectured since 1988. Lyn’s reviews and articles on contemporary Australian fiction, Australian poetry and Australian women’s writing, have been published and valued locally and internationally.

Copyright Lyn Jacobs, all Rights Reserved. Author note

Beverley Farmer 1941-2018: A Tribute
Archetypes and fluency in This Water: Five Tales by Lyn Jacobs

In the history of story-telling the declining importance of oral transmission in modern times has been linked to diminished leisure, changing modes of production and what Walter Benjamin called the lack of ‘a community of listeners’ and while the need for recitation of ancient narratives may have diminished in some cultures, story-telling has found new forms in image and song-making to convey its common truths.

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Writers on writers: On Beverley Farmer
by Josephine Rowe

In this beautifully hewn essay, novelist and short-story writer Josephine Rowe finds a kindred spirit in Beverley Farmer and argues for a celebration of this long-neglected Australian writer.

'Across Farmer's works there has always been an attraction to those beings who occupy two worlds...Once one has lived elsewhere, lived differently, it doesn't matter whether she stays to forge a new life or turns back towards the old, or moves on once again; there will always be the shadow, the after-image, of the life not lived.'

Beverley Farmer's writing reflects on restlessness, desire and homecoming. In this brilliantly acute essay, fellow novelist and short-story writer Josephine Rowe finds a kindred spirit and argues for a celebration and reclamation of this unique Australian author.

Josephine Rowe was born in 1984 in Rockhampton and raised in Melbourne. Her novel, A Loving, Faithful Animal, was longlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award, selected as a New York Times Editors' Choice and led to her being named a 2017 Sydney Morning Herald Best Young Novelist. Her work has appeared widely in Australia and overseas, including in McSweeney's, Best Australian Stories, Meanjin, The Paris Review Daily and Freeman's. The winner of the 2016 ABR Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize, Rowe has held fellowships with the University of Iowa, Stanford University, the Omi International Arts Center and Yaddo.

Beverley Farmer and the solitude of the writing life. Owen Richardson January 22, 2021 The Sydney Morning Herald

“My 46th birthday, and no end in sight to the long struggle to come to terms with this isolation, this sterility … Not one story has achieved its being in my hands for nearly two years now.” In February 1987, when she wrote these words, Beverley Farmer was the author of two collections of short fiction and a short novel, Alone, which had won attention for its vivid and uncompromising portrayal of same-sex passion. Her next book would be 1990’s A Body of Water, now reissued, a record of that long struggle, a journal of fallowness and new growth.
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The Body of Text: Beverley Farmer’s A Body of Water By Janice Shaw

A Body of Water was written by Beverley Farmer as a notebook which would grow and evolve in an organic way, like a body, in conjunction with her body of writing. She kept this journal between 1987 and 1988 in order to comment upon her own process of composition and that of the writing of others which informed and influenced it. The metaphor of the text growing ‘like a placenta in the womb’ is a recurring one as the writer views her creativity in writing fiction as allied to the process of conception and gestation of a child.

A Body of Water, written by the Australian author Beverley Farmer, is sub-titled A Year’s Notebook, but it is much more a unified body of work than a collection of notes, as its main title implies. Farmer’s early writings from the 1980s include the short story collections Milk and Home Time and a novel, Alone, which has loosely autobiographical aspects. A Body of Water, which was published in 1990, comments upon these collections, her work in progress, and the process of writing as well as her perspective of its intrinsically autobiographical nature. Farmer’s established reputation as a prize winning Australian writer gave a literary and cultural context to a book which is essentially life writing, since it is a series of diary entries based on her experiences in a particular time of her life. But while it consists of a writer’s journal, extending from February 1987 to 1988, Farmer does not simply write of the events in that year: the book encompasses her thoughts and ideas on writing and life, excerpts from other writings, newspaper reports, poetry, and short stories which she includes along with comments about the way she has written them. So the book is a collage of her own and other’s writings; but even when she includes the work of others, it is always with a focus of how this writing is special to her, what it means to her and her work. It is a very difficult text to classify, since it is not completely autobiography, not totally fiction, and not really documentary. This paper proposes that it is probably best viewed on its own terms, that is, using the metaphor which Farmer has introduced in both the title and the structure of the text, that it is a body of work, related to an organic body since it is a product of the writer’s conception, but it grows and develops apart from her, while still being connected to her.

Ref: Shaw, J., 2010. The Body of Text: Beverley Farmer’s A Body of Water. Body, Space & Technology, 9(1). DOI: /10.16995/bst.118