September 2005

Arts & Letters

‘In My Skin’ by Kate Holden

By Zora Simic

The road to junkiedom and prostitution is littered with cliches. Kate Holden’s memoir – the tale of a good Melbourne girl who becomes a heroin-addicted prostitute – mostly avoids the romanticism that often plagues such stories. She’s not averse to shock value and In My Skin contains occasionally lurid moments, but not at the cost of genuine fidelity to the finer points of her experience. If her reasons for turning to smack and sex work read like indulgent undergraduate experimentation, that’s because she was a restless student, eager to test her boundaries. And if the junkie section – revisiting again and again the grind of scoring, the bliss of the hit – drifts along aimlessly, it’s because junkie life is like that.

Holden’s deft writing is most resonant when she traces her move from hustling on the streets to working in brothels. She comments as insider and outsider, as prostitute and writer: “The more I saw of the meek, the bored, the frustrated, the more I glimpsed how our society works.” One client becomes a friend; another finds her hitting the panic button. The vulnerable camaraderie among the prostitutes makes for compelling reading. “The girls were my social life ... a strange little community, brimming with intimacy, blocked by secrets.” In this world, Holden finds an ambivalent emancipation, perhaps the only sort. She concedes a few regrets, mostly to do with her long-suffering parents. But ultimately she’s not after absolution or redemption.

“I sometimes wondered, with my legs spread over the face of some eager man, if I felt regret for the invasion of my secret spaces.” Her answer? “I am still me.”

Cover: September 2005

September 2005

From the front page

Image of Minister for Skills Michaelia Cash

Cash-strapped

The looming training overhaul will need to be watched closely

Cold was the ground: ‘Sorry for Your Trouble’

Richard Ford delivers an elegant collection of stories of timeworn men and women contemplating the end

Photograph of Malcolm Turnbull

Surrounded by pygmies: Malcolm Turnbull’s ‘A Bigger Picture’

The former PM’s memoir fails to reckon with his fatal belief that all Australians shared his vision

Child's illustration

The screens that ate school

What do we really know about the growing presence of Google, Apple, Microsoft and more in the education system?


In This Issue

Illustration by Jeff Fisher.

Comment

Love Story

A vision of a world where adults and children are equals. ‘Motherhood’ by Anne Manne
Illustration by Jeff Fisher.

She is somewhere

The beautiful & the damned clunky

Laura Linney and Topher Grace in ‘P.S.’

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Surrounded by pygmies: Malcolm Turnbull’s ‘A Bigger Picture’

The former PM’s memoir fails to reckon with his fatal belief that all Australians shared his vision

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Melbourne-born, New York–based filmmaker Kitty Green’s powerfully underplayed portrait of Hollywood’s abusive culture

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Snap-back: Dua Lipa’s ‘Future Nostalgia’

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‘The Trials of Portnoy’ by Patrick Mullins

The finely detailed story of the legal fight in Australia against the censorship of Philip Roth’s ‘Portnoy’s Complaint’

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‘The End of October’ by Lawrence Wright

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The Australian writer’s lyrical consideration of our relationship with whales is a new and ambitious kind of nature writing

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‘Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982’ by Cho Nam-Joo (trans. Jamie Chang)

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Read on

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Richard Ford delivers an elegant collection of stories of timeworn men and women contemplating the end

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Moral bankruptcy

Robodebt stemmed from the false ideological division between the deserving and undeserving poor, but the government still clings to moralistic language

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It’s about time

The High Court’s landmark ruling on the ‘Palace Papers’ is a win for Australian social democracy

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Something mythic

For Robyn Davidson, her acclaimed memoir ‘Tracks’ was an act of freedom whose reception hemmed her in


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