The KYD team get together once again to discuss acclaimed Japanese author Sayaka Murata’s experimental, compelling and disturbing new novel Earthlings, translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori and published by Granta.

We also compare notes on Voxdocs, a series of eight short films created by Australian performing artists during lockdown funded by Shark Island Institute and the Documentary Australia Foundation, in association with the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age.

Content warning: This episode contains frank descriptions and discussions of a sexual nature, as well as strong language and adult themes, so it might not be suitable for all listeners. This episode also contains spoilers for Earthlings.

Our theme song is Broke for Free’s ‘Something Elated’. This episode was produced by Hayley May Bracken.

Further Reading and Culture Picks:

Sayaka Murata’s short story ‘A Clean Marriage’

Sayaka Murata and Ginny Tapley Takemori in conversation for Japan Society NYC.

Lauren Carroll Harris on the arts crisis and ‘internalised funding agency speak’

The 40-Year-Old Version 

Kylie Minogue, Disco 

Róisín Murphy, Róisín Machine

Samanta Schweblin, Little Eyes

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Hayley May Bracken: Hello and welcome back to Kill Your Darlings Podcast. I’m your host Hayley May Bracken, and I’m joined remotely by Kill Your Darlings’ own Alice Cottrell, Ellen Cregan and Alan Vaarwerk.

Alan Vaarwerk: Hey, Hayley.

HMB: Thank you for joining me and lovely to hear you all again. Today we will be discussing Voxdocs, a series of short documentary films made by and about Australian artists during lockdown earlier this year, and the shockingly transgressive yet tender Earthlings, the much-anticipated second novel by Sayaka Murata, which arrives two years after Murata’s English language debut and mega-success, the semi-autobiographical novella Convenience Store Woman, beautifully translated into English by Ginny Tapley Takemori and published by Granta. Earthlings revisits many themes that appear in Convenience Store Woman such as resisting societal expectations of work, parenthood and sex, narrated through the perspective of a female outsider. However Earthlings distinguishes itself by taking these concepts to the nth degree, exploring more radical taboo and graphic possibilities. Content warning—we’ll be discussing themes of sexual abuse in this episode. Natsuki lives a quiet life with her asexual husband in Tokyo, surviving as best she can by pretending to be normal. But the demands of Natsuki’s family are increasing—Her friends wonder why she’s still not pregnant, and dark shadows from Natsuki’s childhood are pursuing her. Fleeing the suburbs for the mountains of her childhood, Natsuki prepares herself for a reunion with her cousin Yuu. What were your first impressions of Earthlings, how was the reading experience, and have you read other work of Murata’s before?

AV: Yeah, I’ve, I read Convenience Store Woman, her novella, maybe, I think just over this last summer actually, and I found it really compelling, very readable, and this was, this was similar—this was very readable, and it’s a weird novel, like it has that same kind of deadpan sort of tone that Murata has in Convenience Store Woman, and like you say, Hayley, really sort of takes the similar ideas that—in the debut, in Convenience Store Woman and really just stretches them to their absolute logical endpoints or illogical endpoints even. But yeah, as a reading experience, it was, it’s a real page-turner, and it’s very enjoyable to read, which is kind of—I don’t really know why, for something that’s told so, sort of, dispassionately, and touches on some pretty disturbing topics. I don’t know what sort of alchemy there is there that makes it such a compelling read.

Ellen Cregan: I’d also read Convenience Store Woman and really, really, really loved it, so I was really excited to read this book—and I had a similar experience to Alan, that I found it super readable, super compelling, and even as the subject matter got more and more dark and disturbing, I was sort of torn between being really disturbed but also still having that real desire to read as fast as possible because the writing’s so great. But, um, what I really loved about it is that it’s one of those second books that an author who has, like, a successful first book can basically do whatever they want. And that’s just so awesome because, I think no one would get away with publishing this as a debut, which is a huge disappointment because it’s so excellent and experimental, and does something so interesting. So that was, yeah, I found that really cool about it.

Alice Cottrell: I hadn’t read anything by Murata before, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect about this going in. I also really enjoyed it, but…I sort of admire it, but I’m not sure that the novel maybe quite pulled off for me what it was trying to do towards the end, but I sort of felt so admiring of the effort to get there, that I didn’t mind, really. So I guess there’s probably going to be a few spoilers in this episode, but towards the end the protagonist Natsuki, yeah, flees to the mountain town of her childhood, she stays in her uncle’s house, she’s with her husband, she’s reconnecting with her cousin Yuu who she hasn’t seen since they were children and were kind of caught in this incestuous sexual encounter that scandalised the whole family. And things just go completely wild—we’re talking murder, cannibalism, um, aliens—it just goes, you know, round the bend. And I really enjoyed, you know, that she pushed it that far, but it happened so quickly for me in the last kind of 20 pages of the novel, that I didn’t sort of feel, I guess, that there was enough of a descent into that. It just suddenly happened. And I mean, the tone of the rest of the book, and the voice of the protagonist is so compelling that I wanted to go with her, but I think it kind of stretched my credulity a bit too far, maybe? I mean not that, I don’t know if I’m even meant to find it credulous, but it sort of happened so suddenly that took me by surprise in a good way, but maybe didn’t draw me into the mayhem in the way that it would have if some of those things that happened earlier on. What do you guys think?

HMB: I really enjoyed the analysis you gave, Alan, about how it’s this very intense story told in a dispassionate way, but I think that actually adds and heightens too, what makes it fascinating. The tone sort of reminded me of Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time or Miranda July’s The First Bad Man, because we’re so sympathetically drawn into a perspective that is not typically drawn, typically shown to people. And something about the simple language to convey complex critiques of societal pressures and customs in like a lateral, sort of naive, earnest way makes it really interesting, that you can follow the simple logic of the protagonist, of Natsuki as she’s doing these off-the-wall things, but you can see her rationale within it all the time. But I’ve since watched some interesting interviews with Sayaka Murata and she says that she actually tried to write from the perspective as though they really were aliens, and trying to survive—not that that’s the definitive reading or like the truth of it, but that that was the perspective taken in the writing, and that helped me understand.

AV: Yeah, I think the aliens perspective is interesting because, you know, that’s how, that’s how Natsuki and, you know, to begin with Natsuki and then further on Yuu and her husband as well. That’s how they rationalise their not fitting in to society as they are aliens from the planet—I’m going to have a stab at the name of the planet, the planet Popinpobopia, which is…

HMB: Well done.

AV: ..Sort of a, I guess it begins as kind of like the equivalent to an imaginary friend, this sort of small toy hamster named Piyyut that kind of talks to Natsuki as a child, and says the she has magical powers, which are really kind of coping strategies to kind of deal with trauma, I guess, and how she passes that on to her husband and her cousin as a way of sort of seeing the world and dealing with this society that they call the Factory in terms of this baby-making factory, and I think, yeah, it’s interesting the way that that is sustained. I don’t ever feel like it dipped into—it’s interesting what you say about how she tried to write it from the perspective of as though they were aliens, because I never really felt like it was trying to suggest that that was anything other than a coping mechanism in the book. I don’t think, you know, I did not expect that, you know, a space, a spaceship would descend at the end and things like that. It’s sort of very, it seemed very clear to me throughout that this was a, a way of yeah, rationalising the fact that they were outsiders, but it is interesting to take that perspective.

EC: In a way they kind of do transport to an alien planet in the end, because they cross all of these taboo lines—so again spoilers, but they end up living completely naked, sleeping in a giant huddle, like a giant asexual huddle, as Alice mentioned the cannibalism, just basically everything that you can think of that’s a complete taboo in our cultures. They cross that line, and I kind of read that as the alien part, like the full becoming alien part. So while a spaceship doesn’t land, maybe that’s kind of the perspective she was coming from, of like, really believing that they were aliens because in the end they’re not human.

AC: So Sayaka Murata said that she wanted to use the form of the novel to ‘conduct experiments’. What experiments do you guys think that Earthlings was exploring?

AV: I guess it’s sort of like we’ve been talking about, how it’s exploring the structures of society, and what we think of as norms, and what we think of as, just the facts of life I guess, that, kind of, you will grow up, you’ll get married, you’ll have kids, you’ll raise a family, and this will all be something that you take pleasure in, and that is sort of expected of you. And even, and those things are sort of made ridiculous—I think Natsuki’s family in the novel is sort of quite grotesque, not only for obvious reasons in that they’re quite cruel to her, but also just in the way that even normal people in Natsuki’s life approach having children, and talk about having children, and I think that is sort of positioned in a way—possibly partly to do with how sort of detached Natsuki’s narration is, but it’s made very grotesque, and so you really do understand why these sort of structures of the Factory, as she calls it, are so kind of anathema to her in one sense. And then I guess it’s also just experimenting with what sort of taboos you can talk about in literature, and how far you can go while still being sort of respectable. Like it’s not a snuff novel, really, and it’s a capital-L Literary Fiction novel that is, you know, marketed in normal bookshops, but there’s some pretty sort of out there stuff in it, and so I think even just as a reading experience it really experiments with what we are able to stomach as readers—because, you know, like I say, for all of the content that is quite off-putting in the abstract, it is a very readable book.

EC: Because it is kind of a book about trauma—Natsuki suffers sexual abuse at the hands of a, I guess, an after school teacher when she’s a child, and this is kind of, it kind of underpins the whole novel. And there’s one thing that I won’t spoil—maybe one of you is going to, but there’s quite a horrible thing that happens that haunts her through her whole life. But I think this is a book about what unchecked trauma can do, and like, what lengths that can go to. Because we do have a lot of, like, healing from trauma in literature, and we hear those stories so often, but you don’t often hear the stories of, like, the downward descent if it never stopped—like beyond rock-bottom. So I think it’s experimental in that way as well.

AV: Yeah.

HMB: There’s six chapters in this novel, and each chapter is punctuated by an event, which seems to damage Natsuki in a way, or redeem her in a way, and some of the more transgressive, unsettling things that occur are part of her re-awakening, or part of her healing? And so that’s already at odds with, like, a clean narrative where someone goes from something horrible and moves towards healing in a way that’s linear and not problematic, but it’s totally problematic, and I think the perspective of sort of magical thinking or imbuing someone who’s suffered with, suffered trauma and viewing themselves as a sort of magical power, I love how it gets conflated with being alien, to the point where it becomes just the Alien Eye, the sort of contagious amorphous ‘Pinopopian’, sort of rational logic that’s outside of human social programming. And I think that that interpretation of it as an experiment about what we can stomach is so interesting, because having this as a book, as a novel, is so much more palatable than if we actually had to see this these things, I think. Something about the tone and something about the control of Murata’s prose makes it possible for me to hear about these things without having them disturb me.

AV: Alice, what do you think?

AC: About the experiment?

AV: Experimenting, yeah.

AC: Yeah, no, I agree that it’s an experiment in pushing the reader to kind of to see how far that they can go, and it’s interesting that all of us kind of have gone to the ends and to the depths, and you don’t sort of come out feeling negatively. So it’s a weird kind of magic trick in that way I think—that you’re with, yeah, these characters who do these incredibly disturbing things.

EC: I finished it at about seven in the morning, and I was sitting on the couch drinking coffee, and I was like, ‘this is so, so horrible, but also I just, like, can’t not read it right now.’ Like I desperately want to have a break, but I also need to keep reading ‘cause it’s such, it’s so well written that it’s so easy to get through. And it is—yeah, as I said, it’s compelling, but I definitely felt quite disturbed after I closed the book.

AC: Yeah, no, absolutely. I think it’s just maybe the inventiveness and the willingness, the kind of bravery to go somewhere I think is what—I mean, it’s not like anything else I’ve ever read, I can’t say. (Ellen laughs) Um…would I recommend it to people though?

AV: I was going to ask that, yeah, how would—‘would’ and ‘how would’ you recommend this book to people?

HMB: You could easily recommend it to anyone who enjoys experimental, radical fiction.

EC: Some of the themes and the, um, especially, as we say, those last 20 pages, they’re pretty unforgettable, and for the wrong person that could be an issue possibly.

AV: Yeah, I think I would struggle to recommend this book to someone as a first recommendation, (Ellen laughs) if they were like ‘oh, Alan, what sort of books, what sort of books should I read?’ and just go straight off the bat with this one, they might not come back to me for a recommendation. So, um, it would be, yeah, I mean I would definitely recommend it, I’d recommend it for anyone who likes experimental fiction that is also, yeah, very compelling—like it’s a kind of a good argument for the fact that experimental doesn’t have to mean dense, or it doesn’t have to mean sort of slow-going. Like it is, yeah, it’s very compelling at the same time as as doing some really interesting things.

HMB: Second up, we have Voxdocs, which is a series of short films commission by Shark Island Institute and the Documentary Australia Foundation, in collaboration with the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age, in which eight filmmakers were each given $10,000 and one month to make a 5-minute film about artists today, and each film represents a unique facet of the Australian arts landscape. So did you enjoy these films as a series? Why? And if not, why not?

AV: I enjoyed individual films within this series, but I thought as a whole, it didn’t necessarily strike me as a cohesive whole necessarily. And I mean, that’s probably partly to do with the structure of it, like they weren’t made as a cohesive whole, they were very much made as individual sort of segments. But there were a couple of, a couple of pieces in there that I really did quite enjoy. There was one, Maya Newell’s the Playlist, which follows a Tongan woman who is part of this theatre group, the theatre production is on hold due to coronavirus, so she’s using this time to talk to her mother and learn the Tongan language and sort of engage with her culture, I think that was a really beautifully shot short. And then there were a couple of other ones as well; there was a film called Unbalanced, which was, featured these two performers called the Huxleys and how they sort of used—it was kind of done in a quarantine diary kind of a way, and how they kind of do a bunch of DIY costumes and set up this photo shoot and kind of talk their way through it, I thought that was, it was quite, visually quite beautiful and quite sort of well done. But yeah, I thought as a, as an ensemble I thought there were some real hits and misses, and I’d be keen to hear what you guys think were the hits and misses.

AC: Yeah, I agree Alan, Playlist that you just mentioned was one of my favourites. I also thought A Reminder, directed by Alex Wu was beautiful—beautiful animation. There were things to enjoy in quite a few of them. I think what my critique was, and I was interested to hear what you guys thought about this, is maybe with the kind of framing or the, the brief of the project—I think it was kind of created in the midst of lockdown, you know, ‘the arts is in crisis, what can we do?’ which I totally agree with as an impulse, but, you know, there’s that saying in memoir where it’s like, ‘you should write from the scar, not the wound’. And this felt a bit too much like we’re still right in the middle of lockdown, COVID, you know, it’s so chaotic and difficult, and I just don’t know if that’s the best time to make work about it? Um… Yeah, so they sort—I sort of wanted a bit more distance from the event to be thought through. For me the most compelling films were the films that were sort of only tangentially related to COVID, so like you say, Playlist was more interesting because it’s about someone learning language and their relationship with her mother, um, or which were the other ones I enjoyed… my mother, the action star, directed by Maria Tran, that was about an actress who works as an action star, but she’s connecting with her mother who came to Australia from Vietnam by boat fleeing the war, and her story, and sort of positing her as, you know, the real action hero. So yeah, those were compelling to me just because of the stories being told, rather than the fact that they were about what it’s like to be an artist today in COVID.

EC: I actually loved this whole series, I thought it was really great—but I do agree that some of them did seem a bit maybe like they weren’t ready to produce something like that quite yet—as you say, write from the scar, not the wound. But I think my favourites were, I really liked the Gove Arts Theatre one, I thought that was really sweet, about the community theatre in a in a remote town, and I also really liked Unbalanced, of course, I thought that was great, but maybe because I, I guess, like, the chaos of this lockdown diary, it was easy to identify with in a way, having just been through this Melbourne lockdown, like the kind of, the big feelings that we all had. What I thought the series was missing, though, and I would have loved to see, was actually musicians, because they’re not—I don’t think there’s any musicians in it. There’s visual artists and there’s a spoken word poet, but we don’t really have any musical people.

HMB: It’s interesting you say that, Ellen, because in on the Age website, but you can watch Voxdocs, it says ‘short films, different voices, big ideas. Actors, dancers, singers, comedians—performers have been the hardest hit during the coronavirus pandemic and their work depends upon a group of people amassed in a confined space. That is an audience.’ And to read that write-up of what the summation of what Voxdocs is about is sort of interesting in terms of—when I did the little research about it, it seems that the director behind the Greg Fleet vox doc, it seems as though he had a personal relationship with Greg Fleet, saw his friend, who is a performer, a comedian in his 50s who has the indignity of going back onto government support payments in order to survive, and how his job essentially doesn’t exist because audiences can’t be there, and it seemed as though him wanting to tell the story about his friend needed to be placed into a larger context, and that’s why the Voxdocs series was sort of created, so that there could be more diverse stories, to send to spread the message. And it does seem like an awkward place to speak from. Some of the Voxdocs, they have funds that you can donate to, like the Actor’s Benevolent Fund at the end of A Reminder, or the fund and how you can offer support to them. It was sort of created in this atmosphere of ‘we really don’t know when we’ll ever be able to return back to being able to see live performance.’ I think that there’s something so special about that story, and that place, and I suppose there were all sort of trying to argue for importance of art. There was some sort of desperate plea, underneath.

AV: Yeah, I think it was interesting, the Gove Arts Theatre piece was really quite touching as well. And I think where this series shined is where it doesn’t just say, you know, the big blanket kind of ‘support the arts, we need to, you know, the arts do XYZ.’ I think where the series sort of started looking at some specifics, or some, or some other issues within ‘support the arts’, like the Gove Arts Theatre saying how vital community arts are, and sort of grass—on a grassroots level in small communities, that was really powerful. The Dancer, which is a, which was a short film put together by Santilla Chingaipe, which talks about the experience of Black and African Australian performers in the arts, there was also a bit of a critique in that film about the sort of structural racism of the arts and the performing arts as an industry as well, and so I think those were some of the small moments in this bigger project that really spoke to me as, um you know, it’s not—which I think were quite brave in the sense of you know, the arts kind of banding together, arguing for its own relevance in this kind of moment of crisis basically, I think it is still quite important.

EC: All of these short films did that explanation with so much heart and compassion for somebody who might not understand, might not be coming from the same perspective as them, so it really, like, gave—in every single one there’s like one clear thing that you can say, ‘this is the benefit of art’, whether it’s for that individual, who was the subject of the film, or whether it’s to their community. But that was really easy to understand, and it was really clear message, and it wasn’t like a—telling it on the same level as the audience so they can see why arts are so important—because, like, it’s crazy that we have to have these conversations, but we do regularly have these conversations about, like, the validity of performing arts and visual arts.

HMB: It’s definitely an unfortunate springboard for it, for the conversation to always to begin from, the self-justification rather than a deeper or more nuanced exploration. Like, arts are important, artists matter—it matters, dammit.

AC: I agree, Hayley, I think that’s what I mean when I say I wish that people were just given money to make the art itself, rather than having to argue for their relevance, which I totally agree, Ellen, was like… (Ellen laughs) um, very moving and artfully done, but frustrating in a way, I think. Like, let’s just make, let artists make art, rather than having to make art about why they should be able to make art. (All laugh)

HMB: I think that it is so easy to critique the standpoint of arguing for the validity of the arts, but also if I worked at the Age, if I had a platform, if I had a funding body that could give money to these people who were in lockdown and were very much cut off from their ability to do their vocation and make their living, that would seem like the most obvious place to put it. Like it’s, it’s a shame that the conversation gets stilted and stuck there. They still need money and funding and support, and I guess this is the most seductive, palatable way of preaching to the unconverted.

AV: Yeah, I think the—I think the thing about this series is that, you know, for, I guess, for those of us on the inside of the arts we don’t need to be told why the arts matters, because it’s our kind of, it’s our bread and butter. And I, and I do think there is some value in a kind of, you know, a media organisation like, you know, the Nine newspapers, column space or any time they can dedicate to the arts is time well spent, but I, I just keep coming back to this idea that the structure of this project, basically, like, giving $10,000 to eight filmmakers, great—but I kind of wish that it didn’t have to be $10,000 to eight filmmakers, with only a month to, and that they have to make a story about how hard it is to be an artist during the time of COVID, and why the arts, you know, and basically pleading for their own existence. Like, yeah, I agree with what you were saying, Alice, about just, you know, give artists the money, absolutely, give, use that, use some of that money to, you know, expand arts coverage in the, in the papers, like, give, use some of that money to, um, you know, support artists all year round, not just kind of in a, in crisis mode. And yeah, I mean, I take your point Hayley about, you know, those of us who are in the arts know the value of the arts, and we don’t need to have it told to us again, but I don’t know—I keep coming back to this essay that we published on KYD recently by Lauren Carroll Harris about the arts crisis in this sort of moment that we’re in, and this idea that so many of us in the arts have internalised kind of ‘funding agency speak’, and are always arguing for the importance of the arts on the back foot, rather than being, you know, a proactive, proactive in terms of community engagement and in terms of some, in terms of…well, as Lauren Carroll Harris argues in the essay, in terms of really forcing, pushing for social change, pushing for a, you know, more just society. Which is, um, and of which a key part is kind of decolonising. And so I think that’s the thing that struck me about this documentary series was that every one of these stories, or this whole project as a whole, really feels like it is arguing from the back foot. And I think to me, I would just really love to see money given out and, you know, space handed over to make these projects, but I just wish that it didn’t have to come with the, with the requirement to argue for their own existence.

HMB: I just realised that that is probably the starkest contrast between the novel that we’re discussing, and the series that we’re discussing—where Earthlings was a work created by someone who was given free rein, they had access to an audience, they had commercial, huge success, and the documentaries that we watch were created in such strictured environments, and I love what you said, ‘internalised arts funding body speak’. That was sort of the byline of what they were given, and it never gets to discussing or conveying how radical art can really be, some of the most potent and vital art, because it disrupts the status quo. It’s not just trying to make you like it.

AC: Yeah, I totally agree with your point about creative freedom, Hayley. I mean, there’s a lot to enjoy in these films, and to find in them—we’re kind of having a larger conversation about the arts, I guess, but I think the films do make you a bit introspective about the arts.

EC: But also, if you don’t know anything about the arts, you’re a total outsider, you’re just a person who reads the Age, you could click on these and really enjoy them. I enjoyed every single one of them in both ways, I think—like each made me think about a certain thing I had thought about before, I was able to kind of tease that out in my brain, and then also they were just, they’re really beautifully produced, and they’re really entertaining, all of them.

AV: Yeah, I would definitely agree with that, and I would agree with those points as well -as for much as we can sort of argue about the structural kind of issues behind the project as a whole, like, I’ve really, you know, had an enjoyable time watching these short documentaries, and I’ve, you know, learned about some great artists whose work I want to keep following, which I think is part of the project, I think that’s a success.

HMB: So if anyone would like to see the Voxdocs themselves, they can be accessed on the Age website, And now I’d love to hear about your culture picks. Would are you reading, watching or listening to?

EC: I’ve been listening to Kylie Minogue’s Disco album, which is so great, and I am so glad that Kylie decided to release a disco album in 2020. Like, what greater gift could she have given us. (Laughs)

AV: Actually, it’s funny you, just you mentioning the Kylie Minogue album there, Ellen, made me think of the fact that I’m listening to Róisín Murphy’s new album, Róisín Machine, which is also kind of a disco album and is very enjoyable. It’s kind of a bit more of a sort of, I dunno, dark disco, I suppose, compared to something like the Kylie album, but yeah, it’s definitely something I’d recommend. The one I was going to say was that I am currently reading Little Eyes by Samanta Schweblin, who’s an Argentinian writer, and the book is this kind of, it’s sort of like a Black Mirror-y kind of premise where these little toys are, they’re kind of like a little Furby sort of toy called kentukis, and basically the conceit is that if you get a kentuki there is a camera in it that is connected to someone, somewhere on the internet. You don’t know who that is, ‘watchers’ are assigned at random, basically, and so that’s kind of the thrill behind these toys, is that you are inviting someone into your home, but you don’t know who they are, and the sort of problems that arise from them. I’m about halfway through at this point, and so far it’s pulling it off in a way that is not kind of making me want to roll my eyes at, you know, the way Black Mirror sometimes does, and so yeah, I think it’s—and I’m quite enjoying that as a reading experience.

AC: I’ve been watching The 40-Year-Old Version, which is a Netflix film, it’s a comedy that’s written, directed and produced by Radha Blank. And it’s so funny, so moving, it follows a failed playwright in New York—well she’s not exactly failed, but she was on all these kinds of 30 under 30, 30, you know, Hottest Young Playwrights lists, and now she’s 40, and the glittering career that she envisaged hasn’t kind of come to fruition. So she decides that she’s going to reinvent herself as a rapper. And it’s kind of about selling out, or compromises that you have to make in art, about being an industry that you don’t fit in in, she’s an African-American playwright and she is working within these very white institutions. You know, what does it mean to be creatively true to yourself? Loss of interesting things about ageing. Um, yeah, and it’s just totally charming and delightful, so I definitely recommend that if anyone needs a kind of pick-me-up watch.

HMB: I love the idea of being 40 and feeling too old for playwriting, but that’s the time to launch a rap career? (All laugh) I love that, that’s brilliant. I actually went back and read all the possible English translations I could find of Sayaka Murata’s work, and watched some brilliant interviews. My favourite one is by the Japan Society NYC, you actually can see Ginny Tapley Takemori on stage with Sayaka Murata, translating in real time. It’s really beautiful to see, there’s some really fascinating contentions around some of the translations, or some of the different titles, so Convenience Store Woman was supposed to be, in Japanese is Convenience Store Person, and that genderlessness seems to make so much more sense to me, with, like, what I interpret the soul of the book to be. And there’s also a short story that Granta published called ‘A Clean Marriage’, about a sexless marriage, which is a recurring theme. So I recommend that.

AC: Sounds great.

AV: Cool.

AC: On the subject of short stories, we have just received the first reprint of New Australian Fiction 2020, which is a wonderful collection I have to say, so if anyone hasn’t yet got their hands on a copy, I definitely recommend ordering one. And in exciting news, submissions for New Australian Fiction 2021 will open in January. So some dates for your diaries, any short fiction writers listening, Monday 11 January is the opening date, and the closing date is Friday 26 February, and we hope to hear from you then. Have a great summer in the meantime.

HMB: Yeah, thanks for joining me everybody, and thank you to everyone listening. Have a great summer in the interim, and you’ll hear from us soon!

AV: Thanks Hayley, thanks everyone.

AC: Thanks! (Music)