Going Down Swinging: The Jesus Issue

Words by Maggie McDade

Published on March 24, 2013

Going Down Swinging No. 33 is known as the Jesus issue. In his editorial, Geoff Lemon discusses how the works in the issue have a dash of ‘Saviour flavour’. There is a sense of wonder in many of these pieces – recognition of the unknown, of the universe and its oddities. Here, Jesus seems the natural representative. Geoff also comments that it’s somewhat of a miracle that GDS has released so many issues, consistently delivering excellent content in beautifully designed journals.

The Jesus issue is no exception; when I held it in my hands I was struck by how handsome and thick it is. The pages of the journal are almost transparent, like the pages inside a Gideon’s bible, with maroon text and tinted illustrations. Throughout the issue there are educational illustrations like those from an old encyclopedia. A picture of the northern sky with the text, ‘The light from many stars started its journey long before man appeared on earth.’ Gorgeous. On the inside cover, there is also an audio CD.

My favourite work is Melissa Howard’s ‘The Beginners Guide To Travelling With Children’. I’ve read this work over and over. It’s about a father travelling through Asia with his sons, and their evening at a restaurant. He meets another traveller, a young European woman who obsesses over finding the real.

You could ride a motorbike, you suggest, and she shakes her head vigorously. First, I tried it on a motorbike, she says. But the speed was too much, it is not real. And the sound, the sound really slices you off from the people, and from the nature. It was not real enough.

Howard’s story plays with the material and the imagined aspects of travel. The reality of many overseas holidays – whining children, illness – is set against an imagined journey, running away with a backpacker to cover the continents. The piece also addresses the fascination with authentic experience while we are in unfamiliar places. We search for what we think is true about a place, ignoring what actually is.

If ‘The Beginners Guide To Travelling With Children’ is a softly spoken look at one’s place in the world, ‘Badass’ by Michael Trudeau is the swearing, beer-swilling cousin. This story almost gave me nightmares. We meet a young man and his friend Charlie, and follow them through some stunningly depicted violence.

While I devoured the written works in Issue 33, I admit I discarded the CD. Maybe I am a stickler for simplicity, but I had enough to think about between the pages of this journal before I thought about putting a CD in my stereo. GDS consistently pushes the boundaries of literary journals in Australia, toying with how content is delivered, and publishing fantastic e-issues and online content. I wonder if the CD is a little redundant next to some of their bolder experiments.

However, despite the CD remaining in its sleeve on the inside cover of my journal, six months after purchasing my copy it’s still on my bedside table being reread and revisited. So it has surely passed the hardest test.