‘Axiomatic’ by Maria Tumarkin
One Hundred Years of Dirt by Rick Morton
Collected Short Fiction by Gerald Murnane
Common People by Tony Birch
Lebs by Michael Mohammed Ahmad In Axiomatic, Maria Tumarkin, author of Traumascapes, Courage and Otherland, once again picks a path through humankind’s roughest of terrains, using instinct as her compass. She has switched her focus to a new existential crisis: the past as a ghost of the present.
Tumarkin feels like a trustworthy guide through suicide, grief and sexual trauma; she’s an honorary artistic outreach associate at the ARC Centre for the History of Emotions, after all. Instead of interviewing experts and falling into academic analysis, she seeks out those suffering on the frontline and falls into step.
In lieu of chapters there are five axioms: “Time heals all wounds”; “History repeats itself”; “Give me a child before the age of seven and I’ll give you the woman”; “Those who forget the past are condemned to re–––––” and “You can’t enter the same river twice”. Tumarkin weaves in mythological and historical
context, visits museums, tags along on outings, jots down conversations on trams, and excavates her own thoughts.
Frequently, she picks at the structures of modern society. Take what she calls the “casserole period” – a sanctioned term of mourning that drops off abruptly. Then there are the invisible boundary lines of garden-variety altruists, as explained to her by a community lawyer:
“Vanda says when we pick people up we are responsible for what we’re doing and it is our responsibility to go all the way.
“Says the fox in The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: ‘People have
forgotten this truth but you mustn’t forget it. You become responsible forever for what you’ve tamed.’
“Does it mean a little help is often worse than no help? We’re talking and I am getting a pulling feeling in my stomach. I get it when something important is happening and it’s easy to miss.”
Axiomatic posits that our histories are not so ancient. Personal tragedies intertwine with strands of DNA. Grief ambushes decades later, or keeps expanding and retracting in the lungs. This book could be the perfect gift for those who insist “the past is in the past”.