Ellen van Neerven: Personal Score

Individual scores: sport, culture, identity
Alan Fanniven
MSRP, $34.99

I remember when I first learned of Ellen van Neerven’s non-fiction debut, its focus on movement sounded like a new direction for the author. But van Neerven exposes the game early: in one of the most widely circulated poems of their poetic debut, comfort foodthe speaker looked back at an AFL game and recalled how the stadium was built on the Burroughs Ring.

For Ellen van Neerven, the game is played both on and off the field.

For Ellen van Neerven, the game is played both on and off the field.Credit: Paul Harris

In the publishing mainstream, a book such as personal score – interspersed with poetry, autobiographical writing, interviews, history and sports advice – looks like a novel intervention. Yet it shares its family history with other examples of contemporary local and small presses – books that combine patterns and voices, offering something across disciplines and genres.i remembered black wattlewhose authors refer to their works collectively as “The Thugs.” black wattle Published by the Incendium Radical Library, which publishes many interesting works.

personal score To start, after a quick “pre-match” introduction, invoke “they”—”Their first home supports Geebung’s Polaris football stadium.” As if writing could form a collective history, the “I” contained within the whole middle. What is this collective? On the one hand: not necessarily collectively. “They” can also be a personal pronoun (like van Neerven). It may be part of a larger community. A form of identification. But “they” are also able to address—that is, speak to and imply—the audience. (Which is you. Which is me.)

Ellen van Neerven's latest work explores identity.

Ellen van Neerven’s latest work explores identity.Credit:

For Ellen van Neerven, who was assigned female and Aboriginal at birth, she speaks of “[e]Everything around me is telling me I need to know where I am” and maybe we should think about where we are. (Maybe you already have.)

Games are played on and off the field. It’s mental as well as physical, and not just down to individual player skills: “I started shaving and waxing and trying to be more ‘feminine’, but I found there was always something preventing me from being accepted. I didn’t want to win that game.”

“They” also have the capacity for anonymity—the anonymity of power enjoyment. Sometimes anonymity is assigned to silence. “They” ⁣ can be part of van Neerven, who wrote a commentary on the homophobic “lesbian mafia” surrounding Australian women’s football coverage, calling it the “more than one” rule: “Put more than one group of women together and watch them What do you call them (bitches). Put a group of more than one together and see what they call them (nothing).”

So they can be an object. They can be a container. They can be anyone you want.

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