Thursday, 12 July 2007

For the first time a TV station has screened footage of a 12-year-old girl undergoing gential mutilation. Tonight's World News Hour on SBS featured footage that I've never seen before. But for some strange reason, the broadcaster has not posted the story on its Web site.

Which I can't fathom. Only SBS offers such features, possible because of the longer format newscast (introduced in late January) the station gives viewers. Documentary footage like this is unheard of. I can't imagine a commercial station using it, and I waited out the ABC's half-hour newscast hoping they'd follow suit. They didn't.

The girl was clearly distraught. "I won't lie down," she wailed to her tormentors: three fully-grown women, one of whom held a plain, old-fashioned razor blade. "I don't want it," the girl cried. British police are cracking down on the practice of sending girls back to African countries of origin to undergo the procedure.

On the absolute other end of the scale of consent, but within the ambit of the same trope, I received an email from Meredith Jones, who runs the Marrickvillia blog, notifying me that Orlan, "a [French] performance artist who uses her own body and the procedures of plastic surgery to make 'carnal art'," will appear at the Art Gallery of New South Wales on 30 July.

Meredith has "been busy" organising Orlan's visit "for the last month", she says on her blog, and she is "hugely excited" about the upcoming event. Her book Skintight: An Anatomy of Cosmetic Surgery (due in February 2008) contains a "whole chapter" about Orlan.

I also take heart from the Bibliobibuli blog, where Sharon Bakar posts after having read FireWife by Malaysian writer Tinling Choong.

Choong won the Henry Miller Award for the best literary sex scene for the book. As a huge fan of Miller, whose novels, memoirs and polemics I ingested wholesale as an undergrad, this is interesting news. "This is not a 'Malaysian' novel, but it is a novel with a strong Malaysian protagonist, and which features a multi-ethnic cast of characters," writes Sharon.

Choong lives in the U.S., and is of Chinese extraction so, presumably, she was raised a Christian. You could hardly imagine a Muslim writer earning such an award. We can only hope.

The Henry Miller Award is given every month to the book that scores highest on three scales: heat, literary merit, and originality.

I immediately bought the book on Amazon. It cost US$1.50 and, with postage, will come to about $16, as the Aussie dollar rises steadily against the greenback.

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