To readDown the Hume, Peter Polites’ fierce first novel, is to step into the literary wilds.
Set in the middle of the ‘burbs in western Sydney, it features a lad of migrant stock addicted to painkillers, with a boyfriend, Nice Arms Pete, who has a “rockmelon arse” and a bad case of roid rage.
The book began with a short story, More Handsome than a Monkey, written for the anthology, Stories of Sydney, and Polites’ short story began with a chance meeting with a stranger in a bar in which he works.
“He was hanging out with people who were kind of inappropriate,” Polites says. “In the limited interactions I had with this person – you know you can smell the country on people sometimes – he just left this spark in me. It wasn’t desire, it was imagination.”
It was about this time that Polites and two fellow directors of Sweatshop, a writers’ collective based at the University of Western Sydney, developed the show #ThreeJerks, a spoken word piece in response to the Skaf gang rapes.
The performance, like the collective, challenged stereotypical representations of race and cultural identity.
“What I love about western Sydney is its complex diversity,” Polites says, a first-generation Australian of Greek descent. “By diversity, I don’t only mean cultural diversity, I mean economic diversity in that there’s commission housing and next to that commission housing someone might have a $150,000 Jeep.”
Down the Hume is pulp noir, in the vein of books such as Irvine Welsh’s short-story collection,Trainspotting, where the main character, Bucky, must hold his own against seemingly impossible odds, even his own self-destructive addictions.
Polites is one of three guest curators who will bring their unique vision to the Sydney Writers’ Festival program. Sweatshop will launch The Big Black Thing, a new anthology by emerging and established writers from migrant, refugee and Indigenous backgrounds.
Polites has programmed a session of performance readings from the anthology by some of western Sydney’s next generation, including Maryam Azam???, Winnie Dunn, Shirley Le and Stephen Pham.
“In our lifetime I do hope we see a change of representation but also that people are rethinking what writing is and what that means in terms of our society,” Polites says.
THE BIG BLACK THING, SUNDAY, MAY 28, 11.30AM-12.30PM, SWF.ORG.AU