Sometimes I wonder if fear is the heart of fascination. To me, an editor’s job is a dark art. How do they see what must be made more visible, what excised, and from where to coax the emotions of authors and readers? It’s the ability to conceptualise a grand vision, but one that uses the raw material of other people’s creation.
When I chose The Best Australian Essays 2012 to read and review for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2013, I wanted to shuffle in Ramona Koval’s footsteps. As editor, what had she selected and how had she arranged the essays? As a reader, how did her art affect me?
The answer is that the anthology informed, entertained and challenged me. Some of the essays were very personal, peeling off scabs and inviting us to paddle around in the blood; perhaps we could find meaning there? I enjoyed the more detached essays, but I’m aware that their attempted objectivity was the more effective for being surrounded by channelled emotion.
The essays reminded me how flawed we are, and how brave. If they shared a theme, it was their authors’ passionate desire to communicate.
You won’t like all the essays, and that is a sign of a robust selection. In the end, Ramona Koval did what all good editors do: made me think.