Neighbourhood Paper, 2017
This isn't exactly a best-of-the-year list, only because we haven't yet been publishing a year. The below are my personal picks of the very-very-best pieces since we launched in May – the diamonds among the gems.
Of Will Self's regular dispatches from London, his letter about the city's "architecture of fear" following the three terrorist attacks was his most savage, delicate, and re-readable. Colin Gore's coverage of the Martin Place Tent City was leagues ahead of the Guardian's and the SMH's, and Tug Dumbly's elegant, humorous report of a couple in love was the most dignified response possible to Australia's disgraceful plebiscite. For tight, propulsive, and local writing, see Nadia Bailey's elegy to Parramatta Road and Clint Caward's contextualisation (evisceration) of the gig economy. For fun, you can't go past Jack Marx.
I'm obviously biased, but that doesn't make it any less true that our features were some of the best in Australia this year. Jack Cameron Stanton's access to a young man recovering from video game addiction (and his compassionate treatment of the story) cut a skylight into a dark subject, as did an anonymous feature on Benzodiazepine dependence (the drug in Xanax). It was a treat to see how Ross Duncan's story (pitched as an 800-word short piece) bloomed into a 2,300-word feature as he heard more and more about the incredible lives of the seafarers passing through Botany Bay. I loved Madelaine Lucas's penetrating reminiscences of the Sydney anti-landmark, Parramatta Road's Olympia Milk Bar.
We published more Culture pieces than any other sections this year, so this selection was particularly tough. Sebastian Smee's anecdotal yet expansive review of Kader Attia at the MCA is the first to make the list (there's a reason why he won a Pulitzer). Lauren Carroll Harris could and probably will write for The New Yorker, and her essay on the art references in Lynch's Twin Peaks did in fact get some love from editors in the States. I'm so pleased we got the chance to publish Joseph Earp's retelling of the last love of John Cheever; likewise, it was an honour to print Rochelle Siemienowicz's sideways look at what makes a relationship through the lens of Blade Runner 2049 (the best piece of movie writing anywhere this year).
Who wouldn't want to be Jimmy Barnes's neighbour, after Adam Gibson's profile of him? This section was where our best video content lived – I also recommend watching our editor's profile of Izzi Manfredi, for the beautiful videography, and for the brilliant clarity with which Manfredi speaks.
Margaret Barbalet has given us a piece of fiction that feels just as real as any of the non-fiction we published this year (better than real, in fact; it reads like truth).
Best till last – Fiona Wright's return from hospital to Newtown was sensual and intelligent, using the temporary alienation from a place as a crack through which to slip and observe the way a 'place' is constructed in necessary antagonism with other places. Ben Giles's discovery the work of a famous Sydney architect trace the contours of Giles's own history lead to a true gem of a piece. A few days before we packed up for the year, Jack Marx (again) gave us this piece about a dog named Laurel: a story of family and love – uncomplicated, and, at the last, eternal.