W.J.P.Newnham was born in Melbourne in 1965 at the Royal Women’s Hospital and whisked away from his mother as part of the white stolen generation policies where un-wed mothers were stripped of their children. He was adopted and raised all over country Victoria having at age 17 lived in 11 different houses and attended 9 different schools. At a grade 6 literacy test he read at a university level and when matriculating he won the schools humanity score prize. His attendance at university was sporadic.
W.J.P.Newnham has hitchhiked around Australia working as barman, bum and waiter; slaughter hand, deckhand and master spending 25 years working in the Northern Prawn Fishery. He has travelled extensively in south-east Asia, the Americas and Japan and speaks market-place Indonesian with some fluency.
2 of W.J.P.Newnham’s early stories were published in the inaugural edition of the seminal Melbourne literary magazine ‘Nocturnal Submissions’ in the early nineties and he has just had a recent story accepted by ‘Overland’ for publication.
He lives in Brisbane with his partner and 2 blue-heelers.
‘These stories speak to character and choice. Obligation and duty are given and choices made according to need and want are not always wisest as accounts add up and balances are inevitably reached: the universe holds no mystery it just is as it is and ever shall be.’
Whilst individually these stories stand alone there is an interweaving narrative of ideological pragmatism accounting for many forms of excess and hubris and folly and in this sense these collections reference morality texts such as Bunyan’s ‘Pilgrim’s Progress ‘in construct though with the removal of the chance of salvation makes for vignettes of moral laxity and human hurt; the innocent punished alongside the guilty, protagonists as anti-heroes who don’t always make good their intentions, ritualized atonements of guilt.
Stylistically these stories reflect a developing visual morphology from font and formatting to conversations annotated as diagrammatic representations like web page and magazine and television; text is broken by images allowing multiple readings and references to ‘cut up’ techniques and Japanese pictographs: Songs are sampled, lines and cadences stolen and re-gifted; a plunder of Wikipedia images and quotes.
.Ken: the family butcher.
Ken the family butcher is drunk; blind drunk, rotten drunk, stinking drunk, a dozen cans and a bottle of cheap scotch drunk. Gulp gulp, scotch then beer, belch, drunk!
Ken is your local family butcher.
When you or your mum go into his shop to buy some chops or snags for the barby he tells you the latest joke he’s heard and some maybe a little risqué or smutty but that’s ok ‘cos he is all aproned up and on the other side of the counter.
A real lark; comedy with bloodied fingers, the smell of baby lamb fat and your tea wrapped in white paper.
Or maybe it’s the weather….
‘Leg-o’-lamb, yes got some nice fresh spring lambs; juicy, a side’ll only cost you $2.30 a kilo……..just the leg….yes,yes it has been warm. Yes beautiful spring weather; won’t be long now and it’ll be bar-bar-queue season and wont we have a run on chops and sausages then?….ordering a ham this Chrissy or maybe a turkey?……’
Ken the family butcher, pissed as a newt in his back-yard.
Every-body knows Ken….Ken hail fellow well met….cheery Ken…sober Ken….. Ken the member of Rotary being a business-man of note in this small town.
Kens wife is visiting her sick mother in the country. He cannot stand his mother-in-law so he is home alone as his son has just started his electrical apprenticeship with the army.
‘I told the little bugger: you’re 16 now…not smart enough for uni….get yourself an apprenticeship and a trade; start making your own life…. And blow me down it’s not a month later and he is in the army.
Good boy my son; real solid stuff’.
Ken the family butcher un-characteristically drunk!
Ken drags long on his chaff and thinks hard: there has been a lot of hard thinking for Ken of late.
Puff-Puff, Gulp-Gulp, Think-Think.
Ken is not stupid but the thinking that he has been doing is really burning him up. He doesn’t normally touch the grog but his aching brain is in need of lubrication and the good oil boozes its way in through cerebral cortex’s, fracturing and heightening his strained consciousness.
‘Young woman in shop….likes to select her own meat…quiet day….what the hell…..she walks in the cool-room slapping rumps and sheep….Ken watching her arse wobbling under her skirt…pigs heads hanging by the ear on hooks….woman reaches and sticks her finger in the pigs mouth….looks back over her shoulder….sticking her finger in and out and in and out and in………..phone ringing.’
Ken answers the phone concealing his rising embarrassment.
The woman exits.
This is the memory that plays again and again through Ken’s mind: it won’t let him rest; it strains his brain as he seeks refuge in alcohol.
‘….her finger……looks back…..pigs eyes and tongue……finger in the pigs mouth…..back and forth…..in and out and in and out……rising embarrassment…..Pigs mouth. Pigs head.
‘ENOUGH, ENOUGH, ENOUGH!’
Ken screams drunkenly and grabbing keys and into the car he drives to the shop.
Well Ken here is the moment of truth.
Ken fingers the pigs mouth…pigs eyes, pigs tongue remembering her fingers and wobbly bum. He removes the pigs head from its hook and jams his erect cock into the dead throat.
Ken the family butcher grunts and comes inside his own dead produce collapsing comatose on the cool-room floor with the taste of booze in his mouth, the smell of baby lamb fat in his nostrils and a pig’s head on his cock.