Review Blog

Apr 20 2020

Almost a mirror by Kirsten Krauth

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Transit Lounge, 2020. ISBN: 9781925760507.
(Age: Adult) Highly recommended. Krauth once wrote of Bill Henson's images that they walked "that blurry line between the acceptable and forbidden, innocence and knowing". Her latest book Almost a mirror explores this territory: the opening chapter has a young girl, Mona, being posed and photographed by photographic artist Dodge while her mother Kaz sits in a back corner. Dodge creates images of beautiful young bodies, innocent, but always on the edge of being sexually enticing.
It is 1980's Melbourne, the music scene, with rock bands and ardent young fans, under-dressed and over made up, hanging outside stage doors with autograph books in hand; the time of the Kids in the Kitchen, and Nick Cave and the Boys Next Door. Each chapter of the book is inspired by an 80s song; you can listen to a mixtape on YouTube as you read.
Chapters interweave the past and the present, images and scenes, pieces of the story that gradually come together. They reveal episodes in the lives of teenagers Mona and Jimmy, and of Benat, a musician, immersed but also a spectator on the edge of the music and drugs scene. They are all young, vulnerable, exploring, taking risks, living life on the edge.
At the heart though, is the relationship between adults and children. The 1980's, whilst a time of teenagers and rock bands, was also the time when Australia suddenly became aware of child sexual abuse. Adults became unsure what was acceptable and what was not. Child abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, all were issues that we had to confront, and try to understand what was going on. In Krauth's story, the photographer Dodge is an artist; when asked about it, all that Mona's mother Kaz can say is that Dodge had won them all over, the critics, the parents, the teachers and headmistress.
For Jimmy though, the hurt was forever.
Almost a mirror collects images and thoughts, snippets of life, like a collage that can constantly be rearranged to explore the relationships, and try to understand what was happening. At the same time it presents beautiful interactions between parents and children, just as the galahs hover over the young bird at the side of the road. There is love and grief. And you can rewind, go back and read it over again (as I did.) Or listen to the music.
Themes: Music, Rock bands, Suicide, Sexual abuse, Parent child relationships.
Helen Eddy

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