Drawing Sybylla is a wonderfully unusual book, narrated in parts by a modern-day Sybil – one of those ‘mad mouthpieces’ of prophesy and poetry from Ancient Greece. This Sybil springs to life from an elaborate doodle in a notebook, drawn by a Sydney Writers’ Festival panelist who is listening to another writer on her panel. This writer is describing to the audience a feminist short story from 1892, ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’, a work in which a woman, diagnosed by her physician husband as suffering ‘a slight hysterical tendency’, is confined to a single room to rest and recover, and slowly descends into madness, beginning to see other women moving behind – and trapped behind – the intricate patterns of the wallpaper. And it is this wallpaper, these figures, that come to form the central metaphor of Kelada’s book – as the suddenly animated ink figure, aptly named Sybylla, invites her creator to step behind the wallpaper and into its pattern, and examine the lives of other women writers, in Australia, across time.
Fiona Wright is a writer, editor and critic from Sydney. Her most recent book of essays, The World Was Whole, was published in October 2018. Fiona worked as an editor at Giramondo Publishing for five years. She holds a PhD in Literature and Creative Writing from Western Sydney University, and is the host of Six Degrees From the City, a podcast about writers and Western Sydney.
From the New Issue
Lettersby Ian Campbell, Nicholas Jose, Ben Brooker, Alex Miller, Judith Masters, Roger Rees, Kim Harris, James Ley
What’s Wrong with Economics?: A primer for the perplexed by Robert SkidelskyReviewed by John Tang