Viidikas is an Australian author of Estonian extraction who lived from 1948-1998. This volume is a chronological compilation of her poems, stories, nonfiction fragments and illustrations. Her writing is distinctively localized in its frequent references to Balmain and Darlinghurst. However, she is also preoccupied with foreign countries, particularly India, which she portrays as exotic and alluring yet intrinsically ‘other’ – a place she admires but does not belong in. Several other themes recur in her work, among them the role of the female artist, sex as a transaction rather than a form of intimacy, and drug-use. Many of her stories take place in grimy inner-city apartments populated by aspiring writers who subsist on cigarettes, cheap wine and drugs. Viidikas is concerned with those who exist on the fringes: addicts, prostitutes, homosexuals and abusive men afraid to probe too deeply within themselves. She is profoundly non-judgemental, however, frankly exposing the foibles of her characters with wry understanding. The seediness of Viidikas’s subject matter is part of her appeal. However, in her poetry one sees a different side to her as a writer – the poems are crisp and pellucid with imagery that exposes the beauty of nature. This book is recommended for those with an interest in Australian urban literature. **** An excellent book.
Leonie Jordan, Bookseller and Publisher May 2010
Publisher and editor Barry Scott has arranged Vicki Viidikas’s work in chronological fashion so we are able to follow the trajectory of her troubled life. The poems and short stories, both published and unpublished, of this anthology reflect an omnivorous spirit who lived a peripatetic existence for many years. In The Snowman in the Dutch Masterpiece, a beautiful woman lives with a wealthy drug dealer who tells her she is mad to write because there is no bread in it. She considers the cockroaches and rejection slips, but simply cant abide the alternative life of conformity. The same character, in a variety of guises, greedy for life, for love, for words, wanders in and out of Viidikas’s work. In Greasy Copper and the Adventure,Viidikas makes a joke of her crazy, dangerous night in Bangkok looking for drugs. But you fear for her. Many poems go beyond the corporeal, the sex and the drugs, and reach out for the unreachable, but in A View of the Map we are told “there is no compass”. Viidikas is usually identified as one of the Sydney-based generation of 1968 poets. She was certainly one of our best. She died too soon, in 1998, aged 50. But perhaps that is the way it was always going to be for our very own Jack Kerouac, our sad and blighted poet.
Dianne Dempsey The Age, Saturday May 29 2010
Roberto Bolano’s The Savage Detectives has achieved cult status with its portrayal of young Latin-American writers in their pursuit of sex, drugs and literature in the 1970s. With this selection from the work of Vicki Viidikas, the publisher of Transit Lounge, Barry Scott, has assembled the materials for a cult native to our own culture. Vicki would have been wryly amused. But with that puckered smile of satisfaction. It was worth it, after all, despite the cost. But it was at a cost, and she paid the price.
Michael Wilding Sydney Morning Herald, 15 May 2010
Australian poetry presses supported Vicki Viidikas, publishing four of her books in a decade. Her last title appeared in 1984. She lived a further fourteen years without a new collection and with her writing appearing only scantily in a period when women’s writing was booming. Sadly, as Viidikas’s heroin addiction increasingly formed the basis of her modus operandi, she became marginalised and publishing and performing opportunities vanished.
In 1975 she had written ‘A View of the Map’; a speculative, time-shifting prose piece. It ended – ‘My Iceland is at the centre of this map. Knowing you have visited it and gone. That I am the only permanent resident.’ In 1988 she added a new final line, ‘There is no compass.’
Melbourne publisher Barry Scott has made a respectable selection to introduce Viidikas to contemporary readers. There is though an odd inclusion of eight childish drawings that add nothing to the project (signed, copyrighted and dated by Viidikas, possibly indicating that she took them seriously). The cover portraits show Viidikas with long blonde hair parted in the middle, kohl-lined eyes, appliqued peasant blouse, a cigarette – like an icon of the 1970s.
Vicki Viidikas New and Rediscovered offers a kind of restitution. There are around twenty uncollected pieces, an extract from an unpublished manuscript, Kali and the Dung-Beetle, and a few later poems, including ‘Lust’, written only two months before her death at fifty, in 1998.
Pam Brown, www.thedeletions.blogspot.com