Archive for May, 2011

You learn a lot of things at writers’ festivals. In the first weekend of the 2011 Emerging Writers’ Festival, I’ve learned that:

  1. Ben Law’s work uniform is a pair of ‘housing commission-y track pants and a Bonds singlet’.
  2. If you are a freelance writer, ‘you will never stop freaking out’ (thanks, Penny Modra).
  3. Even if your friends are in London, they can still be guests at a festival held in Melbourne (see Hamilton, Caroline).
  4. It’s possible that the novel you wrote and recorded from your house in Melbourne will be downloaded over half a million times.
  5. I can’t hold my drink anymore.

No matter how tired I think I might get of attending literary events and writers’ festivals, the Emerging Writers’ Festival always surprises me with its ability to direct and hold my attention, and uncover enthusiasm in my breast where I thought it had lain dormant during the cold winter of my inactivity. We’re very lucky in Melbourne to have a festival that gives emerging writers support, opportunity and venues (physical or virtual) in which to meet, discuss, debate and laugh together.

There’s still another week of the festival left, with plenty of interesting ideas yet to be hashed out. There’s a strong focus on genre in this year’s festival, and there are also plenty of free and digital events too. See the program here.

My picks are The Pitch, where editors, including KYD editor Rebecca Starford, will be talking about what they look for in pitches, and Dirty Words, where a bucketful (brassiere-ful?) of writers, including gold-shoe-wearing Scot Alan Bissett and enthusiastic planker Linda Jaivin, will form a line to disclose naughty secrets and things of that ilk. Vachel Spirason of Slow Clap will also be there, and if he’s anywhere near as entertaining as he was at the festival’s First Word event, where he danced so hard he gave himself a front-wedgie, I think we’ll be in business.

Thanks to Favel Parrett for making me actually start weeping uncontrollably on public transport.

Another week, another upbraiding from a friend for only posting links to external content. Too bad!

Here’s my podcast interview with Meg Mundell, whose novel Black Glass envisions a future Melbourne where people without official documentation are forced to the fringes of society. At the same time, it’s a tale of two sisters’ search for each other in a city increasingly moulded by opportunistic shysters and government spin doctors.

Meg has been published widely in Australian newspapers, journals and magazines, including The Age, The Monthly, Meanjin, The Best Australian Stories 2010, The Sleepers Almanac, harvest and The Big Issue. Have a listen.

May 9, 2011

Latest favourite spam comment: ‘buenos dias, eminent blog on lardaceous loss. parallel helped.’

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having selected the book by georges perec called the art and craft of approaching your head of department to submit a request for a raise to read you are faced with a dilemma or if you like an unsolvable problem on the one hand you would like to read this book which is not perec’s most famous book but maybe his third or fourth most well known for which you have laid down the not insignificant sum of twenty-seven dollars and ninety-five cents and if you are honest with yourself you were expecting a book bigger than the eighty-four page volume you receive in the mail actually perhaps it is over one hundred pages with preliminary matter but that is really not to the point – and we must try our best to keep to the point – but on the other hand you are worried that if you are seen on the way to work with such a title other people on the tram may think you grasping and even worse someone who works with you may spot you and think you insensitive as well as grasping for it is well known that your industry is going down the toilet but it’s one or t’other you have after all spent your hard earned money on this book which is not perec’s most famous book but maybe his third or fourth most well known perhaps not more well known than a void written without the use of the letter e no not once yes really quite a feat anyhow you decide to read this book regardless of what the general public and more specifically your colleagues may think should they see you reading it in this economic climate and more specifically in the midst of this age of uncertainty in the industry in which you work after all you have spent your hard earned money on this book which is not perec’s most famous book but maybe his third or fourth well known and what you discover is that you are relieved that the book is only eighty-four pages rather than say one hundred and forty-four pages because there is only one full stop in the whole thing and it appears at the end that is to say that this book is made up of just one sentence though whether it is a sentence or not is questionable because the book doesn’t even start with a capital letter and there are so many digressions asides whatever you want to call them and clauses lots of them and many ambiguous points where what is missing could as easily be a semicolon as a full stop or a dash em or en whatever you prefer or whatever is house style and even the translator some professor at princeton university has called this book unreadable or what he really calls it is close to unreadable and you would not like this work at all if it was merely an exercise in unreadability but it is not the difficulty of getting through the work that is the point – and we must try our best to keep to the point – but the kind of translation the author attempted to begin with even before the translation by the princeton professor occurred or had been thought of the author accepted a challenge from the computing service of the humanities research centre in paris to write as a computer writes that is to say to adhere strictly to the possible plot given by a flowchart said flowchart is produced winningly in the front of the book so you know whether the protagonist ever gets a raise before you even start reading the text proper but if you have ever worked in an office you probably already know the answer nevertheless as previously alluded to the point – and we must try our best to keep to the point – is that you have never read a book before that has been written as a computer might have written it but of course a computer couldn’t write a book or could it think of those choose your own adventure books from your childhood surely if you plugged in some short scenes the machine would be able to work something out no matter how circuitous or repetitive and perhaps even shades of meaning would come through regardless of whether a machine is capable of creating allegiances or attachments as indeed it has in this book which you have in your hands having laid down the not insignificant sum of twenty-seven dollars and ninety-five cents though you did think that perhaps nothing could be more boring than a book written as if a computer had written it but of course a computer couldn’t write a book or could it really boredom is besides the point – and we must try our best to keep to the point – there is repetition and there is recursion here the book is after all following a pattern laid down by a flowchart what did you expect but as you know a flowchart builds in its let’s call it a reader a flowchart builds in a reader levels of expectation and tension and this book builds its story in washes like a watercolour almost it’s nothing like a mere circuit really finally you discover that the book you are holding in your hand not perec’s most famous book perhaps not more well known than a void was once produced for radio my god you think how did they do that how did they produce this work for radio being that you have just finished reading this book by georges perec called the art and craft of approaching your head of department to submit a request for a raise having selected it to read regardless of flash judgments that may be made by co-travellers on public trams and the glances of your co-workers because although you know it must have taken you a few hours to read this book you feel like you have not taken a breath that whole time.