I’m volunteering at the Melbourne Writers Festival Box Office this year. It’s fun answering phones; no, really, I had a nice lady compliment me on my literary knowhow when I commented on her poet’s-name-street. and it also means I can go to most anything (that isn’t sold out) for free. Box office gives me days where all I do is look at the program, which solves the two big problems I always have with big festivals–choosing and scheduling. There is a lot on, but I’m grateful because I definitely wouldn’t be able to afford to go to as many of the events as have taken my fancy now that I have the magical lanyard (and beret, yuck).
Here is the longlist; actually, this isn’t even the full longlist, because it would be too long:
The honest trader All’s fair in love, war and free trade? Discussing moral responsibility in the global marketplace, Duncan Green begins with the contention that free trade favours the rich.
The moral of the story “The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily – that’s what fiction means,” according to Wilde. Barry Maitland debates with Peter Mares whether the best novels are moral, immoral or amoral.
The common pursuit? Or every man for himself? Philip Gourevitch (The Paris Review), Julianne Schultz (Griffith Review), Sally Warhaft and Michael Burleigh (Standpoint) discuss what relevance high-end literary journals and culture magazines have in the new bloggy, lower-case unpunctuated world.
Standard operating procedure Just ordinary Americans. What went wrong at Abu Ghraib? Philip Gourevitch, Julian Burnside and Gerry Simpson discuss the systemic failures that led to failures of human decency.
Chekhov’s children The highly tactical middle-distance run. The market for the short-story may have diminished, yet Emily Perkins, Hannah Tinti and John Clanchy find consolations in its exacting discipline. Chaired by Louise Swinn.
An ear to the ground Writing talent is a stream that replenishes itself. Sometimes, though, it needs diviners, people such as the BBC’s Kate Rowland, Harvard Review’s Nam Le and Meanjin’s Sophie Cunningham who hear the murmur underground.
Old wine in new bottles A good fiddle loves the old tunes. By borrowing familiar narratives from literature and history, John Marsden, Fiona Capp, Lloyd Jones and Kevin Rabalais found springboards for their own imaginations
Specialismus or Generalismus? Michael Cathcart, Phip Murray and others discuss attitudes, anxieties and beliefs in contemporary art writing.
I’m going to have to do some things to my work schedule to be able to get to most of these. At night, there is a not-very-appealing-sounding Festival Club, which nevertheless has its attractions. I want to see Josh Earl (librarian/comedian) do no doubt charming things, I will trot along to the Above Water launch to see Maddie, and poke my head in at the Text Young Adult prize.