Posts Tagged ‘melbourne writers festival’

September 12, 2013

Hi there! What’s been happening?

Me? I moved to New York this week.

Also, I wrote:

+ a review of Alissa Nutting’s Tampa 

+ a review of Chris Womersley’s Cairo

+ a little essay about ‘Lolita’s children’

and interviewed Tavi Gevinson at the Melbourne Writers Festival (also available on iView for Australians).

I’m going to be doing some more reading though. I’ll knock it OUT OF THE PARK like a BIG READING BATTER (IS THAT WHAT THEY CALL THEM SPORTSPERSONS??)

I’ll also be appearing at the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival in October. And starting my own poodle-grooming business. (One of these is a lie.)

Speak soon,



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Hello friends. I’m chairing two amazing events at MWF 2012:

Friendly Fire, with Sloane Crosley, Marieke Hardy and Benjamin Law

I am sorry, this is going to be freaking amazing. I’m not even going to blurb it.

In Conversation with David Vann

I know David Vann is a highlight of the program for many, and I’m truly excited to be talking with him about his wonderful books.


Also, I’m very excited about the New Yorker events, especially ‘Restaurants we can never go to: Why Melburnians read “Table for Two”‘, chaired by me, and featuring well-known writers ‘WHY GOD WHY’, ‘I CAN HAZ BATALI?’ and ‘GIMME WATERMELON PICKLE’.

Further, you have got to be kidding yourself if you don’t immediately buy tickets to see Germaine Greer in conversation with Ben Law (say WHAT? etc.), and the mesmerising Gillian Mears in conversation with Ramona Koval.

June 4, 2009

Took a quick look at the Melbourne Writers Festival Blog, and I’m suffering from premature excitement. The first three confirmed authors are Russell Grigg, who completed his PhD in the Department of Psychoanalysis founded by Lacan at the University of Paris VIII, Thomas Buergenthal, an international law and human rights expert who has written a book about his childhood in Nazi camps, and the prolific Kerry Greenwood, who lives with a registered wizard. And I hear Evil Steve is back taking charge of the box office.

It’s like the MWF team had a look inside my brain to configure this trio. Psychoanalytic theory? Tick. Human rights law? Tick. Wizards…!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! etc.
Also, the blog alerts readers to a Cinema Nova special screening of Disgrace, featuring a discussion panel of Elliot Perlman, Sue Maslin, Catherine Deveny, Tom Ryan and Peter Rose. That might be interesting. It’s been a while since I read the book, but, as well as other things, it will be interesting to see if I can get over the spectre of John Malkovich screaming ‘Osborne Cox! Osborne Cox!’ in Burn After Reading.

I went to and worked at too many sessions to make a summary of each interesting to anyone so, drum roll please for the inaugural 3000 books Melbourne Writers Festival awards. All quotes are approximate and taken from my basically useless scrawl.

Most seen author goes to Hannah Tinti, proud parent of The Good Thief. We probably have the same star sign or something. I saw her so many times that I feel like I know her, I’m going to keep calling her Hannah. It probably comes down to the fact that she is an author of short stories, which I have been consuming like a madperson. I went to the The Young Americans party, too, which featured Hannah. Its three participants all theoretically demurred on the basis of their age (Mark Sarvas, for example, is 43). Finally, I spied her in Aphrodite’s LoveTV, an experience from which I theoretically demurred. I mean, I was there while Hannah discussed intimate tales of love with a lady in an emerald green onesie, but I was drinking red wine in the corner. I wasn’t watching or videotaping or fantasising about buying a tent from Toy Kingdom or anything like that, no.

Best chemistry in a session is a tie. Inside UK Publishing, a wildcard not in the program that I suspect was a late addition (or an oopsie) featured crime writer Mark Billingham and David Shelley, his RP-brandishing editor at Little, Brown. Billingham, who used to be a stand-up comedian, surfed the small crowd with ease. But the most interesting dynamic came from the interaction between Shelley and the chair, Michael Williams, who mentioned that he worked at Text Publishing for 6 years before his current post, which I didn’t catch. Williams and Shelley took pretty obvious stances on the continuum of ‘editor-as-cherisher’ to ‘editor-as-book broker’. Typical quote from Williams: ‘I love this and I want to bring this to the world’. Response from Shelley: ‘The world wants this, and I’m going to bring it to them in its best possible form.’ Great TV, I mean, conversation.

Best chemistry in a session II for me was The Tall Man, where Chloe Hooper and Jeff Waters discussed their wildly different takes, and I would surmise books, on the subject of the death of Mulrunji on Palm Island last year. Hooper had stayed with Mulrunji’s family and was obviously much more emotionally involved, though it was not just this which made her a passionate storyteller. Waters approached his writing task with the ‘change the world’ principle of the socially aware investigative journalist but at a greater distance, and with a focus on the consequences for governance issues. From the sound of the bell, they parried on various points including their chosen ways of referring to Mulrunji and the legal status of inquest evidence. Waters was frank about the constraints applicable to him as an ABC correspondent, though defensive enough that it was difficult not to admire Hooper’s directness. Fraught, wide-ranging, dynamic, just as conversation on such important topics should be.

The ‘You made me sad about Australian Publishing‘ award goes to a publisher who gave Michael Hyde reasons for rejecting his novel as follows: ‘Your novel has too many issues–the main character’s girlfriends is Vietnamese, there’s a youth suicide in the plot, and the guy’s dad is a single father.’

Funniest thing worn on stage: Kate Mosse’s platform sneakers.

Yuckiest moment: I complimented a shall-remain-unnamed author on their session the previous day, and was rewarded with a stony silence. Je regrette.

Most beautifully spoken goes to Nicholas Rothwell on The Essay–’an elusive and demanding form’ which should ideally exhibit the writer’s humility.

Session with the youngest average audience age was How to get published. Which was also the winner of my Way too many panellists award.

And there you have it. Did I say to stop the drum roll? You’d better stop.

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August 31, 2008
The Melbourne Writers Festival finished today and I’m a little relieved, because I haven’t had a day off in a couple of weeks, and I can’t afford to sustain the spiked level of book buying – about 20 this week, thank you very much. 10 of those were from the City Library annual book sale, which was a gold mine of things I’ve always had a minor interest in (hardcover Pamela, a slightly water-damaged Georges Simenon, a Faber poetry collection) and I picked up a copy of Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping; Robinson is of course the author of Gilead, the best of the books I read in July last year (haha, check the July 2007 posts).

I’ve got some notes on the MWF sessions I saw this week, but I am currently in recuperation mode and am going to watch the recent BBC production of Persuasion; later, Dexter. Ah, Sunday night.

The festival seems to be going well. Most of the attendees are enthusiastic and patient and kind, and I’m enjoying lots of little chats with them. Notes on the four sessions I saw yesterday:

The Honest Trader suffered a little from losing John Pilger. There were two replacement speakers which meant none of the three speakers had quite enough time. Duncan Green dealt best with this privation and was sharp and snappy. Kenneth Davidson seemed like he was only just getting started–his argument linked global warming and free trade but he barely scratched the surface. It was probably because he spoke so slowly, which I’m sure is very dignified but I wanted to hear much more. Davidson got to sharpen his wit on Q+A participants later on though. From my point of view (economics dummkopf), the suggestions of my RMIT building-mate Heikki Patomaki about the future of governing world trade were admirably succinct, though he was rushed in the end.

Don’t Get Too Comfortable: As soon as David Rakoff used Duncan Green’s ‘one minute please’ warning sheet as the basis for a joke I was charmed. His author reading from Don’t Get Too Comfortable was a blast (he’s also an actor–watch for him as ‘not-Gore-Vidal’ in Capote). I’m a bourgie food-enjoyer so his jibes at artisan sea-salt consumers were not lost on me. Quite helpfully, if you’re not familiar with his work, he said he owes his whole career to David Sedaris (they are also friends).

I was ushering during Salman Rushdie’s The Enchanter session. Though I’m a bit weirded out at some people’s insistence on calling him Sir Salman (I get an image of a fish with a walking cane), and though I probably don’t want to read another book of his again (two is enough), he was an endearing centre of attention for an hour. Even beamed live from Edinburgh, he was a crowd-pleaser who cracked jokes and laughed at them afterwards, but in the best possible way, just like he was happy that everyone was having such a good time. Best moment was when someone in the Edinburgh audience asked him about towns in India that were good to visit for people with low mobility. Apparently the city where The Enchantress of Florence is set was designed with wide streets and ramps everywhere in order for the princess’ litter to be carried with ease, which makes it ideal for tourists with limited mobility. He suggested a very flat town whose name I can’t remember, and then told a story about a tower whose architecture amplifies the voice of a speaker such that it can be heard as far away as the ramparts.

The undisputed highlight of the day for me was Sailing with Nam Le. Le was articulate, considered, inestimably gracious, funny. I actually had a freak-out moment when I thought he was my age (24) but I found out later that he was older. From what I know about him, I wouldn’t characterise him as an ‘ethnic fiction’ writer, but two of his stories are about Vietnamese immigrants coming to Australia. Le discussed the exploitative potential inherent in ethnic fiction, which has often been on my mind lately, and explained his interest in the interface between audience and writer, the building up of expectation and knowledge through autobiographical detail. The discussion touched on writerly disappointment (his 700-page novel was turfed after he deemed it unsalvageable) and rigour. I was charmed to see a writer so enthralled by aesthetics and craft. A better advertisement for a book I have never seen. Thank god he left his law firm. It was great to see Sophie Cunningham chairing that session, as I missed her and Le in the morning’s Ear to the Ground session.

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.