Posts Tagged ‘wheeler centre’

September 24, 2010

Hello. I apologise for my little absence of late – it’s been a bit busy. For instance, on the weekend, instead of blogging, I went to an unconference about blogging. As that annoying person in your Novel and Film tute always used to say: ‘How very meta.’

The unconference was organised by Ye Olde Wheelie Bin, and there’s a post at its website that’s worth checking out; there’s some conversation going on there already. Some of my favourite people and favourite commentators were in attendance: Pat Allan, Mel CampbellBen Eltham, Richard Watts, Mark HolsworthAlison Croggon, Angela Meyer, Lisa Dempster, Paul CallaghanNikita VanderbylW.H. Chong and George Dunford (Daniel, I admit to you and everyone that I ganked this list straight from your blog – thanks!) and we all went to eat dumplings together in the middle of the day (vegan Lisa and co-optee Paul excepted), and it was all very civilised. I played my usual part of court jester-cum-naïf by telling an amusing little story, and then ate figs while everyone else discussed important things.

Not to be too glib about it, though. What impressed me was how mindful many of the attendees were of their writing practice, their aims, their ethics and the new terrain they were writing in and forging, whether in their blogging or print work. I have to admit I’ve never given my blog much thought. Since I was a wee tacker, getting up at 5 am to take advantage of the cheap internet rates (remember that time, everyone older than 25?) I’ve engaged in some form of online writing. The hallowed annals of Livejournal and Diaryland had ne’er seen the likes of it before. Hello, cryptic little epigrams and odd in-jokes with Portland, Oregon counterparts.

But the one very constant and pressing thought I’ve had since the Critical Failure panel series is that, despite the throwaway nature of this blog’s genesis (Golly! Let’s start a blog!) and despite the fact that sometimes all I do is talk about foodstuffs, what this blog enables me to do is write regularly. There you have it: modest, yes, prosaic … but true. And that weekly process of attempting to honour a reading experience by fixing it in my own words has been valuable. You only need to go back and read my first few posts to see that. Not just because what I write these days is more coherent or readable, but because I feel more steady-footed when approaching a book; I feel like reading is much more reciprocal now. See also Jo Case’s wonderful post about how blogging helped along her writing at Killings.

Last Friday I roped some of my more malleable friends into coming to the Wheeler Centre’s A Night of Chekhov event. I shouldn’t have been so ardent in my roping-in, because the room was packed to the rafters with Chekhovanatics young and old. I could have made a lot of new friends. I could have invited them all to my house to talk about Russian realism and how mouldy my bathroom ceiling is. (I guess they all dodged a bullet there.)

Typically, I arrived late, and after divesting myself of my gigantic fur coat, vodka receptacle and bear hat, I scanned the panel to see Cate Kennedy, Alex Menglet, Jean-Pierre Mignon, Stephen Armstrong and … ‘Is that Peter Goldsworthy?’ I scrawled on my notepad, and then showed it to my friend Daniel, who gruffly said, ‘Da’, before turning back to his iPad to look for beautiful aspiring spies of a marriageable age.

It’s been a while since I read any Chekhov, but it’s an enduring experience. It was a real pleasure hearing these five fans discuss Chekhov’s prose and plays with so much bonhomie and specificity. And I don’t feel bad calling them ‘fans’, because they each brought a personal depth to the discussion.

Occasionally, the panel format can be a staid one, inducing dreams of eiderdowns in the audience, but not so with these five. Stephen was a great moderator who had more than just questions to offer, saying, ‘I’ve come to believe that the English hate us because of what they do to Chekhov.’ A lot was made of the Western tradition of extracting humour from Chekhov and leaving only ethnography – mere pictures of Russian life. Mignon was quiet, but Kennedy was vivacious and warm. Goldsworthy played his similiarities to the Russian scribe for some deserved laughs: ‘You invited me here as a short story writer? I thought I was here as a doctor.’ Menglet was wonderful, suffering the indignity of a fur hat and reading from ‘The Cherry Orchard’ in Russian and offering his take on performing the works of the great writer.

Obviously, the star of the show was the polymathic and ceaselessly industrious Anton Pavlovich Chekhov, whose literary feats were matched by his medical ones. The loudest note sounded in Friday’s conversation was Chekhov’s humanism – his ability not to ironise or judge his characters, not to leave a story at the teaching-point. Compassion – it’s a crucial aspect of any fiction writing, and he was a master.

Postscript: ‘Internet research’ for this blog post unearthed the quote ‘I have tried googling for some sort of list of Russian clichés, but I have not succeeded.’

What I like to do when the Wheeler Centre programming comes out is book everything straight away. Otherwise, it’s like watching letterboxes go by on the tram. Without any further ado, the events that caught my bowerbird’s eye are A Night of Chekhov, featuring Cate Kennedy and Peter Goldsworthy; Erotic Fan Fiction, with Lally Katz, Marieke Hardy and others (it’s LIVE SHIPPING, people) and the Celebration of the New Poets series.

Causing me to flick so far and fast through my diary that I sustained paper cuts is the Critical Failure series, with panels discussing the state of arts reviewing in Australia across four art forms – theatre, film, books and visual arts. Also pretty exciting (but you won’t be able to book until July 16) is that Bret Easton Ellis will be discussing his new book.

And, as usual, total price = $0.00.

February 15, 2010

I was thrilled to have another crack at the Wheeler Centre’s fine canapés on Friday night. But their splendour was overtaken by…

…the spectacle of Jennifer Byrne’s toned arms. Sparkling wine was flowing, heads were balding, editors were stumbling, heads were talking. Sorry, no pictures of the delicious morsels this time – I cleaned the Centre right out. Then on to the naffly titled World of Wine, a bar whose acronym is both subtle and deep, where Toni Jordan drank utterly the most giant gin and tonic I have ever seen. However, mine was normal sized. Clearly discrimination against people who haven’t written a very popular novel.

So, it’s two for two, and I’m rather excited to visit the Centre again tonight for the first Debut Mondays event. It features Sofie Laguna, Madeleine Hamilton, Andrew McDonald and Bob Franklin – whose Under Stones I am currently reading and enjoying very much – reading from their debut books.

Lots of the events have already ‘sold out’ (in inverted commas because most everything is free), so don’t forget to book, etc. I’ve already dropped the ball on the Gala Night and the first Meanland event (the next is Reading in a Time of Technology), so I’ll be ahead of the game for when sweetest of playwrights Lally Katz makes a writer’s mixtape on 23 February and Waleed Aly discusses the future of conservatism on 22 March. See you there.