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Mark Mordue wins Pascall Prize

Mark Mordue

I’m not sure anything’s brightened my day up lately quite as much as the weekend’s news that Mark Mordue has been awarded the 2010 Pascall Prize for Critical Writing. Set up in 1988 in memory of the journalist Geraldine Pacall, the prize is Australia’s only major award for critical writing or reviewing, and is awarded in recognition of a significant contribution “to public appreciation, enjoyment and understanding of the area or areas of the arts in which he or she is involved”.

I know Mark a bit, so it’s difficult not to feel pleased for him at a personal level, especially since he’s one of the world’s good people. But it’s also exciting because I’ve long been an admirer of Mark’s writing. Mark is – in the best sense of the word – a Romantic. In a time when people are increasingly uneasy talking about the transformative power of art, Mark embraces it, both as a writer and a critic.

There’s something salutary about being reminded that books and films and music matter, in some deep sense, but Mark’s writing goes one step further, and makes itself an expression of the same belief in the transformative power of art.

I almost always find the results both fascinating and strangely intense. Whether Mark’s writing about Nick Cave, John Hillcoat’s adaptation of The Road, or growing up in Newcastle, he’s always also questing after a sort of transcendence in his own writing as well. And that, to my mind, is what makes him so exciting to read, since in so doing he puts himself at risk. Which is, in a way, the most important thing you can ask of a critic (or indeed any writer): that they be prepared to demand the same things of themselves they demand of their subjects.

Anyway, I’ll stop raving. My heartfelt congratulations to Mark, and kudos to the judges for a great choice. And if you’re not familiar with Mark’s writing I heartily recommend checking out his website (which looks like it’s been a bit dormant for a while). And if you haven’t read his wonderfully unconventional travel narrative/memoir, Dastgah: Diary of a Headtrip, try and lay your hands on a copy.

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6 Comments Post a comment
  1. Read ‘Dastgah’, after my own adventures in India and really enjoyed the writing.

    Wonder what Mark’s working on at the moment?

    May 26, 2010
  2. Yes, I agree with you about Mark taking risks. And it’s so refreshing! Mark taught me feature writing for a semester back in 2006, so I also have a prior link with him. His enthusiastic embrace of his material sets him apart from the run of the mill reviewers. He also writes very good poetry – a man for all seasons!

    May 26, 2010
  3. David Chapman #

    Second Darcy’s comment. Dastgah was great. I found the section on Iran great reading.

    I see Mark’s reviews from time to time in the newspapers – always worth a read.

    May 26, 2010
  4. Jane GW #

    Thanks for the news and enthusiastic reporting of it James. I hadn’t heard. I too am a big fan of Mark’s passionate approach to life and art. I also had the pleasure of getting down and dirty with ‘Dastgah’, aka editing it.

    May 26, 2010
  5. STM #

    I’m not afraid to admit on a public internet space that after meeting Mark and having him as a writing tutor for two semesters, I started to walk around and talk like him in front of younger friends. I couldn’t quite get the expressive hand gestures right. I was a poor mimic, but I think you’ve tapped into what I was trying for and what is so great about Mark, James – his romanticism & his passion for life & art. I wanted to show just a little bit of that electricity and joy and warmth in the way I walked around and I’m still aiming for that openness in my writing. Like the best awarding of prizes, this is a win for everyone.

    May 26, 2010

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