Mark Mordue wins Pascall Prize
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.