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Posts tagged ‘Geordie Williamson’

Sydney Writers’ Festival!

swf_bwrevlgIt’s only a few weeks until the main program for Sydney Writers’ Festival gets under way. This year’s program looks completely amazing, featuring writers such as Helen MacDonald, author of the frankly astonishing H is for Hawk, Daniel Mendelsohn (who will be in conversation with David Malouf about reading the classics on Thursday 21 May – be still my beating heart), Malcolm Knox (whose new novel, The Wonder Lover, is out now, and who was profiled in the Fairfax papers over the weekend) and many more.

If you’d like to catch me I’m doing a number of events in and around Sydney during the Festival. First up I’ll be in conversation with Geordie Williamson at the Carrington Hotel in Katoomba on Monday 18 May at 3:00pm, where we’ll be talking about Clade, climate change and writing the Anthropocene.

On Thursday of the same week I’ll be back in Sydney, this time at Randwick Library, where I’m speaking at 6:30pm. Tickets for this event are free, and can be booked online or by calling 02 9399 6966.

And then, over the weekend, I’m at two events at the main festival. The first is a panel at 11:30am on Saturday 23 May entitled ‘Imagined Futures’, chaired by Ashley Hay and featuring Emily St. John Mandel, David Mitchell, Jonathan Lethem. I’m incredibly excited abut this panel: I’ve been a huge admirer of Lethem for years, and as I said when I posted about my favourite books of 2014, I adored both The Bone Clocks and Station Eleven. Tickets for this one are $25 or $20 concession, and although there are still some available I suspect they won’t be for long.

The second, which I’m also very much looking forward to, is with Anson Cameron and David Schlosberg on Sunday 24 May at 3:00pm, and is entitled ‘Climate Change and the New Nature’. I think this should be a fascinating and quite provocative session. Tickets are $14.

Anyway, hopefully I’ll see some of you at some of these events. And if not, take a look at the full program: it’s an incredible line-up.

Geordie Williamson launches Clade

You can now watch Geordie Williamson’s characteristically generous and thoughtful speech at the launch of Clade at Better Read Than Dead Bookshop in Newtown last week. My heartfelt thanks to Geordie, the team at Better Read Than Dead and everybody who came along for making it such a special event.

Geordie Williamson wins 2011 Pascall Prize for Criticism

Geordie Williamson

There may have been higher profile events at Sydney Writers’ Festival, but as far as I’m concerned the one I was most pleased to be a part of was last night’s Pascall Prize Ceremony, at which it was announced Geordie Williamson has won the 2011 Pascall Prize for Criticism.

As with last year’s decision to hand the Prize to Mark Mordue, it’s a decision that’s immensely pleasing on two levels. First and foremost it’s an excellent decision: Geordie is, without a doubt, one of – if not the – best critic working in Australia at the moment. Whether on radio, in print or in person he brings a level of erudition, generosity and eloquence to his subject which is incredibly rare, and which is complemented by his genuine and passionate belief in the importance of writing and literature. More importantly though, he’s one of those rare critics for whom everything holds interest and value: at the ceremony last night he spoke of his belief that criticism should be an open hand rather than a fist, words that seem to me to sum up a lot of what’s wonderful about his writing (and indeed about Geordie himself).

That generosity of spirit is also manifested in Geordie’s passion for Australian writing. As anybody who’s heard his regular spot on ABC 702 will know, he’s a tireless advocate for Australian writers and Australian writing, but he also works incredibly hard behind the scenes. In recent years he’s been a judge on the Vogel Award, the NSW Premier’s Awards (both of which are gigs which involve a huge amount of work for almost no remuneration) as well as appearing almost constantly at Festivals and other events around the country.

But last night’s decision was also incredibly satisfying because Geordie is one of my closest friends, and if there’s one thing better than people who deserve good things getting them, it’s people you know getting good things they deserve.

All of which is a roundabout way of saying I’m delighted, both for Geordie personally and more generally, and that I’m sure I’m not the only one. As the old saying goes, it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy (and I couldn’t be more pleased).

If by chance you’re not familiar with Geordie’s writing, it appears regularly in The Australian, but he also a Tumblr page, Forest of Dead Words, and you can follow him on Twitter.

Update: Geordie’s acceptance speech is now online. You can also read Mark Mordue’s speech and the Judges’ Report and a short piece by one of the judges, Damon Young, over at Damon’s blog Darkly Wise, Rudely Great (which if you don’t read, you should).

Blogging and telling the truth

I’ve got a review of Sam Lipsyte’s scabrously funny new novel, The Ask, in this morning’s Australian, and while I don’t necessarily advocate reading the review I absolutely recommend reading the book, which is hugely entertaining.

This morning’s Australian also features a fascinating piece by Geordie Williamson about blogging, which attempts to resituate the deeply tedious debate about the value of online writing by asking some questions about the aesthetics of blogging, and how the form alters the way we write.

Before I go any further I should point out that Geordie (who’s a friend) says nice things in the piece about me and this blog, and in particular the posts I’ve got reproduced in Karen Andrews’ new anthology of Australian blog writing, Miscellaneous Voices (‘On Novels and Place’ and ‘The Day of the Triffids . . .’). But his kind words about me notwithstanding, I think the piece makes some interesting and valuable points, not the least of which is the manner in which many writers who operate in more controlled forms are made uneasy by the immediacy and gregariousness of the online environment, and the importance of recognising that for all its apparent openness, online writing still seeks to control the terms of the reader’s interaction with the writer by controlling what aspects of the writer’s life and experience they have access to.

In a way this is an unsurprising thing to say. Despite the illusion of openness, all writing is fundamentally an exercise in controlling the terms of the reader’s access to the writer’s inner life. This is probably clearest in forms like the personal essay, but it’s equally true of fictional forms, in which the raw material of feeling and experience is encoded and transfigured by the process of creation: even at their most honest writers are always withholding, shaping, controlling. A good reader understands that, just as they understand that a writer often reveals as much or more about themselves through what they don’t say, through their tics and blind spots, as they do in the things they choose to tell us. But it’s also something we sometimes seem to forget in our rush to celebrate the openness and collaborativeness of the online environment. Because whatever else it is, online writing is still about inventing versions of the self, whether as pleasing personas, disguises or simply creations to be deconstructed and analysed, and as such needs to be understood within a critical framework capable of making sense of the complexities of that process. All of which makes pieces like Geordie’s, which is attempting to make connections between the ways we talk about more ostensibly “literary” forms such as the essay, and blogging (and indeed books like Karen’s, which seeks to place blogging in a wider context) all the more valuable.

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