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Posts tagged ‘Sydney Writers Festival’

Sydney Writers’ Festival

Sydney Writers’ Festival is just around the corner, and features a stellar line-up that includes George Saunders, Anne Enright, Colson Whitehead, Mariko Tamaki, Fiona McFarlane, Witi Ihimaera and Krissy Kneen, and events in many locations across the city. I’m appearing on a number of panels.

First up, in Sydney Dance 1 on Thursday 25 May at 1:30pm, is It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World: Visions of Dystopia, with Sally Abbott, Briohny Doyle and Maria Lewis. Tickets are free.

Next is A Gathering Storm: The Rise and Rise of Cli-Fi, in the Richard Wherrett Studio at 11:30am on Friday 26 May, which also features Sally Abbott, Hannah Donnelly and Ashley Hay. Tickets are $15.

Then, on Saturday 27 May, I’m appearing at two events. The first is Keeping Company: Characters Across a Series, which is part of the Festival’s new All Day YA Program at the Riverside Theatre in Parramatta, and also features Catriona Feeney, Amie Kaufman, Garth Nix, Lynette Noni. Tickets for the session are $15, and a five event pass is $50. The second event, which is back at Walsh Bay in Pier 2/3 at 4:30pm, is Dear Science, and also features Ashley Hay, Henry Marsh, Bianca Nogrady and Michael Slezak. Tickets are $20 or $15 concession.

I’m also appearing as part of two other events. The first, Close to Home, in Sydney Dance 2 at 3:00pm on Friday 26 May, is a tribute to my late friend, Georgia Blain, who died of brain cancer in December, and features readings from Georgia’s work by Tegan Bennett Daylight, Charlotte Wood and me. It should be a terrific event, and a great opportunity to celebrate Georgia’s life and work. Tickets are free.

And finally, on at 11:30am on Monday 29 May, I’ll be appearing with my partner Mardi McConnochie at the Carrington Hotel in Katoomba as part of Generation Next, where we’ll both be discussing writing for younger readers. Tickets are $15, or you can buy a one day pass for $65/55, or a two day pass for $100.

If you’re there say hi!

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.

Sydney Writers’ Festival

This week is the second of Festival Director Chip Rolley’s Sydney Writers’ Festivals, and unlikely as it seems, it looks even bigger than his first.

Full details are available on the SWF website, but guests include David Mitchell, Tea Obréht, last year’s Man Booker Prize-winner Howard Jacobson, Michael Connelly, philosopher A.C. Grayling and James Gleick. Sadly another of the major overseas guests, Liao Yiwu, was last week prevented from travelling to Australia by Chinese authorities, a decision that serves as a stark reminder of the challenges facing writers and dissidents in the People’s Republic.

If you’d like to catch me at the Festival I’m doing four events. On Thursday I’ll be discussing anthologising and The Penguin Book of the Ocean with Tim Herbert and Best Australian Stories editor and novelist Cate Kennedy in ‘On Our Selection’; on Friday I’ll be joining Malcolm Knox (whose new book, The Life, I’m halfway through and loving (info and ebook here, hard copy prices here)) and Lisa Pryor for a session about writers and fatherhood entitled ‘Daddy, Daddy, I …’, and on Saturday my partner Mardi McConnochie and I will join Mandy Sayer and Louis Nowra for ‘Au Pairs’, a session about life as one half of a literary couple. I’ll also be speaking to Georgia Blain about her fascinating new book, Too Close To Home on Thursday morning.

And if you’d like to see Mardi, she’s also on a number of panels, including ‘A Question of Character’ on Thursday, ‘Over Here’ on Sunday, and in conversation about her new book, The Voyagers, on Friday.

The Last Werewolf

Just a quick note to say I’ve got a number of reviews in publications that are just hitting the newstands.

The first is of Glen Duncan’s slick, sexy reworking of late-capitalist lycanthropy, The Last Werewolf, which you’ll find in today’s Weekend Australian. I’ve long thought Duncan was a writer who deserved a wider audience, and I suspect The Last Werewolf may be the book to do that for him: certainly he brings a panache and intelligence to the material which lends it real distinction.

Meanwhile in the land of Fairfax I’ve got a review of wunderkind-of-the-week Téa Orbreht’s debut, The Tiger’s Wife in this morning’s Sydney Morning Herald (it’s not online yet, but if it doesn’t turn up by Monday I’ll post it on my Writing page). If you haven’t heard of Obreht yet I’m sure you will soon (if you’re in Australia she’s actually a guest at Sydney Writers’ Festival, the program for which was released on Thursday). Whether The Tiger’s Wife lives up to the hype seems to me to be an open question. It’s good, and Orbreht is enormously poised and polished for her age, but it’s also less innovative than the buzz makes it out to be, owing quite a lot to both the magical realists of the 1980s and more contemporary fantasy and horror writers such as Kelly Link, Margo Lanagan and Neil Gaiman (it’s actually rather interesting to speculate which of the two traditions she’s drawing upon).

As well as the Duncan and Obreht reviews I’ve got a long piece about Annie Proulx’s Bird Cloud in the April Australian Book Review. It’s not online either, which would be a pity except that it gives me an opportunity to mention that ABR have just launched their new online edition, which not only allows subscribers to choose between digital and print subscriptions, but also grants access to ABR’s extensive backlist and other, online-only features. It’s a pretty amazing resource and very worth checking out.

And finally I’d be remiss if I didn’t direct you to Rjurik Davidson’s excellent essay about New Wave SF in the most recent Overland, which I read about ten minutes after publishing my last post. Davidson is of course the author of the justly-praised short story collection The Library of Forgotten Books but he’s also an astute and talented critic, and even if you’re not familiar with the writers lumped together under the somewhat misleading term who make up SF’s “New Wave”, it’s well worth a read (not least because the new China Mieville, Embassytown, is in many ways an extended homage to Silverberg and Aldiss).

Willy Vlautin, Lean on Pete and the literary song

Some of you may remember me waxing lyrical about Willy Vlautin’s new novel, Lean on Pete, a few weeks back. At the time I was planning to write a rather longer post about it, and about Willy’s fiction more generally, but before that could happen I was asked to review it, which put paid to the post.

Anyway – the review was in this weekend’s Australian, and you can read it on their website, but if you want the potted version, the book’s an absolute gem: gentle, shocking, sad and hopeful all at once.

What’s particularly fascinating about the book to me is the fact that Vlautin’s skills as a songwriter so obviously underpin the success of the fiction. You often hear songwriters like Paul Kelly being celebrated as storytellers, but in fact the qualities that lend Kelly’s songs their particular magic are quite different to those that underpin fiction. Partly this is a question of scale: even relatively brief fictional forms such as the short story dwarf the lyrical component of most songs, allowing them a degree of complexity songs are denied. But it’s also about the relative simplicity of song lyrics: whereas fiction tends to use narrative as a thread to explore the interior lives of characters, and more particularly the tensions, contradictions and discontinuities, songs usually shy away from these qualities, preferring to communicate feeling in a more direct manner (if you’re interested, I talked a bit about more these questions last year, in my post about Don Walker’s memoir, Shots).

What’s interesting about Vlautin’s songs is that they are, in some deep sense, highly literary creations. Despite the relative simplicity of their lyrics, their effect is usually dependent upon the manner in which what is being said and what we understand are at odds with each other. In my review I mention ‘The Boyfriends’, from We Used To Think The Freeway Sounded Like A River, and its narrator’s anguished cry of ‘I ain’t like that’ upon realising the child of the woman he has picked up in a bar has been watching them having sex, but many of Vlautin’s songs rely upon this sort of irony. What makes songs like ‘The Boyfriends’ (or indeed songs such as ‘$87 And A Guilty Conscience That Gets Worse The Longer I Go’ or ‘I Fell Into Painting Houses In Phoenix, Arizona’) so powerful is the fragility of their narrators’ self belief, and Vlautin’s keen eye for the deceptions that sustain it, and more importantly, the moments at which that belief finally – and painfully – gives way.

Last time I looked, Vlautin was listed as one of the guests at this year’s Sydney Writers’ Festival, where, amongst other things, he’s being interviewed by my old pal, Richard Fidler, but you can hear him reading from Lean on Pete in the video before (and yes, I know I’ve posted it before). And if you’re interested in the music, you’ll find a live version of ‘The Boyfriends’ beneath it, together with a video for ‘Capsized’, one of my favourite songs from my favourite Richmond Fontaine album, Thirteen Cities. Enjoy.