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Daniel Mendelsohn is a celebrated classicist and critic for the New Yorker and New York Review of Books, and author of the international bestseller The Lost: a search for six of six million. His education as a classicist informs the bulk of his literary output, in which he builds wonderfully imaginative bridges between cultural pasts and the present. I caught up with Daniel to talk about his role as a cultural critic, the importance of the classics and the gruelling experience of writing memoirs.

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Evie Wyld in conversation with Geordie Williamson, talks about her Miles Franklin award winning novel All the Birds, Singing

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We’ve all had those moments. Peering at a restaurant menu, wondering why it was necessary to specify that a “hen” had laid your “slow cooked egg” or what “spanked rosemary” would taste like.

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Karen Hitchcock is an award-winning author, doctor, and a regular columnist for The Monthly. Her recent Quarterly Essay, Dear Life: On caring for the elderly, investigates the treatment—both medical and political--- of Australia’s ageing population. In her Sydney Writers’ Festival lecture, ‘On Ageing’, she spoke out against the reduction of Australia’s aged population “into a statistic used to justify economic austerity”, and argued that many elderly Australians are internalising politicians’ rhetoric about the burden they place on Australian society. She spoke to me about ageing, anger, and her friendship with Helen Garner.

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Holding a talk about television at a writers’ festival? How… disgusting. Blasphemous even. I very nearly boycotted this event (lest I heckled the Philistines on the panel) until I realised that one such panellist was my hero, the inimitable Shaun Micallef. Philistines? Did I say that? Ahem, all in good fun…

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Image: Helen Garner Flickr: Lee Sandwith

This House of Grief

Why would a father drive his three sons, aged 10, seven and two, into a dam on a farm between Winchelsea and Geelong in rural Victoria, resulting in their death by drowning and his escape into a life imprisonment sentence? This House of Grief is celebrated Australian author Helen Garner's latest work. This House of Grief tells the story of Robert Farquharson. It’s not a story told on his behalf, but it’s also not a story that reduces him to a ‘monster’. Helen Garner is unafraid to invade deep into threatening territory. Her Sydney Writers’ Festival talk made clear just how necessary, valuable and costly her writing is in its honest pursuit of understanding as much as she can. Costly because when reading or listening to her, it is hard, or impossible, to prevent the dissolution of barriers we might have constructed to save us from feeling pain for those who “don’t deserve” our compassion. As she put it, simply and tellingly, when labelling someone a “monster” there is a subtext: “He is a monster and I am not…[It is] separating yourself from the horrible mess that human lives are.”

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