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« March 2015 | Blog home | June 2015 »

May 2015

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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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“Stamp collectors, with their glue-tabs and albums, adorers of the tenuous papery whisper of what comes from afar, soaking envelopes to reclaim cancelled stamps, discarding the envelopes, ignoring the addresses, never noticing the names of the original recipients, the persons for whom the letter was intended, cherishing instead the postage.” Proximity People, Jonathan Lethem. http://granta.com/proximity-people/

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Full disclosure: this was the guy I’d been waiting to see all Sydney Writers’ Festival. Ever since Chronic City, I had wanted to hear Jonathan Lethem spill his brains to an open audience, delivering a full explanation for his concoctions of science fiction, contemporary culture and Pynchonian paranoia. Not one to disappoint, on Sunday afternoon at his talk King Of Sentences, an ebullient Lethem walked us through his literary worlds and the elements that have constructed them.

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When I walked into the room to listen to the ‘Her Body, Her Choice’ panel at the Sydney Writers’ Festival, I was surprised at how stunned I was to see four women of colour sitting on stage.

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Australia’s experience of war has tended to become a byword for nationhood, a means of expressing and realising our independence as a nation. However, it is not exactly a straightforward affair. The SBS’ sacking of the recalcitrant Scott McIntyre over his ANZAC day comments reflects the polarising nature of the discussion. The recent centenary of the ANZAC legend has also forced Australians to reassess how our military responses have affected our national identity and historical representation.

On Saturday, three notable historians - Jenny Hocking, Tim Rowse, and Professor of History and Provost at the University of Sydney Stephen Garton - presented a thoroughly detailed historical enquiry into these questions at hand.

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From clicktivism to citizen journalism, social media has become an essential platform for social and political change (at least if you’re a Gen Y kid).

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I was born in 1993, at almost exactly the same time as the Internet was beginning to revolutionise the way the world works.

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Emily St. John Mandel’s fourth novel Station Eleven is a thrilling, beautifully written novel that explores relationships in a post-pandemic world where 99 per cent of the world’s population has been wiped out. The story follows a troupe of musicians and Shakespearean actors, The Travelling Symphony, as they perform between the remaining settlements. WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD.

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Historian Harvey Broadbent and biographer Ross Coulthart didn’t challenge the myths of Gallipoli. They didn’t need to; the mere facts were sufficient.

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From David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas to Suzanne Collin’s Hunger Games trilogy, dystopian novels are becoming increasingly in vogue, as their Hollywood blockbuster adaptions attest.

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I confess: I was somewhat dreading attending Dr Fiona Allon’s Sydney Writers’ Festival talk, ‘On Hipsters’.

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What do you see in this painting?

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Evie Wyld was the winner of the 2014 Miles Franklin award for her second novel, All the Birds, Singing. Wyld was born in London and moved to Australia, where she grew up in New South Wales. Her novel focuses on notions of place, navigating between the harsh Australian landscape and the UK with gothic flavour.


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The Charlie Hebdo tragedy in Paris this January has dramatically refocused the global spotlight on the question of freedom of speech, what it really entails, and the polarising consequences its application can have. Last night, three wonderfully different minds, Ben Okri, Tim Soutphommasane, and Ayu Utami sat down to tackle the issue at hand in the gripping Sydney Writers’ Festival panel ‘Freedom of Speech: A Loaded Gun?’

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The world of Greek and Roman literature is one that can seem outdated and irrelevant, tucked away in musty libraries and museums. This morning, in the resplendent Roslyn Packer Theatre, Daniel Mendelsohn and David Malouf confronted this perception in their Sydney Writers’ Festival talk "Writers on Writers: Malouf and Mendelsohn on the Classics", peeling back the veneer of the Classics and presenting an enticing world of “naked statues and bad behavior.”

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Image: CC BY 2.0/Flickr: Tony Webster

What do Sarah Hopkins, Kate McClymont, and Michael Robotham all have in common?

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Kate McClymont needs no introduction. From uncovering rife corruption and nepotism in the Eddie Obeid case, to her Gold Walkley-winning exposé into the Bulldogs salary cap scandal, she has no doubt seen Sydney “at its best, and its worst.”

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Image: CC-by-2.0/Flickr: FT/McKinsey BBYA 2014 .

George Clooney is a fan of investigative journalist, Nick Davies.

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University of Sydney academic Dr Rebecca Sheehan shattered cultural prejudices at her talk at the Sydney Writers’ Festival

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