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May 2016

By Lauren Gui

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We are inextricably caught up in the paradox of endless numbered days from the day we are born, but fairytales have endured the test of time. I caught up with Kate Forsyth, a celebrated voice in fairytale retelling and acclaimed novelist of the international bestseller Bitter Greens, to talk about how fairytales resonate with both the young and old with their power to instill courage, and the complexity of good and evil choices.

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By Swetha Das

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The intersection between the power of the internet and the prevalence of misogyny has led to the omission of women’s voices in public spaces.

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By Swetha Das

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French writer, Jean Cocteau, once said that “the poet doesn’t invent. He listens”.

A poet has countless influences, but for Kate Lilley and Geoffrey Lehmann, their experiences have drawn out the narratives in their work.

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By Lauren Gui

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Jonathan Franzen does not disappoint.

As he takes the stage, Franzen pauses for a few moments to gaze quizzically around the room before wryly addressing the crowd: “This is a grand hall.” Instantly, I take a fond liking to him, especially since Franzen’s sentiments about Twitter beautifully encapsulate my own: “Twitter is unspeakably irritating.”

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By Angelina Kosev and Tom St John

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The sun is bright, the crowd is plentiful, there are children running around and the sound of what could possibly be a xylophone is wafting out of all the buildings – it is children and family day at the Sydney Writer’s Festival, but I am walking towards the refuge of Julian Baggini’s talk on free will. Perhaps this is a different type of playground (one for the existentialist, the nihilist, or simply the interested; all of whom were spotted here).

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By Lauren Gui

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Cities may burn to the ground, but their bones remain, whispering secrets into the hot dusty breeze.

On a Thursday morning bathed in dazzling sunlight, a packed room tucked away at the end of the pier buzzing in anticipation lowers to an excited murmur. Eleanor Limprecht catches my eye and offers a warm smile and quick wink, picking up on my fruitless attempt to contain my enthusiasm.

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By Lauren A. Weber

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I never thought that a talk surrounding cookbooks would involve politics, race, history, and of course food - all at once.

“Our Food History: In Black and White” featuring Jacqui Newling and John Newton embodied all of this juicy stuff, and I also found out that apparently the notorious Australian supervillain also known as the ‘brush turkey’ is a delicious bird that can be baked or seared like duck!

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By Nicola Cayless

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The lobby at the Pier One Hotel is busy, so I suggest we sit outside for the interview, even though it is a little chilly. Nate Marshall, poet and author of Wild Hundreds (University of Pittsburgh Press 2015), is from Chicago, though. I doubt the cold would bother him.

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by Swetha Das

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Lauren A. Weber


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It isn’t often you can say you began your day by watching Paul Muldoon read Seamus Heaney’s poems. Kicking off today’s festivities meant learning how eloquent and engaging Muldoon is as a reader, something I wouldn’t necessarily have expected from the often rolling, difficult nature of his poems.

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By Tom St John

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Platoon, Blackhawk Down, Full Metal Jacket, American Sniper...Hollywood has a long tradition of hyper-masculinity in film. It’s in this fetishised world of fraternal loyalty and physical courage, argues University of Sydney lecturer Dr Megan Mackenzie, that we form and perpetuate the myth that women don’t belong in the armed forces.

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By Tom St John

Yanis Varoufakis believes there are two kinds of politicians – the Insiders and the Outsiders. You didn’t need to go to his series of extended soliloquies on European economic history last night to know which of the two kinds of politicians he sees himself as. You did, however, need to go last night if you wanted to know why.

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By Nicola Cayless

I wonder if Catriona has ever read Aesop.

“Slow and steady wins the race,” the adage goes. I’m sure at the very least, she’s aware of the concept. The hare, with all its speed and velocity, tires out, while the tortoise plods across the finish line victoriously.

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By Swetha Das

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The privilege of naivety when it comes to understanding the hardships of war was a sentiment that rang true during the talk “The Reality of War: Reconciling Two Worlds”.

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By Tom St John

I’ve never actually seen Jaws before, and yet it’s almost impossible to go further than neck-deep at my local beach before the rhythmic ‘Dada…dada…dada-dada-dada’ starts echoing through my mind.

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By Alistair Kitchen and Nicola Cayless

If there were any old media acolytes wandering around the Sydney Writers Festival on Friday, they found no solace in John Birmingham’s talk. Appropriately named “Death Spiral: The Future of Media and Publishing”, Birmingham used his time to lambast the decisions of media heads trying to adjust to brave new world of media.

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By Tom St John

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“If it no go so, it go near so”
- Jamaican Proverb

Pier One hotel guests reclined on cushioned cane benches, cruise ships moved through the harbour sporadically blotting out the setting sun, two Dark and Stormy cocktails were on their way, and Marlon James was shaking himself out of the inevitable jetlag that comes with acclimatising to the Australian time zone.

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If you missed seeing these two fantastic and famous writers in conversation, here's the lowdown:

By: Lauren A. Weber


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This is one of the big talks, one of the ones that you can’t wait to tell your friends and family about. Everyone has either read Boyd or Barnes for pleasure or study, they are two of the most important contemporary fiction writers of the English literature world.

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Written by Nicola Cayless

On stage sit three big names in the contemporary American poetry world. Little me, baby poet from Sydney, is shaking in my boots.

Don Share (the editor of POETRY magazine), and Nate Marshall and Jamila Woods (two superstar poets, activists, and performers from Chicago), chat amongst themselves, waiting for the audience to file in. Every so often, Marshall’s childlike bark of a laugh echoes out amongst the empty seats, washing over me.

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By Tom St John

It may have been influenced by the fact it was my first day at the Sydney Writer’s Festival 2016, but Thursday the 19th felt like a day of discovery. Foreigners discovering how beautiful a sunset on Sydney Harbour can look, authors discovering a new style, Rotarians discovering the selfie feature on their smartphones and doe-eyed young children discovering how a book can make you feel.

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