Melbourne Writers Festival 2014, let’s call it an Early Friday wrap, with lettuce

Well it’s upon us, and has been for a week now. But it really cranks up for me tomorrow.

Thus far the highlights have been Meg Wolitzer (last Saturday), Joan London (last night) and Salman Rushdie (tonight). I’m not going to be able to do what I did last year, which was post long recounts here. I’m doing bits and pieces on twitter and might put some stuff here. It’s just too hard, I’m sorry. I’m busy with other work (possibly a tv appearance next week, eeek, which scares the shit out of me) as well as just, you know, life.

But I will put my notes for Rushdie up here next week. I found it really stimulating and I went into Dallas Brooks Centre (it will always be hall to me) with I have to say a slightly negative perception of him, I’m not sure why. The statuesque girlfriend/wife? Why should I hold that against him? Who doesn’t love beauty. Um, was it the tone of voice when I read a few pages of Joseph Anton. But I was charmed and amused by him, impressed by his intellect. But really, what did I expect? This is Rushdie. Of course he’s going to be fucking amazing. There’s a reason why these uber-writers are so uber. It’s not just their books, I don’t think. They have force and presence and smart smart brains. They are erudite and fluent and articulate. They are charming, and funny and engaging. They are storytellers, and it’s this, and their personalities, that an audience responds to. In the David Foster Wallace video below, he says that readers don’t go to see authors to hear them read, or to find out about their books. They go to see what the writer is like. This is true but for me it can also make me buy a book, or not, get it signed, or not. Read them or not. And I also see how people present themselves, how audiences respond. What warms an audiences, and what has a repellant effect. So appearances can have layers of effect.

I wasn’t going to buy a book and get it signed, but I did. I raced to get Satanic Verses (I have others here, others that are on my shelves unread) and lined up to get it signed. I decided I would impress him by not fawning over him, by not bending in front of the table and boring him with absurd flattery. And I didn’t. He looked up, I smiled with my mouth closed, kind of wry, kind of ‘I feel sorry for you, you must be so tired, and look at all these fawning fools, BUT REALLY YOU WERE MAGNIFICENT AND DO YOU AND MARTIN GET TOGETHER FOR DRINKS?’ (As I’d edged forward in the line I’d wondered whether mouth open or closed.) He said ‘hi’ and I said ‘hi’ back.

I’ll also post on anything that comes up over the weekend, but I have to get through the weekend first.

In the meantime, I’m still reading the Patti Smith memoir, and starting another AM Homes.

And this week I finished this, a long interview with David Foster Wallace in 2003, I watched it in nine parts, and it’s extraordinary. It makes for excruciating viewing. This is a man who had no defenses it seems to me, no artifice. He struggled with public stuff and media, but he let people in, and tried his best to explain things. Watching is makes me feel his anguish. Here’s part one:

The other extraordinary one I watched was an interview with his literary agent, Bonnie Nadell, filmed about two years after he died:


Other things I’ve been reading, links below:

I’m going to Berlin in February next year, and found these two delights on a blog, Lizzy’s Literary Life.
When in Berlin read all about it and Cityliterature: Citylit Berlin.

Then I saw this: London Walks I’ll be there for a week before meeting my daughter in Budapest, then we go Prague, Vienna, Berlin and back to London to fly out. I want to make it a really booky tour. Not a writery one, a readery one.

I love Jonathan Franzen, and here he is interviewing a German author he very much admires, Daniel Kehlmann.

My type of fiction – ‘literary’ (‘the two dirtiest words in the English language’ someone said) – ‘used to be central to the culture’ but once again, the novel is dead (and this time it’s for real), or so says Will Self in this article.

On twitter, or was it facebook, I saw an exchange between writers about Rachel Cusk, a name I’ve heard but not read. Apparently, this woman is much hated, so of course I wanted to find out why. I read a few articles, and here’s one of them:

Aftermath was creative death. I was heading into total silence.

Lena Dunham

I love Lena Dunham, I do. Look at her, at the Emmys a couple of days ago above. She’s fabulous. But this is a woman who polarises. I don’t think anyone feel meh about her. But I really really love her, and I love her show GIRLS. And yes, I will buy her book straight away when it comes out, and yes, I will probably love it, based on this excerpt in The New Yorker. I read a critical piece afterwards, that said it’s not well written, and has the appearance only of ‘letting us in’ and really, she doesn’t let us in. Who cares either way, I mean really. It is what it is. Like it or not, like her or not, whatever. You can’t argue that she’d not a voice of a generation. (This is what her character Hannah said when challenged about whether she could claim to be the voice of her generation. So funny but poignant too. That’s all fiction ever is, and fictional characters. Not meant to be representative of a group I don’t reckon. It can only be an individual point of view.)

And finally this, what are those little germ-like transparent things that you can see floating around on your eyeball? I remember being a kid and wondering if everyone had them. I would ‘play’ with them, trying to keep them still, fixing them in place, as I stared at a spot on the wall. Well, here is what they are:

What those strange things you see floating on your eye are





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