Last weekend was a great one for reading about Australian writing, with the launch of two new e-publications.
The University of Western Sydney is supporting the brand spanking new Sydney Review of Books, which launched with several articles on Friday. There will be fresh reading every week for the next two months of this pilot project headed up by critic and editor James Ley, so get along there.
First postings include critical essays and reviews by Kate Middleton, Evelyn Juers, Kerryn Goldsworthy, Peter Pierce, Mo Yan and Nicholas Jose, as well as a call to arms for a watch on criticism by Ben Etherington.
Charlotte Wood, author and essayist, has begun a series of interviews available by subscription, The Writer's Room Interviews. You can sign up for them here, at an annual cost of $27.50 for six issues. The first interview was with Tasmanian writer and Patrick White prizewinner Amanda Lohrey, and I found it completely absorbing, probably because I love her work.
There were two things from the interview, among many, that struck me.
Firstly, I liked what Lohrey had to say about how taste affects the reading of fiction:
CW: A painter friend of mine says people think they don’t know what good art is, but that in every show he’s ever had, the best pictures sell first. You don’t understand it,but you know it.
AL: You do know it. It’s instinctive. But at the same time I think that’s more true of the visual arts than of literature. For it’s also true with fiction that there is no single standard of excellence. A book is a meeting of subjectivities and the subjectivity of one writer will speak to one reader but not to another. There are some writers who don’t speak to me at all but I can see why they speak to other readers, can see that they are in the same zone in terms of their preoccupations, and their conditioning, what’s important to them. It’s just not important to me and I’m not interested. So I don’t mean to say — I’m not trying to posit an idea of excellence that everybody responds to. I think literature is very much a one-to one conversation, which is why I cannot argue with someone who says The Alchemist is their favourite book when they’ve obviously got a lot out of it.
Secondly, Lohrey made some useful remarks about what she called 'inventive' realism:
I’ve always been interested in exploratory and inventive modes of realism, not for their own sake but because each new project demands its own aesthetic. I could get very technical on the subject but this is probably not the time or place. I would say, however, that one of the important functions of university writing courses is to encourage students to interrogate taken-for-granted modes of representation. If you decide to write in a conventional way, at least know why you’ve made that decision. Traditionally, film-makers have been much more concerned with issues of representation and more innovative. And to be fair, the camera gives them more scope, but that doesn’t mean that we as writers shouldn’t think about it. You don’t have to be obviously ‘experimental’, you don’t have to write like Gertrude Stein or James Joyce — small unorthodox manoeuvres can have potent effects.
Small and unorthodox. I like the sound of that.
I've been so busy reading these two publications that I did not have time to blog about them at the time. Which speaks for itself. Go, enjoy, be enlightened or enraged, as you will.