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Brisbane Writers Festival 2006

Readersvoice.com aims to give people a few good reading tips.You might want to check the article list for even more interviews and suggestions.For this issue I went along to the Brisbane Writers’ Festival and listened to a few writers talking about their latest books.Also I attended a couple of films at the recent Brisbane International Film Festival.Some directors and actors appeared at question and answer sessions after screenings of their movies, and I asked some for reading tips.

A lot of speakers at writers festivals push the same political line.

This can make speakers predictable, as speakers and as writers -whether of fiction or non-fiction.

But you can see some inspiring authors at writers’ festivals, too, so I went along to the recent Brisbane Writers’ Festival, at South Bank, beside the Brisbane River.

Some authors at the BWF would finish their talks in the white marquees lining the Brisbane River, and wander over to the book tent to sit at tables and sign their books.

Sometimes they’d get a break between people wanting books signed, and you could ask them things – like the titles of a few books they could recommend.

Poet John Kinsella’s memoir is Fast, Loose Beginnings: A Memoir of Intoxication.

At his speaking session he said he used to think intoxication would help his creativity, but it didn’t, and he just ended up watching friends die.

Also he talked about activism; he described himself as an anarchist vegan pacifist.

He said he used his poetry for social activism, and said it was more effective than protesting in person like he used to, and getting himself arrested in the process.

This raised the issue of how he and the other writers at his speaking session avoided crossing the line between art and propaganda.

He said that propaganda is where you hate everything about something, and say nasty things all the time about something; but if you said some good things then it’s ok.

Also he said the people he criticised in his poetry, like a crop-duster in one poem he read, were often friends of his.

He didn’t like what they did but that didn’t stop him from liking them as people.

Similarly he didn’t always agree with things poet Les Murray said, but he admired his poetry.

Later in the Book Tent, he said we lived in an immediate culture these days, and this meant that people did not take time to reflect or think about what they heard.

These were ideal conditions for propaganda to flourish.

He liked Herman Melville, particularly Moby Dick and Billy Budd.

Playwright Michael Gurr wrote the memoir Days Like These, in which he comments on Australian culture and politics.

Regarding the avoidance of propaganda, he said he hoped to “leave some space to think about it” when he dealt with issues in his plays.

He recommended Aunt Dan and Lemon, a play by Wallace Shawn; and Acting Up, a theatre diary by David Hare.

It was interesting observing how skillfully Gabrielle Carey structured her anecdotes in her speech.

The co-author of Puberty Blues, the classic novel about teenage surfing culture in Sydney, recommended The Holy Sinner, a 1951 novel by Thomas Mann; The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot (1860); and Midnite by Randolph Stowe.

Natalie Jane Prior is the author of The Star Locket, a book for younger readers about Estee Merton and Sally Taverner – two girls identical in appearance but strangers and living on opposite sides of the world.

Each has half of a star-shaped locket which could control the destiny of millions.

Ms Prior jotted down on my notebook: “Really great read for boys…The Doomsday Rats series by James Moloney.”

Also, while they were speaking at various sessions writers would sometimes mention a favorite book or two.

Emma Darwin, who wrote the novel The Mathematics of Love as part of a masters course in creative writing, said she liked Charlotte Sometimes by Penelope Farmer.

Copyright Simon Sandall.