Sunday, September 03, 2006

How To Understand The Melbourne Writers' Festival

Today I went to a talk at the Melbourne Writers' Festival given by Gerald Murnane and hosted by Imre Salulsinszky. I have to say I enjoyed it quite a bit; Murnane and Salusinszky were much more genial and entertaining than just about any other of the people I'd heard talk at the festival. Salusinszky asked Murnane, for the benefit of unfamiliar readers, what book they could buy first. Murnane gave a run down of his books, which prompted Salusinszky to observe 'What was the question again? Ah, I asked you which would be the best of your books to read first, and you said, all of them'. Murnane said of the style of one of his books that it was 'Simple - no, not simple, complex - but straightforward.' Which was perhaps one of the more complex but straightforward descriptions I'd heard of anybody's writing style. He also gave an entertaining description of when he and Salusinszky had first met - after a book reading, when he was confronted by three men in trenchcoats in a Melbourne alleway as if he had been 'found out as a false intellectual'; one of those men turned out to be Imre.
Imre observed at one point that one day he would make a map of the world - similar to those political maps where different political groupings are illustrated by colour - in which those areas where Murnane's books were more widely read would be illustrated by colour. Nice idea, I thought - and immediately put me in mind of a map of the Melbourne Writers' Festival, where the different contingents were illustrated by colour.
So, without further ado, I present - as a kind of homage to the writers' festival, and a kind of homage to Imre and Gerald, my Geopolitical Map of the Melbourne Writers' Festival.


RED = Left-wing delegation. Tend to dominate the writers' festival. They take up the central position in the room, but also have substantial contingents in other parts of the festival as well.

BLUE = Right-wing death beast contingent. Far fewer in numbers than the Reds, but gather in decent numbers when one of their own (ie, Andrew Bolt, Salusinszky) is speaking. Tend to stick to their own in a corner of their room (see above) drinking alcoholic beverages (except for Chardonnay) and grumping at the elites.

GREEN = The hippy and environmentalist collective. They're not sure whether they should be there at all (writing involves so much destruction of paper, don't you know!) so they stick to the back of the room and hope no one notices them.

BLACK = Professional beatnik class. They go to all of these festivals, look very trendy, and smoke/sniff/drink/ingest-by-other-means all the fashionable drugs, but if you ask them what the festival is actually about, then they won't have a fucking clue.

ORANGE = Writers. There are a few of them at the writers' festival, after all. They tend to drift in packs of one or two, looking lonely and confused until their manager tells them to go to an event, go have some fun, or go home.

So there you go; it's almost as bad as if you were there yourself!


ras said...

Does that map also work for the National Young Writers Festival in Newcastle too?

The This Is Not Art festival seems to attract more of the Green and the Black than anything else I've noticed

Caz said...

What are all the white bits?

Don't try to get away with telling me that they represent white noise, 'cause I'll start thinking that you just make stuff up as you go along.

TimT said...

Ras - yeah, it'll do that. But I guess more of the Green and Black and Red, and what's the colour for Newcastle Goth? 'Cos black's already taken.

Caz - heaven forbid that I just make this stuff up as I go along! The white is for the whites of their eyes. You see a lot of that, on account of it gets crowded in the Malthouse there.
It's certainly not for all the white people in attendance. The Melbourne Writers' Festival is a modern, multicultural celebration of diversity in no way connected to the Age's white, upper-middle-class readership.

ras said...

grey for goths, or maybe brown, because they are full of shit.

BTW i sent you the TINA blogathon link for newcastle if you feel like a holiday

I'll be out of work by then so maybe we can hook up

TimT said...

Ha, I see that it's late September. Not sure, might be able to go down on the weekend. We'll see - don't know how likely it is at the moment. But who knows *how* far I'll go for a blog meet up?

Email: timhtrain - at -

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