Tag Archives: Malcolm Turnbull

SWF 2020 Day One

This year, because of viral matters, the Sydney Writers’ Festival has gone virtual. According to its website, more than 50 re-imagined sessions from the 2020 program will be presented as podcasts over the next few months. I don’t usually blog about podcasts, but since I’ve been blogging about the Sydney Writers’ Festival for 16 years off and mostly on, why not? I’ve made a monetary donation to help the festival through this crisis (and you can too, at this link). Here’s my bloggetary one, hopefully the first of several.

The first six podcasts were uploaded last Friday, all excellent. Here they are in my listening order, plus an earlier one that’s technically part of the Festival. The titles of the sessions here are linked to the Festival website where you can find the podcast..

Alison Whittaker: Opening Night Address: Alison Whittaker, described on the Festival website as ‘Gomeroi poet, essayist and legal scholar’, evoked the isolated condition in which she recorded her talk. She said her brief included a request to avoid talking about Covid-19 if it was possible, but she couldn’t find a way to avoid it. The theme of the Festival is Almost Midnight: she suggested that it’s now a minute past midnight, that we are living in apocalyptic times, but that First Nations Peoples have been doing that for 250 years. It’s a salutary talk, in which Whittaker pays tribute to many other First Nations writers who were scheduled to appear at the Festival.

Ann Patchett and Kevin Wilson: A Conversation with Friends: A free-ranging conversations between two US writers. Wilson first met Pratchett when he was beginning his postgraduate studies. She asked him to look after her dog for a time, and in that time she kept giving him books to read, which they would discuss, and it sounds as if they’ve been talking about the books they read ever since. It’s a warm, entertaining conversation with a lot of insight into how each of them approaches writing. I haven’t read any of his books, and just two of hers., but both were equally interesting to me.

Rebecca Giggs: Fathoms: I knew nothing about Rebecca Giggs’s book Fathom: The World in the Whale before listening to this. Nor had I heard of Sweaty City, an independent magazine about climate change and urban ecology, whose co-founding editor Angus Dalton is her interlocutor on this podcast. I learnt a lot about whales that I didn’t know I wanted to know. For example parts of whales’ bodies were used to make things and perform functions that are now being made or done using plastics, so the reason for the wholesale slaughter of whales in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; but now, in a terrible irony, many whales are dying because of the plastic that is polluting the oceans and ending up in their intestines.

Jess Hill: See What You Made Me Do: Jess Hill’s book about domestic and family violence won this year’s Stella Prize. Before listening to this I thought I might make myself read it in order to Be Good. It turns out that when Jess Hill was commissioned to write a long article on the subject many years ago she accepted without a lot of enthusiasm, but felt that she couldn’t let ‘the sisterhood’ down. As I listened to her describe in this conversation with fellow feminist writer and journalist Georgie how her enthusiasm for the subject grew with her understanding of its complexity, I was similarly enthused. This is a terrific conversation.

Miranda Tapsell: Top End Girl: Miranda Tapsell talks with Daniel Browning from the ABC’s Awaye! about her memoir Top End Girl. Another terrific conversation. Mind you, I’d be delighted to listen to Miranda Tapsell talk about anything or nothing for as long as she wanted. How does a 31 year old women get to write a memoir? She says it’s because when she read memoirs by, for example, Judi Dench or Michael Caine, she was struck by how they struggled to remember details of their youth, so she decided to write about her youth while it was still fresh in her mind. But that’s just a typical bit of charming self-deprecation: in the course of the conversation, it turns out that the book is also something of a manifesto (DB’s term) for diversity of representation and acknowledgement of the presence of Aboriginal people in all aspects of the arts, in particular film. They discussed the movie Top End Wedding, and the process of getting cultural permissions. I especially loved that at the very end, Browning asked about the episode of Get Krack!n when she and Nakkiah Lui took over the stage, and she spoke of the huge privilege she was given there of speaking in a ‘raw, unfiltered’ way while also exercising her ‘comedy chops’ to the full. That was one of my Great Moments of Television, and I was delighted to hear that they both thought so too.

Return of the Sweatshop Woman: Sweatshop is a Western Sydney Literacy Movement. Its Sweatshop Women is an anthology of short stories, essays and poems produced entirely by women of colour. This podcast, shorter than the others, consists of readings by five of its contributors: Phoebe Grainer, Sara Saleh, Sydnye Allen, Janette Chen and Maryam Azam. One of the joys of the Festival is being read to, and another is hearing from voices that are usually marginalised if not completely silenced. This podcast provides both joys. The readings are introduced by Winnie Dunn, general manager of Sweatshop.

If I was attending this Festival at somewhere like the Carriageworks (currently in dire straits thanks to governments’ decision that the arts aren’t eligible for Covid–related help) or Walsh Bay (currently being ‘redeveloped’), I’d be in the company of hundreds of other silver heads, and I’d skip more sessions than I attended. So I have much of a misgiving about not watching or listening to Malcolm Turnbull in Conversation with Annabel Crabb, but there’s the link of you’re interested. (Full disclosure: I did listen to the first 20 minutes of this conversation, and MT’s urbanity and AC’s apparently genuine affection for him are seductive.)

I miss those hundreds of other bodies, the unexpected questions at the end of sessions, the catching up with old friends, Gleebooks’s groaning trestles, the coming out blinking out into the sunlight after being taken to a whole new view of things. But in the absence of all that, I’m grateful for teh existence of podcasts.

Itstorm

It’s a long time since the Art-Student and I have been to a Gleebooks event. Tonight we went to a discussion of a book (pic on the left leaves off the first two letters of its name) about Kevin Rudd’s handling of the Australian branch of the Global Financial Crisis. As we arrived the A-S observed that it was a different crowd –  men were wearing ties, and women were coiffed. That plus the fact that Malcolm Turnbull was chairing the discussion should have warned us to sit next to the aisle instead of right against the wall where early exit was virtually impossible.

As Upstairs at Gleebooks was filling to capacity, Malcolm Turnbull took the microphone to do a bit of a warm-up. He asked how many of us knew the original owner of Gleebooks and when only a couple of us raised a hand he said he’d give us a bit of history. After a couple of disparaging hyperboles about Tony Gallagher’s body, he told is that he had been a teacher at Malcolm’s high school, where he had produced King Lear with young Malcolm in the role of Edgar. End of history lesson, beginning of anecdote about young Malcolm getting into a scrape.

The authors of the book, an economist and a political journalist, joined Turnbull on stage. I can’t say that the conversation that followed was very enlightening. We were told, for instance, that the global financial crisis was brought about by government being too much at the centre of the US economy (it was Turnbull the corporate warrior who said that), that Rudd exaggerated the severity of the crisis (that was Turnbull the politician) and that Rudd deliberately downplayed the severity of the crisis (that was the journalist). I suppose the A-S and I had gone there naively hoping for some kind of insight into what had happened to Kevin Rudd’s government. Instead, it was the kind of crowd where every time one of the panel referred to him as the former prime minister they successfully invited widespread sniggering. The book may be interesting and insightful, and there were indications that at least one of the authors had a more nuanced view than Turnbull’s (in short: ‘Rudd did it all wrong, except overseas. and he should have listened to me’). But the evening left a bad taste in the mouth – and to judge by the questions, there were a number of people in the audience who shared out response.

I’m pleased to report that when a woman asked the panel’s response to her sense that Rudd and Co had deliberated talked up the financial crisis and swine flu to scare her, both the authors disagreed, and even Malcolm could tell that truth ought to take precedence over an opportunity to denigrate a political opponent.

Me on Annabel on Malcolm

What might have been a blog entry grew up to be a paid review.