Cross-posted on the Stoffers blog.
It was a two-hour wait in the sunshine and then, inside, among statues, pillars and carved gates for the David Bowie is… exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London (soon to travel to Canada and other cities after that).
David Bowie is a singular, metamorphosing musical figure and artist (I’ve written about my love for him before). But what’s fascinating about this exhibition is how it shows that genius is not outside of context, that Bowie’s work is (and his ‘characters’ are) a product of time, place, taste and influence, from mime to Marlene Dietrich, to Metropolis and man on the moon. The exhibition is a kind of ‘making of’ David Bowie, and continues to put his work in context throughout the different periods, from London to Berlin to New York, from Space Oddity to The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and all the way through to The Next Day.
But it is also a spine-tingling celebration of his work, characters and Bowie himself, and of his collaborators, too (in music, video, costume, film, stage sets, and so much more). Some of the highlights, for me, were a lipstick-stained tissue, the synth used on Low and the other Berlin albums, a stage set design model from the Diamond Dogs tour, a cocaine spoon from 1974 (so strange to know that spoon was partly responsible for Station to Station, Bowie eating raw eggs and that Dick Cavett interview), and the huge original cover art for Scary Monsters (and I’m not even sure why it affected me so).
The item that made my heart leap most was the pastel blue suit Bowie wore in the ‘Life on Mars’ video. Other visitors will have other favourite exhibits, among the many outfits, pictures, letters, drafted and cut-up lyrics (the process behind these famous songs, before our eyes, hand-written and with scribbles and corrections!), abandoned songs, diary entries, album covers, rare photographs and videos. If you are a Bowie fan, like me, you may never want to leave.
The outfits show you how lean he is, though you know that from the videos and if you’ve seen him live. Lean, and taller than I remembered, from seeing him on stage. G thought he seemed shorter, though. We create our own Bowie myths.
Relatedly, there was quite a ‘death of the author’ focus on Bowie’s work being up to the audience to interpret, that the story shifts for each listener/viewer, and perhaps for each song and album, and then on each listen. But then there seems such confidence or just knowingness or planning (though not calculation, in a cold sense) behind Bowie’s works, from the albums to concerts to characters and even the way he engages with the public, that he manages, I think, to have a certain control over how he is overall perceived. Do you think maybe it is a little bit calculated? It’s something I admire, nonetheless. But it is true, and Bowie knows (as above), that alone in his or her bedroom the listener will interpret each track in a variety of ways which will produce a variety of emotional, intellectual, even creative responses. Or nothing at all.
The exhibition was busy, of course, but the layout worked well, a snaking design peppered with 3D ‘concert’ hubs, which had music mixed with info and often interview footage. The sound aspect was amazing. The headphones tuned into the sounds associated with the nearest exhibit. Looking around, I saw people tapping their feet or nodding, and sometimes I would sync in with them and share a nod or smile.
Just before the end there’s a large room with giant projections of live footage and, if you’re patient, many of Bowie’s costumes will peep out from behind the screen. They’re a little hard to see, and I think this was the only flaw with the exhibition. But you could hang out in that room all day, and many people were lolling about, bopping their heads and smiling.
There’s one section with five film clips playing and five corresponding carpet squares where you can move in and out of different songs. ‘Let’s Dance’ is pretty hard to resist.
Let’s hope the exhibition makes its way to Australia… I want to go again!
This is cross-posted from the Melbourne Writers Festival 2012 blog.
The Liner Notes spoken word event (run by Babble) is always a festival highlight for me, and this year a bunch of writers, poets et al are set to rock our worlds with an interpretation of David Bowie’s album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. *Excitement!* Previous Liner Notes have included Michael Jackson’s Thriller, INXS’ Kick and Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours. Liner Notes has actually been running a lot longer than it has been part of MWF, and I got in touch with Babble/Liner Notes founder and regular performer Sean M Whelan to ask him some questions about the event:
Sean, can you tell us how Babble and Liner Notes came to be? What was the first album that was ‘interpreted’?
Liner Notes literally came to me in a dream. I was half asleep one night and the concept of it all just kind of materialised in my head. I remember shooting up in bed and searching for a pen and paper to write it down because I’ve had those experiences before where I’ve had a great idea in the middle of the night then gone back to sleep and in the morning I’ve remembered I HAD a good idea but can’t for the life of me remember what it actually was! This time I secured it safely in writing before going back to sleep. I’ve always been a big fan of music and poetry so this seemed the perfect way to combine those two great loves. I loved the idea of it being vaguely built around the model of a tribute night, but unlike other tribute shows all this original material comes out of it.
The first album we interpreted was actually David Bowie’s Hunky Dory! With coming to Bowie again after ten years it feels like we’ve come full circle. Also Liner Notes has developed a lot since our first show at Bar Open in Fitzroy. We were still figuring things out back then. For example, we didn’t have a full band for the first show, Michael Nolan performed with just a solo guitarist. Since then we have had a full band play at every Liner Notes event and for the last three years we’ve performed sold out shows in conjunction with the Melbourne Writers Festival. This year we’re also very proud to be taking the show interstate for the first time. We’ll be appearing at the Brisbane Writers Festival at the Powerhouse on Sept 8. I’ve always thought the show was perfect for touring as it’s very easy to source the performers at whichever location you take it to. Taking it internationally is just a matter of time, we already have two copycat events in North America, we might as well take it over and show them the real thing!
Why Ziggy Stardust? (So many of his albums are classics, after all.)
Well, you’re right, there are SO many great David Bowie albums to choose from. Which is one reason why we wanted to revisit Bowie. There is also the fact that this year marks the 40th anniversary of Ziggy Stardust, so that seemed like a good enough reason to choose Ziggy above the rest. There’s so much glamour and showmanship around that album too, which is naturally appealing to the tiny little rock stars living in all our hearts.
Michael Nolan has been doing an excellent job as MC for Liner Notes over the years, researching the band, the album and each track before the night (not to mention being able to sing). Can you ever imagine doing it without him?
Michael Nolan pretty much IS Liner Notes. I came up with the original concept for the show but right from the start it’s been a joint effort between myself and co-producers Emilie Zoey Baker and Michael Nolan. But Nolan is such a crucial part of the show, from liaising with the Melbourne Writers Festival to source the performers, to the amazing amount of research he does on every album, to singing with the band on the night; he really is indispensable. Now that the model has been built I can easily imagine Liner Notes going on without me but it would be a very different show and much poorer for it without the mighty Michael Nolan at the helm.
The performers at Liner Notes are usually a mix of poets, authors, comedians and musical types—faces both familiar and new. How do you go about selecting the artists for the show?
When Liner Notes first started it was strictly poets who made up the performers for the night, as one of the reasons it was started was as a way to bring wider audiences to poetry events. Ten years later we have expanded it to nearly anybody that we think will have something interesting to offer. For example this year we have Tim Flannery, environmentalist and First Dog on the Moon, cartoonist, both who don’t fit into any of the categories above.
The only brief for our guests is that we hope they will bring something engaging to the stage. Some people think they need to be a fan of whatever album is being highlighted to contribute but that’s not the case at all. The songs, that each guest are asked to provide a response to, are only meant to act as kicking off points for inspiration. Right from the start we have never intended Liner Notes to be a serious literary dissection of popular music, which some fans might expect. Some of our guests are hearing the albums we present to them for the first time. Irreverence is really the name of the game, but so is to expect the unexpected. Part of the thrill of Liner Notes as producers is that we don’t vet any of the work beforehand, so, along with the audience, we see everything for the first time on the night.
Can you tell us what track you’re interpreting from Ziggy, and maybe even give us a small preview?
My challenge this year is to provide a response to Track 3. Side A. Moonage Daydream. Definitely one of my favourite tracks from the album. I wish I could give you a small preview but I seem to be on track for doing what I do every year, and that is to leave it to the last minute and have a total panic attack about it in the few days remaining before the show. The only preview I could possibly provide at this stage is that in the spirit of the song I will most likely ‘Freak out in a moonage daydream oh yeah!’
Liner Notes: Ziggy Stardust is on Saturday 25 August at 8pm. View the full list of performers and ticket details here.
See part one and what this is all about here!
Glen Hunting asks:
1) How did you become a Bowie fan, and what is your favourite Bowie song?
How I came to love Bowie is explained in detail in this post but in short, I was in year 12 when I connected with his music, his chameleonism, his mix of darkness, strangeness and humour, his art and style and truly unique (always shifting) outlook. I could go on… He’s not only my favourite musician, he’s my favourite writer. My favourite song changes but at the moment it’s probably ‘We Are the Dead‘ from Diamond Dogs.
2) What was the most heartrending book/story/poem/film you’ve ever read or watched?
I can’t name just one. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell when I was a kid. The Land Before Time, Bambi, E.T. When I was 14, the film American Beauty. The Misfits with Monroe, Gable and Clift. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath and Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen (and the film, in my teens). Hamlet. Everything by Kafka. Albert Camus’ The Myth of Sisyphus. In recent years: Synecdoche New York, the collected stories of Richard Yates, Wings of Desire. I’ll stop there.
3) What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do? (Well, perhaps not hardest, but pretty damn hard within reasonable limits.)
I’ve lived a privileged life, some things have taken a lot of effort but I really haven’t had to do anything extremely difficult. There has been serious illness in my family but we all got through that together. The biggest challenges for me, I guess, were moving to a city where I knew nobody, travelling by myself overseas in my early twenties, and speaking in front of a crowd (which still makes me nervous). One thing that has been worse in the past but that I continue to deal with (as many people do) are some very negative and dark corners within my own self.
Lee Zachariah asks: ‘Do you find it difficult to keep up to date with literature given the amount of time it takes to read a book (taking into account varying lengths)? I’m asking from the perspective of a film critic. When I watch a film, I know I only need devote 90-120 minutes to it, and can schedule accordingly. It’s easy to keep up to date with nearly everything on release. Keeping up to date with literature must surely be a whole different prospect: do you pick and choose more carefully, or maybe focus on specific trends/styles?’
It’s impossible to keep up! Reading for festivals and (commissioned) reviews helps me stay relatively up to date with Australian literature, as well as reading other blogs, reviews, and Bookseller+Publisher mag (which has pre-release reviews). But I’m interested in literature (fiction, poetry, nonfiction) from all around the world, not to mention the classics. Sometimes I wish I were more picky! Ahhhhhhhhhhhh well.
A blogger named Angela Meyer
To the heights of her art did aspire.
Through her vids, posts and prose,
To great lengths she does go
To make us all Literary Minded!
So sweet, Robyne. I really do hope I inspire lit-love in others.
Alexandra Neill asks: ‘You are asked to describe your blog to someone who has never read it. Using mime. You’re allowed to use three props. What would they be and why?’
They would be:
Gerard Elson says:
My response: Addictive TV is addictive, shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii-iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit.
Gerard Elson also says: http://kingofromania.com/2010/04/22/expression-of-the-day-drum-bun/
May our drum be bun indeed, my love.
Kent MacCarter asks: ‘What are the top ten (High Fidelity style) most random promo copy titles you’ve received to review? eg, Lawnmower Repair Made Easy.‘
Too hard, Kent, these publicists do actually seem to know what they’re doing most of the time! Also, I have a terrible memory. Here’s some I wish I’d received:
Part three to follow…
These Fleischer cartoons are irresistible at this time of the year. *rosy cheek glow*
I’ve blogged it before and I’ll blog it again, because it’s the best Christmas video ever:
‘Do you like modern music?’
‘Oh, I think it’s marvellous. Some of it’s really fine.’
And this one is for you, darling G…
Merry Christmas, lovely readers. Thanks for everything x
After James Bradley’s ‘Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)’.
David Bowie was really the first artist I found on my own as a young adult. Bowie came to me in a humorous, intertextual way, through watching Zoolander at the age of about 16 at Birch, Carroll & Coyle Cinemas, Coffs Harbour. I worked there so movies were only 50 cents, and I must have seen Zoolander about four times. Some of you may remember the moment where Bowie shows up, to call the ‘walk-off’. When the legend steps into frame, just a small section from ‘Let’s Dance’, plays: ‘Let’s dance… duh, duh duh duhduh’. Well this refrain haunted me. I found myself sitting in class, trying to concentrate on Othello and ‘duh, duh duh duhduh’ would repeat, over and over. I knew this song, from one of my favourite teenage movies Gia, starring Angelina Jolie as the tragic, bisexual, gorgeous and wild ‘original supermodel’ Gia Carangi. I’d liked the song watching the film when I was 14, 15, 16 – but now, it was absolutely glued in my head. I also remembered reading, in the biography of Gia (Thing of Beauty by Stephen Fried), about her being a ‘Bowie kid’ in the ’70s, and I remembered the fact of his open sexuality – this being a big thing that attracted me to cultural icons in my teens as I was struggling with being open about my own attractions.
But it was the song itself – that tiny part, which began the obsession. The first CD I bought was ChangesBowie, a best-of, which of course included ‘Let’s Dance’. It features magic from all eras (‘Space Oddity’ through ‘Blue Jean’). I recognised many of the songs though never knew they’d been by the same person. My parents had the Pretty Woman soundtrack when I was a kid, and there on ChangesBowie was ‘Fame ‘90’! Those-in-the-know started to recommend albums, the first being Hunky Dory – and I fell in love with the song ‘Life on Mars’ and, being an Andy Warhol fan, dug the song about him: ‘I’d like to be a gallery/Put you all inside my show’.
Every time I bought an album I was astounded by the lyrics, and then the way the music & lyric combo had this sad, nostalgic pull on me. What was I nostalgic for? And yet the songs also made me feel wrapped-up and warm (perhaps covered by moondust). I find that the songs are complex – the upbeat songs often have an undercurrent of collapse; the blue songs have a playfulness to them. There’s history and science and spirituality and love and mirrors and magic and intellect and the ordinary and the universe in an album. And definitely transience, and death. There are stories – the album Diamond Dogs, inspired in part by Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, is a glam-carnivalesque, tragic, epic science fiction ode to desire, dreaming and oppression. In the past two or three years this has become my favourite album (along with Low - particularly the second half). From ‘We Are the Dead’, a fucking amazing song:
‘We feel that we are paper choking on you nightly
They tell me, Son, we want you to be elusive
But don’t walk far
For we’re breaking in the new boys
Deceive your next of kin
For you’re dancing
Where the dogs decay defecating ecstasy
You’re just an ally of the leecher
Locator for the virgin king
But I love you in your fuck-me pumps
And your nimble dress that trails’
For my seventeenth birthday my good friend Simon bought me the Best of Bowie DVD: two discs of his incredible film clips (now my most-watched DVD). I was fascinated by the weird, druggy, soft-focus post-modern direction of David Mallet, who did many of his film clips. I was inspired by the transgressive, chameleonic appearance of Bowie – his camera-flirt face, his bony hips in tight circuit-patterned jumpsuits, his ‘coolness’, his glamour, his paleness, his sadness, his out-of-itness (the hilarious ‘DJ’ clip), his regret, his silliness (‘Dancing in the Street’ with Mick Jagger, his evolution (jazz, synth, metal, hip hop, techno – see ‘The Heart’s Filthy Lesson’ or ‘Hallo Spaceboy’). He’s always new. He’s the artist you never get sick of because you just go through moods with him – the different albums, the different eras, the different styles – and this through-line of drama, emotional complexity, and other-worldliness (fighting the constraints of this world).
Although my parents had listened to Bowie when they were young, he wasn’t someone they listened to when we were growing up. Bowie belonged to a certain set of memories and emotions, particularly for my Dad, who was in his teens and early 20s in the 1970s. In the early days of my Bowie discovery, I sat down with my dad and played Hunky Dory. ‘Space Oddity’ is a great song, my dad said. When it came on, he cried, and I hugged him. It was a song that had made me cry, too, in the privacy of my room, but I wasn’t sure why. ‘Planet Earth is blue and there’s nothing we can do’. For my dad, it brought back a specific time and place, and was also a reminder of the time that had passed since then, I’d imagine.
In 2002, when I was in Year 12, the album Heathen came out – a predominantly melancholy, lamenting album. ‘For in truth, it’s the beginning of nothing/and nothing has changed/everything has changed’. And in 2003 Reality was released – a little more upbeat, with some themes of getting older, change again, time, memory, art, conflict, love and still the fantastical. From ‘Fall Dog Bombs the Moon’:
‘Fall Dog is cruel and smart
Smart time breaks the heart
Fall Dog Bombs the moon
A devil in a marketplace
A devil in your bleeding face
Fall dog bombs the moon’
In 2004, David Bowie came to Australia on the Reality tour. My boyfriend at the time bought us very expensive tickets – we were in the twelfth row at the Brisbane concert. It was one of the best nights of my life. I remember feeling smug that I was one of the only people at the front who seemed to know the lyrics to both the old and new songs. Bowie looked incredible – blonde, fit, dressed modern and relaxed. When he sang Life on Mars and Five Years my heart beat so fast. In Be My Wife, I sang along, pointing at Bowie as I sang ‘please be mine, share my life, stay with me, be my wife’. To my delight, Bowie and I locked eyes as I was pointing and singing – he pointed and leaned back, smiling broadly at me. My face burnt red, my stomach left me. I turned to my boyfriend and said ‘DID YOU SEE THAT?’ ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘David Bowie looked at you.’
For all the joy of that night, Bowie and I have shared some dark times. Because, really, he spoke to a part of me that not a lot of people around me saw, or wanted to see – or, I wouldn’t let them see. Wouldn’t, y’no, ‘burden’ them. I’m sure my teenage problems aren’t any more special than anyone else’s, but at the time I felt alone, and often: alone, swallowed, at the end of the world. I have the greatest family and friends, there were no visible problems, no causes. My dad was sick, and that was hard, but it wasn’t that, the word ‘overwhelmed’ came into my mind a lot. Everything required so much effort. Being, living, making something of it all, knowing the things you can never change, knowing that when you’re happy that moment will end, etc. I was extra-sensitive and kinda shocked by reality. And Bowie was one of my saviours, a space blanket, an inspiration. He told me I could be creative and open and eccentric and do big things and that it would be okay if, on some level, this feeling remained.
And so I write.
There is one more major role Bowie has played so far in my life – one of connection. When I lived in Coffs Harbour I’d try and put on Bowie at a party, and be practically booed from the room. They didn’t want Bowie, or Pink Floyd, or the Doors, or even Elton John. My stupid old sad music, my ‘bring down’. Don’t get me wrong, I like to dance, too. I love it, actually. But just once, I wanted them to listen, and appreciate (and connect). My mates. Some did appreciate him in private, but there was this type of person you always had to become in a party context – and there is that in me – but some part always felt thwarted. I still feel sad when I think of some of those nights – On my nineteenth birthday I was desperately unhappy. Hardly anyone came to my birthday, I watched a video the next day of my drunk-on-Schnapps self watching a music DVD, despised what I saw, and over the next year I lost over 20 kilos becoming what I thought I should be.
But now, oh, Melbourne! I can play Bowie to my heart’s content. My friends like Bowie. They also like jazz, and musicals, and sad country music, and Nick Cave, and Fleetwood Mac, and then even that stuff you can dance to. About two years after I’d moved to Melbourne, I was spending the afternoon with one of my best friends at ACMI, sipping red wine, and we had a conversation about life, the universe and everything, then he went off to a movie and I went home to watch Rocky Horror and Stingray Sam. We texted each other all though our movies (pictures of round faces and corsets) and afterwards I asked G what he was up to. ‘Just walking around the city, looking at the stars’, he said. I invited him over to hang out, we’d been hanging out more and more lately and I was jittery and yet ecstatic about what was possibly growing. After all, he was the best person I knew. When he arrived, we watched my whole David Bowie DVD, both discs, and I thought – how wonderful it is to find someone who loves this like I do. At the end of the DVD, Bowie shot his Cupid arrow and our hands, so naturally, came together.
So first of all, I had too many wines at the Emerging Writers’ Festival artist party on Friday, so I didn’t roll up until about 1pm yesterday. The Town Hall was PACKED with moleskine-carrying, tweeting, emerging writer-types of all ages.
Pictured: Tiggy Johnson and I at the EWF artist par-tay.
Before I go into the delicious panels I sampled, let’s talk a bit more about that party. I’ve had a bit of a thing in the past about trying to nail down one or two people and actually having a meaningful conversation with them. But last night I was all like ‘f**k that, I’m going to talk to everybody’. Unfortunately I missed out on a few lovely heads, but all in all I did pretty well. Highlights included – Jess Friedmann’s warm lipsticked grin (she’d just handed in her Honours thesis) and having an impassioned conversation with Craig Schuftan re David Bowie and other musical greats (did you know Diamond Dogs is probably my favourite album? ‘We Are The Dead’/’1984′/‘Big Brother’ FTW). Actually, I can’t remember much else about the night except faces and smiles and nodding a whole lot and being like ‘YEAH, GREAT’.
Afterwards I went to meet G & drink on at his place with the Muppets, but I hear at Horse Bazaar, where EWF folks kicked on, some fun was had by a very nice and talented writer on a mechanical bull. I wonder if this adventure will make his next book?
The first panel I went to yesterday was called Never Surrender, hosted by Stu Hatton. Paul Callaghan, Elizabeth Campbell, Sean Condon and Dee White spoke about rejection. The enthusiastic and sexy-accented Paul Callaghan provided some gems. He acknowledged that ‘every day as writers we fail’. Not only that, as human beings we fail every day – as people, as game players etc. (Paul is a games developer and writer, among other things.) Failure, he said, is ‘fundamental’ to the learning process, and to the play process – experimenting and figuring out how the world works. For Paul, it’s not something to be avoided, but something to ‘reframe’. Failure and rejection are ‘awesome’ because they’ll ‘teach you about yourself’ and about the world you live in. Every rejection, for Paul, has felt different. It’s never nice, but it’s something you live with.
Dee White’s YA novel is called Letters to Leonardo. It took ten years and ten drafts but Dee said if you stick with a story you love, if you really believe in it, you’ll get there in the end. She also suggested not just having one project, or one submission, out in the world at a time. It provides a kind of buffer zone of hope.
Sean Condon is a published author of several books but in recent years he’s faced a lot of rejection. A current manuscript was rejected by 36 agents this year! (I think that was overseas agents.) Condon was funny and quite controversial. The humour came from his being overtly literal and explaining/analysing everything he said, ie. quoting VS Naipul and saying ‘he said … in his Indian accent’, and (reading his own article) ‘says me, in 2006, on the page’. The controversy was his naming and berating one specific Australian publisher. I know quite a few people who’ve had extremely positive experiences with the same publisher, so I felt he was being a bit bombastic. I think, in today’s saturated book market, where editors are receiving a gazillion emails a day, perhaps they just don’t have the time to reply to everything. It’s a shame, but it’s the way it is, I suppose.
Elizabeth Campbell writes poetry, and has a collection called Letters to the Tremulous Hand. She said failure is not only inevitable but it’s productive. She reckons it’s ‘very easy to get poetry published in Australia’. I’d say it probably is if you work as hard as her on the poems. She said out of the hundred or so she starts in a year, she’d see about twenty through. She said you fail every time you write, really, because you’re always trying for the poem, but if you actually wrote the poem you’d have no need to write anymore. Thus, as ‘exquisitely painful’ as she finds writing, she is compelled to go on. ‘Set out to fail extraordinarily and internationally’, was her advice. There’s no use just trying to please the small pool of people you know. In Australia, she said, poets fail anyway because there’s no audience and no critical culture. Shi-it! I guess you just gots to write what you gots to write.
The second panel I went to was Mining the Personal. Benjamin Law talked about when he started writing for frankie, and realised his family made good material. ‘You can’t write about yourself without writing about other people as well’, he said. All six of Law’s family members read the draft of his book manuscript, running through it with a red pen. He said at times they seemed grateful the family stories (as mortifying as they may be) were ‘being preserved’.
Jon Bauer, whose debut novel Rocks in the Belly, comes out in August, provided good contrast on the panel, talking about the role of emotional truths in fiction. ‘I painted fictitious lives with my own emotions,’ he said. ‘Art should be skinless,’ he said, and that after years of translating truth into fiction, now everyone seemed to want to ‘look up [his] skirt’ – as in, look for the author in the fiction. ‘You’re looking for me but I’m not there anymore,’ he said, and then brought up something which has always fascinated me – how an author doesn’t really have much control over what emotional truths the reader brings to the page. The ‘writer and reader meet in the middle’, he said, and all you can do is provide some genuine ‘echo-chamber’ for the reader’s emotion. (BTW, I featured Bauer in mid-2009, as ‘One to Watch’. Told ya.)
Samone Bos has shared her personal life for eight years on her blog(s) – partly to entertain herself and partly to keep up a writing practice. It’s a ‘celebration of the mediocre’, she said. Strangely, her family doesn’t know she blogs about them. I wonder what would happen if they ever found out? She recently switched to using her own name, but is careful about blogging about her twin babies – as she doesn’t want them to feel embarrassed one day in the future. Overall, you just have to feel comfortable, yourself, with what you put out there, she said.
Lou Sanz is a comedy performer, writer and blogger. Currently, a TV show is in the works based on her blog, which is based on her life. Mostly she recounts dating and relationship experiences. The one she told us was a bit like a Seinfeld ep, except instead of being a close-talker or having massive hands, this person just decided to ‘get comfortable’ by removing all clothes except a T-Shirt. It was hilarious.
Pictured: Chris Currie wears the crown.
In the afternoon I got along to The Pitch. A bunch of editors and publishers basically told the packed audience: ‘read the submission guidelines’. I couldn’t believe some of the stories. People send blank emails with attachments? People still write ‘Dear sirs’? People send TEN TO FIFTEEN pieces of writing to one place? Anyway, it was an amusing afternoon. One dude in the front row had a shirt with ‘Will whore myself for publication’ on it, and detachable fabric business cards around the bottom. A couple of audience members had also obviously wasted money on manuscript assessments and ‘accredited’ editors because they thought it might make their manuscripts suddenly jump to the top of the slush pile (and the Black Inc. editor soberingly told the audience they’d published one book from the slush pile in ten years). There were also stickybeaks outside Town Hall peeking in the windows (and even taking photos). I was sitting there thinking about how curious people are by nature. We all want to know what’s going on (at least a little bit - to then embellish with our imaginations). I wondered what stories the rubberneckers were telling each other as they walked away.
Today is the final day of the festival. My panel is at 3pm! Perhaps I’ll see you there.
In case I don’t get to blog about today’s sessions, please follow my adventures on Twitter.
The literary-minded in Melbourne need never be bored. The Wheeler Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas will begin filling our lunch breaks and evenings this month. Here’s the program for the first three months. I’ll be getting along to see Helen Garner, and I love the idea of the Lunchbox/Soapbox sessions which allow you to inhale some ideas along with your sushi during your lunch hour. I’ll be getting along to the Peter Singer one later this month.
Speaking of Melbourne, I’m on a panel this week called The Future of Reading. It’s aimed at 13 to 20-year-olds, but friends and family are welcome.
Speaking of the future of reading – are any of you reading on you iPhones? On another device? If so, what are you reading? I enjoy reading short stories on my iPhone, but not long-form stuff. The Electric Literature app is my favourite so far. Also, what would you expect to pay for an app that carried two or three original, specially commissioned short stories (quarterly)? Would you prefer something that mixed fiction and nonfiction, even graphic fiction/nonfic? And what if it were edited by me – would you buy it? There is a reason I’m asking… Feel free to reply here, or via Twitter/Facebook/email!
Speaking of emails – I am drowning in them, absolutely drowning, and I do apologise to anyone I haven’t gotten back to.
Speaking of drowning, I’m so busy at the moment with work, Perth Writers Festival prep, and, admittedly, social engagements that my other, non-festival-related book pile (the ‘tower of hope’) is looking quite neglected, so if you’ve given/sent me books and I said I’d get to them soon (and haven’t), please forgive. I am but one pair of eyes. Meanwhile – Perth Writers Festival is certainly going to be a cracker going by the amazing books I’m getting to read. I promise more reviews over the coming weeks, including one soon of David Carlin’s Our Father Who Wasn’t There.
Speaking of cracker reads, the March issue of Bookseller+Publisher will be winging its way to subscribers. We got the office copies in the other day and I’m very happy with it. It’s the second issue I’ve edited, but really the first I felt I had complete control over (in terms of commissioning stories etc.). Hope it’s informative and enjoyable…
Speaking of enjoyable: 2010, so far, has been incredible for me. In so many ways. I hope yours has been too. I’ll go into detail about some things in about a month.
Speaking of incredible:
Rock on, lit-lovelies.
Kathy Charles’ debut novel Hollywood Ending was recently released in Australia by Text Publishing (John Belushi Is Dead, MTV Books, US). In my review for the October issue of Australian Book Review I said: ‘Kathy Charles creates a world both familiar and strange … Despite being highly, if darkly, entertaining, the book hints at deeper issues, such as the extent of superficial distraction in contemporary Western society; hence the nostalgia for meaningful films and stories about the past, plus the effect of this superficiality on emotionally perceptive youth, drawing them to seek meaning in the most harrowing aspects of existence.’ I called it ‘subversive, engaging and energetic’. So here, for your pleasure, is a ‘responsive’ interview with the author of Hollywood Ending – Kathy Charles.
Responses: Kathy Charles
I have this photograph of John Belushi as a canvas print in my hallway. Recently a friend asked me why I had a picture of Guy Sebastian hanging on my wall. Guy Sebastian aint got lapels like this.
History (destroyed, captured, mythologised).
There is a lot of controversy surrounding the idea of ‘Dark Tourism’, which is when people visit places where death and suffering have occurred. When bad things happen there is an inclination to erase any evidence of the event, which is understandable, but I think it is just as natural to want to see these places for yourself. Los Angeles has a booming Dark Tourism industry, due to the number of scandalous incidents the town has played host to. But LA is also a town that constantly reinvents itself, and so many of theses sites, like the Ambassador Hotel where Senator Robert Kennedy was assasinated, are being lost to development.
I was once a paid-up member of the David Bowie Fan Club. This was mainly so I would be one of the first to be able to buy tickets to his Melbourne concerts. The first night I was in the front row, within spitting distance of the man himself. I like to think we made eye contact on more than one occasion. The second night I was way up the back, but Bowie decided to mix things up and play the entire first half of the album Low which more than made up for the crappy seats. David Bowie is an architect of our modern idea of fame, and managed to combine both style and subtance without forsaking one for the other. In an interesting side note Gus Van Sant directed this music video. He also directed a music video for the boy group Hanson of ‘MmmBop’ fame. Someone once told me that my head was so full of trivial pop culture nonsense that there couldn’t be much room for anything else. I guess they had a point.
‘For every two minutes of glamour, there are eight hours of hard work’ – Jessica Savitch
I once saw Paris Hilton shopping in Bel Air. There was one lone photographer with her and it seemed pretty obvious in the way they interacted that she had enlisted him to follow her around. Celebrity is largely an illusion. When the young and beautiful hit the town in Hollywood they have their publicists send out a press release so the paparazzi will know where to find them. The same actors who shield their faces and beg for their privacy know very well that if they choose to lunch at The Ivy they will be photographed. The reluctant star is a very carefully constructed persona that plays on our sympathies. It takes a lot of hard work to make it look so unwanted.
Classifying and cataloguing.
Some people believe that numerology plays a significant role in celebrity death. There is a group called the Forever 27 Club that refers to musicians who died at the tender age of 27. Members of this club include Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain. Chris Farley died at exactly the same age as his idol John Belushi. Then there’s John Lennon and his connection to the number 9. I think such superstitions help us fathom why people we love die and admire die so tragically. It gives us some kind of weird logic we can grasp onto.
In 1932 a young actress named Peg Entwhiste moved to Hollywood with dreams of being a movie star. She was signed to a contract at RKO Pictures but only ever received a small role in one film. When RKO decided not to renew her contract she walked up to the end of Beachwood Drive and made her way through the thick brush to the Hollywood sign. When she arrived at the sign she climbed the ladder to the top of the 50-foot letter ‘H’, looked out over the town that had rejected her, and jumped. She was 24 years old.
It makes me sad when people who seem to have so much going for them die tragically and needlessly. Every time I listen to a Kurt Cobain song or watch a John Belushi movie I can’t help but wonder what else they could have achieved had they stuck around. Some days it’s enough to bring me to tears. Most people have little sympathy for celebrities who throw it all away, as they appear to have it all. I think the idea that you can be rich and famous and still miserable scares us. Sometimes it’s easier to judge than empathise.
In the song ‘Sunset Strip’ Courtney Love sings: ‘Rock star. Pop star. Everybody dies.’ No matter how famous you are, in the end we all fade to black.
What a lovely thing to wake up to on your birthday! I have somehow muscled out Justine Larbalestier for top spot on Copywrite‘s Top 50 Australian Blogs for Writers. Thanks for reading and linking to me, lovely folks.
I will be writing more on NYWF/TiNA when I hit Bali (hopefully – depending on internet situation), or later today if I can. I have actually been keeping a low profile for most of the festival. For starters, I wasn’t feeling the best. Secondly, I had quite a few NSW natives to catch up with while I was here. I met up with Tahnee from Exisle Publishing; one of Australia’s best short story writers Ryan O’Neill, who has been an email buddy for a while now; and my folks, along with their good friends. Ryan also introduced me to Michael Sala – a really nice guy who is getting published in some big name journals as well as Best Australian Stories 2009 (out soon!). I look forward to reading some of his work.
The reports from my sessions have been positive, though one panel was a real learning curve – large, repetitive, unwieldy… I hope the audio turned out so I can upload it when I get home. I plan on writing a post down the track on things I’ve learnt about facilitating panels. Here’s one thing: the guests will come with one or two really important things they don’t want to forget to say. No matter what questions you ask at the start (trying to slowly lead into these things), they will give the game away early. They always make sure they say what they need to. There must be some way to let them know to trust you – that you will build a story together, leading to this revealing, interesting gem of information/experience.
Here are some reports on NYWF sessions by others:
And Lisa Dempster has written on some of the local vegan fare in Newcastle.
I’ll also have to post more soon about some of the publications I’m currently floating around in! A small review in the latest Australian Book Review; I am interviewed in the latest Voiceworks; and am upcoming in the Emerging Writers Festival Reader and The Lifted Brow: Atlas. Details to come.
And now, a blog birthday present to myself.
‘All the nobody people, all the somebody people.
I never thought I’d meet
so many people’.