Going to America

Feels strange that I’m flying to the US tomorrow as I sit here glued to live feeds from Hurricane Sandy. I’m due to arrive in Dallas on Wednesday afternoon, then fly straight to Atlanta. But it probably depends how far inland/south the storm comes. I’m a bit worried as I’m due at a conference at the University of West Georgia, in Carrollton, by Thursday evening. I’m also going to in NYC on Saturday, but with the volume of flights they’ve had to cancel, I wouldn’t be surprised if that one gets delayed.

I’ve never been to New York, and I hope when I get there it’s still intact… I’m feeling for all the people on the east coast, particularly those who may be separated from loved ones. Must be pretty damn scary.

The conference I’m going to is called Systems of Control/Modes of Resistance, and I’m giving a paper called: ‘”All can be and will be commodified”: bottom-up resistance and corporate incorporation in Dana Spiotta’s Eat the Document‘. Eat the Document is set in two eras—the 1970s and the 1990s—and there is a comparison between the way the characters in each era protest or resist corporate power. I argue that while the actions of the ‘radical’ protesters in the 1970s may have failed, the small, peaceful movements of the 1990s characters often only confirm, or conform to, the systems of power in a market-based society. I think the novel is pretty pessimistic, overall, about our ability to resist a culture that readily incorporates, pre-empts and commodifies resistance, but there is one character who remains hopeful, so she provides a contrast. It’s a great read, by the way, I highly encourage you to pick it up (my 2008 review is not very well written, but gives you more an idea of the story). I’m finally going to read Spiotta’s Stone Arabia, too, on the plane over (see James Bradley’s review of that one here).

And that gives you a bit of an idea of what I’m writing about in my thesis, too, something I’ve rarely talked about on LiteraryMinded. I guess because until now (where I have a complete draft of my novel and a very rough draft of my exegesis) I was very much still in a process of ‘working out’. There is also the case that in the academic world, you have to present original ideas to the examiners, so you can’t go spilling them out willy-nilly. When I’m finished, though, I do hope to write some more accessible-style essays for non-academic publications, on the subjects I’ve been looking at. And I’ll write more about the whole process of doing a DCA, here on the blog, when I’m finished in March.

I’m looking forward to the conference, not just listening to the papers (which all sound fascinating), but the Southern accents! And I look forward to eating some grits and drinking sloe gin. I’m sure I’ll have internet here and there, so I’ll send you a missive. I’m back in Aus on the 13th of November.

Ehh *crunch, crunch* what’s up, doc?

deskSo… that ‘big announcement’ I’ve been banging on about!

On 15 March I start a Doctor of Creative Arts through the University of Western Sydney. I’ll be working on fiction, more than likely a novel, alongside a great deal of reading and research (which will inform the fiction). I’ll give you a brief outline of the topic in a minute (as it stands now) and let’s see if crowdsourcing a reading list works!

The DCA at UWS puts in me in a department with amazing publishers, scholars and authors such as Ivor Indyk, Gail Jones, Alexis Wright and more. I’ll be supervised by Hazel Smith, and will use her book The Writing Experiment for some prompts early on in the doctorate. I’m not sure how much I’ll blog about the work itself – that may interfere with the process, but I’ll share insights from what I’m reading, and will continue to read and review other books for you on here, and am already attending more festivals and conferences this year, so stay tuned for more commentary.

As I received a scholarship, this means I will unfortunately be leaving my wonderful job as acting editor at Bookseller+Publisher magazine. My last day is 12 March. This has been the best job I’ve ever had, and I’ll miss my colleagues very much – particularly the immediate editorial team: the incredibly lovely, hardworking and supportive Matthia Dempsey; my friend in Friday giggles, the warm and genuine Katie Horner (who is leaving, too, to have a bub); someone I really look up to, the clever, stylish, great-taste-in-music watch nerd Tim Coronel; and the super-hardworking, fun, gorgeous designer-extraordinaire Silvana Paolini. (And I’ll miss my desk, pictured above!) Not only have I had the chance to work with great people, I have learnt the ropes of writing copy, proofreading and eventually editing a print publication. The team have always shown me so much support and allowed me room for growth. I have made incredible contacts and met great people in all areas of the publishing industry. And I will continue my relationship with B+P as an freelance writer/reviewer. After all, B+P was the very first place I was published in print – a review circa 2006. (I began LiteraryMinded in May 2007.)

So would you like to help me with my massive reading/viewing list? I will still have to narrow down the focus, of course, but any books, films, essays and articles on and around these subjects (fiction and nonfiction) I’ll be willing to have a look at:

  • Misfits and outsiders (more specifically, of and within consumer society. Someone who springs to mind is Lester Burnham in American Beauty). Or, if you’re familiar with Camus, characters that could be describe as having had an ‘absurd awakening’.
  • The treatment, pathologisation or institutionalisation of misfits/outsiders (in real life and in fictional texts). The rise of such things in consumer society. The history of these things. Individual experiences of these things. Yes, I’ll be reading a lot of Foucault, in case anyone was going to suggest that. Janet Frame’s works are a good example of ‘experiences’ of this.
  • Texts about or engaging with issues of and around consumerism, capitalism, materialism (specifically post-WWII and Western society).
  • Related themes of: commodification, alienation, disconnectedness, obsolescence, surface culture.
  • Speculative texts, particularly ones that explore the impact of current political and economic models of society on individuals and societies in the very near-future or in an alternate society (think Orwell or Kafka).
  • Australian literature and films that deal with all of the above.

For those of you who’ve read my published short stories like ‘Birds’, ‘Kids’ and ‘Obsolescence’ – you will see how these themes have already begun informing my work. I want to get into it deeply – I’m so excited to have a chance to. I want to write something which is in a way about my generation, from its time but not necessarily of its time – original, all-encompassing, meaningful. Yes, I do aim high, otherwise, what is the point?

This will actually be my third novel manuscript (and actually, I’m open to it becoming short stories, a film script, a play, whatever form it needs to be, though I’d prefer to write a novel). The other two are semi-retired but may yet resurface if the ‘key’ presents itself down the track – but it’s the new thing for now. Thanks in advance for your help!