Enriched by the Brisbane Writers Festival 2017

Things I learnt:

Sentiment is unearned emotion” – Mireille Juchau quoting James Joyce.

There is such a genre as “eco-fiction” and “cli-fi” (monikers Mireille Juchau is resisting).

Images can take the place of words to speak to us “in between the lines”.

To write a paragraph as good as the first one in Robert Drewe’s Whipbird takes 30 drafts.

The theory of “universal basic income” – what it means and how it could solve poverty, unemployment and the universal ennui of the 21st century employee (opening the door to a meaningful life, at last!)

Things I was intrigued by:

Acclaimed American novelist and poet, Jesse Ball, speaking of novels and the process of paring back drafts: “[a novel is] a fundamental episode of speech… an extraordinary minority of what you might have said“.

Later, Jesse commenting on authorial intention, the need to minimise it and his preference for a “deep ambivalence” in the text within which the reader can interpret and construct meaning. Indeed, Jesse proclaimed, in his gentle yet authoritative voice, “persuasion is a disease“.

Kyo Maclear’s use of birds as an “alibi” to avoid talking about the real subject which itself is so personal that to document it would have been an overshare.

Things I mused on:

European ‘first contact’ stories that sound like an alien encounter (Mark McKenna, From the Edge) notably, the 700km walk of a group of shipwrecked sailors, their survival a result the support of the local aboriginal tribes along the south east coast of the country.

The piracy of silence” that robs relationships of their richness and humanity – Nikki Gemmell’s lament over her failure to have deeper conversations with her mother before she took her own life to end her chronic pain.

Kyo Maclear’s embrace of the ‘common’ as a rebellion against modern day coveting of the exotic, the cult of celebrity. Also, her meditation on art and life as an antidote to the modern growth-imperative and relentless productivity push exhibited in best sellers like “Smarter, Faster, Better” and “Lean-In”.

The appeal of stories that start with a small aperture and explore something tiny, amplifying its mysteries and subleties.

The Protestant curse as proclaimed by Robert Dessaix: “Presbyterians don’t believe in leisure, only in self-improvement… It took me years to realize I’m not being scored out of tenI didn’t trust enough in joy. I didn’t explore joy, I only explored goodness.”

What I laughed about:

David Cohen’s “comedy with a body count” set in a self storage facility where one of the main characters is an “eBay savant“.

Robert Drewe’s dangerous experiment – gathering 1,000s of distant relatives in a vineyard to celebrate a remote ancestor and then plying them with alcohol for 48 hours. There they are, a motley collection traversing all classes and tiers of society (including the ex rocker who suffers from the delusion that he is already dead) all celebrating their disappointingly lame Irish ancestor who fought for the wrong side at Eureka.

The steady stream from Robert Dessaix:

On yoga: “motionless self-emptying… I am going to be dead for billions of years. I do not want to rehearse my death…

On ballroom dancing: ” It freed up little Roberts inside me to come out and play“.

Things I cheered:

The brave and beautiful women of Papua New Guinea who shared their walk to equality against all odds in a country that, as recently as this year, voted in an all male Parliament despite 167 female candidates. Their voices rang clear and pure and our hearts joined with theirs forever as we listened to Vanessa Gordon read her poem, Drumbeat.

Rutger Bregman calling the lie on a media that presents everything as bad, every leader as corrupt and confidently contending (against the orthodoxy of centuries that believes only a thin layer of civilisation (easily stripped away by a catastrophic weather event, for example) covers our inherently barbaric nature) that there is predominantly good in the world and more and more of it as we grow and advance. We are all, at our heart, creative creatures who want to contribute. This is why Rutger suggests that universal basic income, allocated to all without conditions, can fire the powerful engines of intrinsic motivation and take us all to a realistic utopia.

Mariano Sigman highlighting that politicians are, after all, human beings, the same species as us and, what’s more, the very people we have personally chosen to lead our country – rather than complain, it is our collective responsibility to generate the groundswell that will carry the leadership forward to the important solutions that are necessary for the future.

Bravo BWF2017!


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