Congratulations to 3, 3 and 3 guest Ash Gibson Greig, who today won an AACTA (Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts) award as part of the Best Sound in a Documentary team (with Ric Curtin, Glenn Martin, Ash Charlton and Chris Bollard) for the ABC1 documentary Desert War. Great work, Ash!
Monthly Archives: January 2014
Last night was the launch of the Perth Writers Festival program. For three days next month, 21–23 February, Perth audiences will have the opportunity to see more than a hundred local writers, as well as a wonderful lineup of visitors including Eleanor Catton, Lionel Shriver, Margaret Drabble, Martin Amis, Richard Flanagan, Hannah Kent, Debra Adelaide, Min Anchee, Andrea Goldsmith, Chris Womersley, Thomas Kenneally, Carrie Tiffany, Jeet Thayil, Angela Meyer and David Vann—and that’s just scratching the surface.
The festival is always one of the highlights of my calendar, and I’m very happy to be participating this year. Here are my sessions:
Friday, 21 February, 1–2pm, Romeo Tent: THE INNER LIFE OF OTHERS, chairing this panel comprising Chris Womersley, Debra Adelaide and Andrea Goldsmith. Free event
Saturday, 22 February, 1–2pm, Tropical Grove: LYREBIRDS, panel with Jo Baker and Catherine Jinks. Chair: Rose Michael. Free event
Saturday, 22 February, 5.30–6.30pm, Tropical Grove: TILLING THE SOIL, with Yvette Walker. Chair: Nicole Sinclair. Free event
Sunday, 23 February, 10am–1pm, Arts Lecture Room 4: Workshop: WRITING THE PAST. Bookings essential
For those who love exciting contemporary dance …
Amy Wiseman, 3, 3 and 3 guest in November 2013, will be appearing with Carly Armstrong (pictured) and Jessica Lewis—Unkempt Dance—at the forthcoming Summer Nights program at the Blue Room, Perth, part of the 2014 Fringe World festival.
The production, Paperland, is described as ‘a page-turning contemporary dance triptych. Maps, diaries, napkins, passports, receipts, parking fines, movie tickets … where does your paper trail lead? Toyi-Toyi Theatre, in collaboration with Unkempt Dance and Emma Fishwick, presents three short dance works that consider our relationship with paper.’
Unkempt Dance: Creature of habit
We record the big events in our lives, but what about the everyday? By counting coffees consumed, hours of trashy TV watched, loyalty cards stamped and various other daily rituals, see how the reality of everyday life differs from our perception of it.
Emma Fishwick: A dance with no home
A new solo dance work exploring displacement and connectedness, choreographed to play with ideas of space, time and meaning. Get lost in a limbo of deeply layered imagery and beautiful movement.
Toyi-Toyi Theatre: The space between
Every year more people traverse the same patterns on the earth, leaving their homelands to find a new temporary place of safety. Inspired by travellers’ maps, media coverage of migration and the dancers’ own personal stories, The space between explores the history of people crossing borders and our endless search for home.
18–22 February, 7:30pm
Blue Room Theatre, Perth Cultural Centre, 53 James Street, Northbridge
Tickets available here
Like a Paperland taster? Here are some work-in-progress samples.
When I was writing the novel that eventually was published as The Sinkings (2008), I used to become anxious whenever anyone asked me that dreaded question What’s it about? It wasn’t that I was trying to keep it a secret, nor that I was lacking in focus. But I believe it can be creatively disastrous to talk too much about a work still in development; that it can have the effect of closing off what is, and should remain for some time, an open question. My novel was ‘about’ many things, and I didn’t have a neat one-sentence answer handy. (Come to think of it, I still need more than one sentence to describe The Sinkings!)
I remember, one time, mumbling, Oh, it’s about a convict. And, another time, mentioning intersex. In the latter case, the person I was talking to responded, Oh, so it’s an issues novel.
An issues novel. I don’t think I’d heard that term before, but I immediately understood what my friend meant. I’d read novels that position a medical condition or a current controversy or a matter of social justice front and centre, with everything else—characters, relationships, place, dramatic arc—almost incidental to that, there merely as a vehicle for the big ‘about’.
The Sinkings isn’t like that. But it does—among other things—explore the black, white and many greys of an ‘issue’, and that kind of exploration is one of the things that inspire me as a writer. And I realise, too, that it’s something I find compelling as a reader.
I love the capacity of fiction to spirit us, emotionally and intellectually, into the skin of other characters, to worry for the impossible situations writers have put them in, to feel their dilemmas for ourselves, to wonder: Why did this happen? What if I were that person, in that time, that place, that situation… would I have done that? What would I do?
The experience of falling into the universe of a book, and into the skin of the other, can help us to understand, to think, to feel, and when people do that they are far less likely to fear or to denigrate. In other words, it can engender empathy.
My reading in 2013 brought me to several impressive books that did exactly that. In this post I’m highlighting two of them.
In her hugely successful debut novel, Fractured, Dawn Barker gives a compassionate portrayal of a family pulled to pieces by a young woman’s severe postpartum mental illness. The beauty of the way Fractured is structured, moving forwards and backwards from a pivotal event, is that cause and effect are kept in suspension, layering the reader’s means of understanding the how and the why. Similarly, the narrative point of view is continually shifting, so that we see what is happening through the eyes of the young mother, Anna, her husband, Tony, her parents-in-law and her mother—a strategy that tends to keep the reader’s allegiances also shifting, making judgment impossible. This extract is from Anna’s point of view.
As soon as Anna sat down in the waiting room, Jack began to cry. Just give me a break, she wanted to shout. Just shut up for five minutes. I can’t do this. But, of course, she didn’t shout. She stood up and pushed the pram back and forward, back and forward. The lady sitting across from her was trying to catch her eye; Anna felt obliged to meet it.
‘Aww, he’s so little! How old is he?’ The woman leaned over to see into the pram.
‘He’s four weeks,’ she said with a slight smile, then turned away.
‘He’s so beautiful.’ Now the woman’s head was right inside the pram. ‘Hello, gorgeous boy. What’s the matter with you? Are you hungry?’
‘No, he’s not,’ she said. ‘He’s just crying. That’s what babies do.’
The stranger raised her eyebrows and went back to her magazine.
‘Sorry,’ Anna mumbled. Her face burned. She didn’t want to cry, not here, in front of everyone. She sat down and took a deep breath, but she couldn’t get enough air. Her lips and fingers tingled. That woman was staring at her, but her face was blurred around the edges and white flashes exploded in front of Anna’s eyes. Was the woman laughing at her? She gripped the arms of her chair with her numb fingers and hoped she was smiling.
—Dawn Barker, Fractured (Hachette, 2013)
Kirsten Krauth’s just_a_girl—also a debut—is one of the most confronting novels I’ve read in a while, plunging me into what is now an alien world, but which of course was once (a long time ago!) my world: that of an adolescent girl. Fourteen-year-old Layla is an impressively drawn character—intelligent, sexually precocious, terribly vulnerable. Her story is given nuance and context by those of two adult characters—her mother, Margot, who is struggling with lonely middle age, and an unrelated Japanese man, Tadashi, who has a disturbing sexual fetish. just_a_girl is a powerful, and often uncomfortable, look at contemporary culture, with Layla at the heart of it, as subject and object, as confirmation and contradiction. Living, for the duration of the novel, in Layla’s skin made me reflect that it has possibly always been so with teenage girls, and to feel compassion for both the girl beneath the armour and the armour itself.
Here is part of the opening passage:
The guy formerly known as youamizz told me he’d be wearing a red Strokes t-shirt. I see him from the train as it pulls in at Newcastle. He’s not bad enough to make me run away. But he’s older than I thought. Old enough to be my … maybe. He looks average but also kinda sweet when he spots me. He’s got a pretty hot bod. His smile lights me up. I can feel him framing me. Sizing me up as I swing towards him. I’m in my poxy school uniform. As I always am when mum drops me off at the station heading to granny’s. Mum doesn’t handle change. She gets suspicious. I went to put on my jeans and boots in the train toilet. But I opened the door to the puddles and stench and just thought, fuck it. At least he already knows.
He takes my hand. Kisses me on the cheek. Laughs and we’re away. He’s just as funny in real life. I relax and sit on the wharf and he buys me hot chips. We check into a hotel down on the water at Honeysuckle. The concierge asks if he requires an extra trundle bed for me.
—Kirsten Krauth, just_a_girl (UWA Publishing, 2013)
Fractured was one of the most reviewed novels in the 2013 Australian Women Writers Challenge.
Lisa Hill has just posted an excellent review of just_a_girl.
Happy New Year, everyone, and may 2014 bring you new joys, new and exciting challenges, new ways of looking up and looking down.
He is possibly best known as the presenter/producer of the award-winning ABCTV series Consuming Passions, which was aired in Australia and 15 other countries between 1992 and 2002. He is also a noted food, wine and travel writer and broadcaster; founding Festival Director of food/wine/beer festival Tasting Australia; and the author of 12 recipe collections (most recently All Consuming Passions) and an award-winning collection of memoirs, Sheer Bottled Bliss.
Last year I had the pleasure of visiting Ian in Margaret River, the food and wine capital of Western Australia, where he now lives. He has certainly made his mark on the community since the seachange move from Perth—for example, as a founder member of the Margaret River Food Group, which established the first farmers’ markets in WA’s South West. (If you’re visiting the region, the Margaret River markets on Saturday morning are a must!) As WA ambassador for the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation, he was also instrumental in establishing the Margaret River Primary School’s kitchen garden program.
So over now to Ian, and some of the things he loves.
3 things I love about what I do
1. I love spreading the word about real food. This has happened as a result of presenting Consuming Passions on ABCTV for 10 years, which allowed me to explore food and food culture overseas, as well as in Australia, and enabled me to meet the best chefs and producers. More recently I’ve been working with Hollywood Private Hospital in an attempt to change hospital food. It’s worked. Our Reinventing the Meal project has led to the hospital being voted best in Australia for its food and food delivery by an independent organisation, Press Ganey.
2. The success of Consuming Passions also has allowed me to spend more time on cookery, something that I’ve been doing now for almost six—yes, six—decades. I started in my mother’s kitchen, then learned more from our Belgian housekeeper when we lived in Brussels, and although I’ve never trained as a chef, I’ve spent plenty of time cooking and eating. It’s long been my passion. In fact, I’ve worked out that I’m coming up to the day when I will have consumed 75,000 meals (not including the odd Cherry Ripe from the hotel mini-bar). Frankly, I think I enjoy preparing food as much as eating it.
3. I started out as a journalist before going into TV production. In recent years I have gone back to writing for newspapers and magazines, as well as doing photography. Also in recent times I’ve wound back my event management activities and public appearances, enabling me to spend more time travelling with my partner, Ann, than with a bunch of workmates, lovely though they are… And I get real pleasure from putting together stories with pictures.
3 places I’d like to visit or revisit
1. France. It is said that one should never return to a place where one had ‘the best time’. To this I say: pish and tosh. It doesn’t matter how many times I visit France, I simply adore the country. Paris is my favourite city, and while I think there are plenty of places within and outside the country that do better food, I find the culture irresistible. Mind you, I think it helps that I speak French fluently. Although England was the place of my birth, and where I spent most of my formative years, I’ve always felt more at home in France, perhaps because I have Huguenot (and possibly Basque) in my blood.
2. Crete. I spent four weeks there this year. What a fabulous island, with a great history. We did a two-week archaeology and gastronomy tour with two fabulous guides: Heinrich Hall, a German academic with an Irish accent (don’t ask), and a Cretan Adonis called Vangelis (seriously). Despite the heat, HH always wore the same clothes: corduroy velvet trousers, sports jacket with leather elbows, lace-up shoes. Twinning archaeology with gastronomy was a very good call, since I have a low tolerance threshold for sarcophaguses. We spent two weeks in the tiny village of Douliana, inland and away from the tourist traps, and at a perfect time of year, Greek Easter, which lasts a week. We felt part of the village and were invited to no fewer than three Greek Easter family lunches. Forget Greek weddings; this is the real deal. The invitation we accepted was from a family of winemakers, who made really fabulous wine, which they were selling for $7 a bottle. We made so many really good friends that we’re going back there.
3. Spain. In particular northern Spain—Basque country on one side, where you find San Sebastian on the Atlantic coast, and Catalonia on the other, home of Barcelona (or, if you prefer, Bar-thay-lona in Spanish but not, apparently, in Catalan), and, between them, the wine-growing region of Rioja (pronounced Ree-ocka). Not only are the food and wine superb but so is the architecture, old and new. Add to that the region’s music, which is to be discovered everywhere in the cities. Walking the back streets of Barcelona, I heard what I thought was the sound of a CD being played in someone’s apartment. Rounding a corner, I discovered it to be a busker sitting on the steps of an old church, playing a Mozart horn concerto backed by a recorded orchestral backing track—a kind of upscale karaoke. Simply brilliant. And of course a walking tour of San Sebastian tapas bars—called Pinxtos bars—is absolutely the best way to enjoy an evening.
3 favourite ingredients
(Foods that contribute to dishes rather than stand-alone favourite foods, which include crab, soft French cheeses, and homemade vanilla ice-cream.)
1. Olive oil. There is only one kind of olive oil and that’s cold-pressed. Forget terminology such as pure, light, lite (aaaargh!); only what we commonly call extra-virgin is the real deal. I use around a litre a week and it’s produced by my next-door neighbour, Sharon Dunford of 34 Degrees South. It’s beautiful. About the only dish I don’t use it in is mayonnaise, because I find it too strongly flavoured.
2. Chicken. I find this the most versatile of meats. I never use breast and wonder why restaurants do so. Thigh is much better, easier to prepare correctly without drying out, and I think has a better texture. I also buy chicken necks and frames for stock. A regular kitchen occupation on Saturday is making really good stock, which I don’t believe can be made with just vegetables and herbs (sorry vegetarians!).
3. Chocolate. There is a saying that strength is defined as the ability to break a bar of chocolate into several pieces…and then eat only one piece. I’m not just a chocophile; I love including it in my homemade ice-creams, and a 70% dark chocolate is just perfect in the Belgian dessert Dame Blanche (white lady): vanilla ice-cream topped with hot chocolate sauce (including Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur) and toasted nuts. OMG, so good.
More from Ian Parmenter:
Yesterday I learned that a leading Australian bookseller had confessed to not having read a single book by a female Australian writer in 2013. Apparently, nothing interested him. And he didn’t like the covers. So yes, I am signing up for this year’s Australian Women Writers Challenge, a challenge established in 2012 to raise awareness of the exciting and varied work of Australia’s women writers and to redress the gender imbalance in book reviewing in major publications that stats tell us still exists. You can read more about the challenge here.
As I did in 2013, I’m opting for the Franklin level—a commitment to read at least ten books by Australian women writers and to review at least six. In 2014 I hope to better my 2013 totals of twenty-three read and six reviewed.
Already I have a pile of books I want to read, and a long wish list—and 2014 is sure to bring many more. Some of them might even have great covers—hey, you never know.
If you’re interested in joining the 2014 challenge, either as a reader/reviewer or just as a reader, you can sign up here.