Month: August 2012

Michael Kirby, Australians’ champion of love

Australia’s longest serving judge Michael Kirby shared the stage with authorised biographer Daryl Dellora and chair Mick O’Reagan, ABC Radio National’s homepage editor. Kirby’s thoughtful and compassionate comments and humorous anecdotes of his personal life, and his experiences as a High Court judge were entertaining and thought provoking. Kirby set the tone early by taking the mickey out of himself when plugging his own book A Private Life: Fragments, Memories and Friends and Dellora’s Michael Kirby: Law, Love and Life, holding the books up and saying “I would hate to be so vulgar as to advertise my books”. O’Regan described Kirby as a man with a great passion for family, his long-term partner Johan van Vloten and an unrelenting courage to stand up for what he believes to be right and just.  Kirby was quick to point out that he has his faults, joking that one day he sat down with van Vloten to list them and van Vloten looked across at Kirby’s notepad and said, “that pad’s not big enough”. While the conversation moved …

After Auschwitz, there can be no more poetry

During the closing session of the Byron Bay Writers’ Festival 2012, some of the darker themes of writing were explored in Going To The Dark Side.  Chaired expertly by Ashley Hay, the panellists Tony Birch, Tony Cavanaugh and Denise Leith all spoke about their unique experiences of going to the dark side in their writing – a defining thread that seemed to tie them all together. The discussion took an up-close-and-personal look at the darker aspects of human society: war, fear, violence, disaster and environmental collapse – all the usual suspects. In writing their novels, each panellist had to embark upon a journey into the dark, either through their protagonist, or through the vivid reality of war itself as in the shape of Leith’s book; more closely aligned with fact. Leith questioned her own obsessive interest in war but reasoned that it is in trying to understand injustice and humanity – an issue she has grappled with since childhood – that she keeps coming back to the subject. “In war, you see the worst of human behaviour …

Digitial big bang: a brave new world for writers

The digital big bang is neither a good thing, a bad thing but neither is it neutral, agreed panellists Marc Fennell, Antony Funnell and Stephen Sewell. The way Sewell described it, we’re looking at a revolution. Pillars of our economy, our arts and our society are crashing down around us. We cannot possibly know what might be left when the smoke clears. An oppressive online environment controlled by large corporations, or a great freedom and deregulation with all the advances and the dangers that might encompass. Fennell thought it was most likely we’d end up somewhere in between. Funnell agreed with the sentiments of revolution. He described the digital big bang as an evaporation of everything we understand about writers, books and publishing. We are standing on the edge. Exhausted as we might feel by the constant digital expansion, we’ve barely dipped our toes in the water. Dickens’ words “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” captures perfectly the digital revolution. Sewell fantasises about being author to a kind of Alice in Wonderland story. Readers …

Something in the Water – Byron’s never ending supply of talent

The Byron area produces an abundance of writers. So many emerge that the Writers’ Festival can afford to showcase the new talent every year. The theory posited this afternoon was that there is something in the water. There does seem to be an element in the area that is especially conducive to writing. If I had to make a guess, I would say it’s the festival itself and the community it fosters. When Jesse Blackadder introduced the four debut authors, she asked for a proper Byron welcome. The following roar of applause, whoops and cheers was as endearing as it was deafening. The first emergent writer to speak about how the area shaped her as a writer was Jessie Cole. Her novel Darkness on the Edge of Town was lauded as exquisite and pitch perfect by The Australian this week. She grew up in the area, she tells us, but she never really felt like part of it. Cole explained how she is quite often isolated, both emotionally and geographically, living in a technological black …