MANY VISITORS to this little blog, perhaps most, will already have read this week's edition of Gerard Henderson's Media Watch Dog, but tardy souls should get over there chop-chop, Victorians in particular. As Henderson notes in his lead item, the Melbourne Writers Festival is upon us once again and this year's guests make a choice lot. Here is the gabblers' chorus:
Louise Adler, Gay Alcorn, Waleed Aly, Tim Costello, Sophie Cunningham,
Robert Dessaix, Tim Dunlop, Tim Flannery, Raymond Gaita, Jonathan Green,
Germaine Greer, Rodney Hall, Marieke Hardy, Jenny Hocking, Tom
Keneally, Marilyn Lake, David Marr, Maxine McKew, Ross McMullin, George
Megalogenis, Tony Moore, Ben Pobjie, Henry Rosenbloom, John Ralston
Saul, Margaret Simons, Jeff Sparrow, Laura Tingle, Don Watson, Margaret
Wertheim, Arnold Zable.
The Age, a sponsor of the gathering, has a programme in today's paper, which means few Melbournians will have seen it -- certainly none outside the St Kilda-Northcote-Yarraville triangle, where remaining Age readers would not need to consult the festival's agenda in any case. If The Age is backing something -- and that does not mean putting FXJ's stock price into reverse -- residents of those precious pockets will know for a certainty that they need not fear being confronted by ideas from outside the collective comfort zone. But for others, people whose taxes Ted the Twerp insists on pouring into gatherings of those who believe Liberals are the spawn of Satan, a little background might be in order.
It is worth noting, for example, that many of the locally recruited participants move in the same small sphere, much as spawning fish swim in parallel and shower each other with sperm. Consider all the links in the following daisy chain. The names of those invited to share their wisdom with MWF audiences are in bold:
Louise Adler, publisher at Melbourne University Press and promoter of quality literature by, er, noted scholar and criminal Mick Gatto, hired as her deputy Sally Heath, who is married to Radio National's Jonathan Green, who in 2007 hosted a party at which former MUP employee and ex-Meanjin editix Sophie Cunningham joined others in whacking a John Howard pinata. Cunningham, by the way, has just been installed atop the Australia Council's Literature Board, so all her mates should reduce carbon emissions and save on postage by simply handing her their grant applications at the festivals opening cocktail party. Green is cobbers with fellow Radio National chatterbox Waleed Aly, generally regarded by ABC types and Q&A bookers as your go-to tame Muslim, even though he keeps his little woman covered up when she is outside the home and open to the gaze of hair-besotted infidels. Wally wrote for the Drum when Green was the editor and another festibator, Tim Dunlop, still does. Endlessly -- though his work is seldom seen anywhere else. Then there is Overland's editorial tyro, Geoff Sparrow, whose co-authored book Adler has just published, along with Sunday Age titanide Gay Alcorn, who worked with Heath at Fairfax and, although nothing more need be said, is also Margo Kingston's half-sister. Just for good measure, the festival's spear carriers include the Parkville Asylum's most advanced journalist Margaret Simons, who wrote for Green at Crikey, plus down-in-the-dumps Drum boy Ben Pobjie and fellow rib-tickler Marieke Hardy, who did so much on Green's watch to lift tone, eloquence and accuracy at the Drum.
Do you get the impression that, if being a lockstep luvvie was an offence, all of the bold types above would go down for consorting?
To make the local participants feel special, and to give them some hard-bound international names to drop at the next Westgarth dinner party, the organisers have filled out the bill with a spin-the-Rolodex list of have-doom-will-travel scolds and wowsers, starting with Germaine Greer (who also catches Henderson's attention), the only person known to have been willingly exposed to the Tourette's virus.
Ted Baillieu will continue to fund all this, of course, because he would not want to be mistaken for one of those nasty conservatives who believe that, if taxpayers must pay for literary festivals, those conclaves should at least represent a slightly broader range of views and backgrounds than found at the annual Drum vs. Crikey picnic cricket match.. Not our Tame Ted, never him. All the same, simple decency demands that he be warned.
Mr Premier, if you notice the intermission biscuits are just a bit, er, soggy, put them back on the plate and find a serviette.