Sydney Writers Festival 2018: Tsiolkas on Patrick White

Sydney Writers Festival 2018

The annual Sydney Writers Festival isn’t aimed at those of us who write genre fiction. However, it is good to spend a little bit of time there to listen to how the other part of literature function.  The venue in 2018 stole the show – Carriageworks in Redfern is an old industrial warehouse and has retained many of the industrial features from yesteryear.

Due to my work schedule, I could only attend on the Thursday, and therefore missed the one speaker I wanted to see, Claire G Coleman, who spoke on Friday. I attended with a friend of mine, and let her choose what we should see.

First up was Christos Tsiolkas (author of The Slap: A Novel, and others), speaking about his latest offering, a non-fiction essay on Australian writer Patrick White. Now, one male writer talking about how he adored another male writer’s writing isn’t really my thing, however, it did include an interesting discussion about whether you should write in your lane or not.

“Every writer has to be truly bisexual (in their thinking).”

Other interesting comments from the talk were:

“The great gift that comes from art and literature (is that it) requires work.”

“The novel fetishes the individual.”

“The twin of modernism is existentialism. The influences of modernism and existentialism is an important part of literary tradition.”

“(White could) create astonishing relationships in time of distress. A sense of awe, instead of God.”

“Migrants are entering the history of his nations. All migrants (and not just settlers) need to acknowledge the history of Indigenous Australia.”

My favourite quote from Tsiolkas came when he was asked about writing craft, and is the one comment relevant to genre readers:

“There are no rules, really, but one is fundamental. You must read.”

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