Our president-elect appears to enjoy the rococo, too, but it is the wrong kind of rococo: not delicate craftsmanship as a blow to misogyny, but the gilding of every conceivable surface, the flaunting of a wealth he has used to hurt others, as a boastful public spectacle. Trump represents the end of liberalism, the end of self-restraint and public kindness delivered through flawed, long-lived institutions, at least on a national scale. The social contract of Paul Wellstone and Richard Rorty, of A. Phillip Randolph and Eleanor Roosevelt, and for that matter of Barack Obama, seems all torn up.

It is possible to imagine human progress—to imagine that we can make things better—and it is possible to imagine historical continuity—a future along the same lines as the recent past—but it is no longer possible for me to hold in mind both things at once. Nor is it possible for me to imagine that our institutions, long held up by tacit norms of professionalism and ethics, are likely to heal themselves. “Most of the American public,” writes international relations scholar Dan Drezner, “either doesn’t know or doesn’t care about the norms that Trump is breaching,” no more than they care what a sonnet can be.

By Stephen Burt; more at Boston Review


Writers are made, not born, by investing time and money (usually their own) in their development, Forge says. They buy time to write by reducing paid working hours, writing hundreds of words for underfunded literary magazines and other outlets for a nominal fee (or for nothing but “exposure”) and spending every spare moment “practising their scales”. And support comes from a small, low-paid or voluntary army of workers: editors, festival directors, editorial assistants.

By Jane Sullivan; more at The Age, 12th November, 2016.


In 2008, US poet Sharon Olds came out about her poetry, admitting that her writing is based on her own life. Since the publication of her first book, Satan Says, in 1980, when she was thirty-seven, she’d been evading questions about the biographical basis of her work. In her rare interviews, she would gently correct ‘personal’ to ‘apparently personal’ as a description of her poems and emphasise with kindly patience that they were works of art, not autobiography. Then, in her late sixties, she changed her mind. She confirmed that the man dying slowly from a throat tumour in her book The Father was her own father; that the woman who in a number of poems ties her young daughter to a chair was the poet’s own mother; that the marriage whose end is painfully documented in Stag’s Leap was Olds’s own thirty-two-year marriage. In an email to an interviewer, she explained her re-think with reference to a reading she once gave at a high school. ‘A student said: ‘If I thought you’d made up all the stuff in your poems, I’d be really mad at you,’’ she writes. ‘And I knew how he felt, and in his place I’d feel the same way.’ Far from being offended by the idea that a reader might connect her poems with her life, she had taken that link for granted. She had assumed that the reader would know the poems had emerged from her own experience, even if she had never explicitly said so. ‘It had not crossed my mind really that anyone would make up a life, make up these stories,’ she goes on. ‘It seemed so obvious to me they were being told, sung, from some inner necessity that rose in an actual life.’

By Ann-Marie Priest; more at Cordite


The question “What do you do?” can be socially awkward, even painful. Particularly if your art falls into one of the more ‘niche’ categories like haiku or speculative fiction writing, anamorphosis or painting with body fluids. Especially if you’re just starting out, or just thinking about starting out. Maybe you’ve been hiding your creative light under a bushel for years, working diligently at a job you studied a degree or trade to land, or one you just ‘fell into’, all the while daydreaming about life as a street performer or braving the open mike section at a poetry reading.

More, at ‘The Artist Unleashed’….


People tend to tune out when they hear the words “productivity commission”, “parallel importation restrictions”, and “book publishing industry” in the same sentence. It’s a complicated issue, but trust me, it’s one you need to care about because the threat and danger is appallingly simple: our very culture is at stake.

From Susan Hawthorne; more at The Guardian, 04 May 2016

For me, traditional publishing means poverty. But self-publish? No way

If you self-publish your book, you are not going to be writing for a living. You are going to be marketing for a living. Self-published authors should expect to spend only 10% of their time writing and 90% of their time marketing. The self-published author who came to my blog to preach the virtues of his path, claiming to make five figures a month from Kindle sales of his 11 novels, puts his writing time percentage in single figures. If that sounds like fun to you, be my guest. But if your passion is creating worlds and characters, telling great stories, and/or revelling in language, you might want to aim for traditional publication.

By Ros Barber; more at The Guardian


From a great height

Since moving from Melbourne to Canberra, one of the things I’ve missed the most has been the quiet, ongoing kindness and support of a physically present writing community. Yesterday I was taken aback, and frankly baffled, to see many in this community assassinated in character (I think) in Luke Carman’s essay for Meanjin, ‘Getting Square in a Jerking Circle’. I say ‘I think’ because this 10-page screed is so shrouded in coyness and obtuse language that I can only guess, not know, that it was they that Carmen was talking about.

The essay purports to give an ‘insider’s view’ of an industry in crisis; in it, Carman goes in on the unnamed shadow figures that prop up Melbourne’s arts infrastructure, arguing that most if not all of these are power-hungry ‘anti-artists’, failed writers or no writers at all, looking for power in their own dissemination of opinion and critique. He also takes a swing at universities – “Much of the blame for creating the chasm in our culture from which these deluded demi-gods of arts management must have arisen must lie within our universities,” – and perpetuates the myth of the creative writing course as predatory, which I have already rebutted, in a cranky mood, here.

By Jessica Friedmann; more here


Infinite snark: who’s afraid of the Melbourne literary scene?

Sydney and Melbourne are fighting again.

Australia’s writing community loves nothing more than talking about itself and, in recent days, it has been transfixed by an incendiary article published in this quarter’s Meanjin. In “Getting Square in a Jerking Circle”, the Sydney writer Luke Carman delivers an extended jeremiad against the Melbourne literary scene.

In tones of considerable venom, Carman excoriates arts administrators in general and Melbourne’s City of Literature pretensions in particular. His targets are “the social climbers of the arts”: arts administrators at creative institutions – journals, festivals, funding bodies and hubs – working in that most notorious cosa nostra, “the Melbourne literati mafia”.

By Ben Eltham; more at The Guardian


Getting Square in a Jerking Circle

The Melbourne literati mafia may have little ‘real-world’ potency, but that’s not their game. Instead, they rely on an invidious power of suggestion that gnaws its way into the consciousness of young Australian writers. Their grim visage solidifies in the minds of our future writers, creating enough fog and smoke to overwhelm the victim and blind their common sense. In ‘Right Time, Right Place: How the Melbourne Voice Shuts Writers Out’, Jonno Revanche, an Adelaide-based writer, describes the influence of the ‘Melbourne Voice’ on wannabe writers. Confronting the amassed cultural capital of the ‘romanticised’ City of Literature as a young outsider with aspirations of making it in the world of letters, Revanche describes a common feeling of despair: ‘I would continually beat myself up over “not being contemporary enough”, and felt like my honest words simply weren’t valuable.’

Revanche’s account of the Melbourne voice’s ‘oppressive’ influence paints this literary clique-hole as a cultish cabal holding the country’s literary ‘stakeholders’ to ransom. It is an exaggeration of the power wielded by Melbourne’s lit mobsters, and since it played directly to the vanity of these anti-artists, they were quick to laude Revanche’s article as ‘an important and necessary provocation’—the usual descriptor the clique-lords use to describe any opinion piece with which they agree. By contrast, Brigid Delaney’s response piece in the Guardian, which suggested that the so-called ‘Melbourne Voice’ was a paper-thin mythological irrelevance perpetuated by an insular crowd of insufferable literary baristas, was dismissed by the anti-artists as a self-serving ‘think piece’—the descriptor typically used to delegitimise any opinion piece with which the anti-artists and their disciples disagree.

By Luke Carman; more from Meanjin: Autumn 2016