Melbourne Writers Festival: Helen Razer's picks

Obviously, Bernard Keane is the festival’s essential artefact and a heroic defender etc. of info-autonomy. On Saturday, hear him talk darkly about his haute-airport chiller Surveillance and then buy this and then two, maybe three, copies of his celebrated work A Short History of Stupid co-authored by, ahem, Helen Razer. Link here to Bernard Keane at MWF

Tariq Ali is an important activist intellectual whose critique of liberal progressivism doesn’t come often enough at festivals where most participants just want to be nice. He asks for more than tolerance and good vibes and I am very glad generally to see his dispassionate tradition of naming inequality for what it is (mostly capitalism) is received by a growing group of young people full to nausea of awareness ribbons and hungry for the nourishment of ideas. Link here to Tariq Ali at MWF

I find Naomi’s Klein’s style clunky and her approach conventional and unambitious. She nonetheless says things that need to be urgently said on the relationship of capital to climate. That she is not devilish enough for mine should not dissuade you from attending this holy lecture on how everything’s gone to the shitter. Link here to Naomi Klein at MWF 

For the radical past and reformist present of gay lib politics, there are few better sources than Professor Dennis Altman. His early ‘70s work Homosexual is often and not unreasonably described as the gay lib Female Eunuch. Den will discuss its recent sequel. Link here to Dennis Altman at MWF

I find myself irritated by parts of Anne Manne’s study of narcissism, The Life of I. Then again, I find myself irritated by many things and must not be trusted. For some of us pinkos, Manne does not go far enough in her critique of individualism and locates fault for it most passionately in the individual, rather in the society that produced it. It is easy to read this book and say “people are bad”, which of course is true, but hardly surprising. What is surprising, though, is the force of her study which upturns a narcissistic character I can recognise. Even in myself. Link here to Anne Manne at MWF

I’ve had an eye on Eugenia Flynn since her reasonably cranky, eminently sensible blog first came to my attention. Genie is a young writer maturing fast into someone who can communicate the idea of identity—her own, Aboriginal Australian, Chinese and Muslim, being multipart—without asserting it as the centre of her text. Link here to Eugenia Flynn at MWF 

I give less than one miserable shit for sports writing. Unless it is produced by Gideon Haigh. I have no notion of what his most recent book was about (I hope it’s not sport) but the scholarship and elegance he has applied to previous projects, such as the one about contemporary “knowledge” labour, makes me feel lazy and talent-free. Link here to Gideon Haigh at MWF

If you’ve not seen or read Peter Singer, then that’s a fairly serious omission you might want to correct. I am not a big fan of consequentialism or of pure ethics rather generally (not instrumental enough for mine) but he’s one of those academic communicators who teaches you, or reminds you, how to think. That he will discuss the ethical good of arts funding is of particular interest to readers of Daily Review. Link here to Peter Singer at MWF

It is absolutely true that Erik Jensen is my non-biological son, my editor and one of the very few people for whom I will leave the house. It is also true that he is a wonderful writer. His creative biographical work on the artist Adam Cullen Acute Misfortune is fucking marvellous and that he wrote it at 25 makes me silently wish that he will endure a long and frustrating period of block in his thirties, because who the cock is he to be writing that well at that, or at any other, age? Link here to Erik Jensen at MWF

Come see Mark Latham for the lulz but stay for what may, or may not, remain of his third-way political approach. I have never been enamoured of this fairly centrist, liberal view but there are *certain* things about the NSW ALP Right I don’t mind. Mostly the Chinese food and the economic focus. It is unfortunate that Latham has begun to see the “Left” “elites” as enemies more significant than uneven wealth accumulation. But, I guess we all spend too much time on Twitter occasionally and let’s hope that Mark, who has written some good essays with some half-good ideas about the future of party from which he is now distant, starts reading books again instead of just stupid posts about nothing written by not-really-Left people he knows he’s going to hate. Link here to Mark Latham at MWF 

2 responses to “Melbourne Writers Festival: Helen Razer's picks

  1. Great Piece Helen,
    reason being I was forced to go over it & wanted to research the names you highlighted to have a laymans grasp of the writing talent that Australia has coming up through the ranks. To put a downer on the piece, when someone by invitation goes off topic & tirades any audience with what are basically unrelated subject material I cannot fathom other than wanting to burn my bridges. Now I have been guilty of using degenerative language at times. Even the C word. But it has been in private & usually spontaneous to a provocation. I usually regret my actions upon reflection & that’s where I want to leave it.

  2. I feel like I am there already Helen from all the way over here. I once wrote a letter to Mark Latham and on the back of the envelope had the sender’s address as “The New Mechanics Institute”. Did not get a reply?

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