General Articles

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The Gentle Art of Reading

New writers are always being told to read. Sometimes widely is added to that admonition. At other times the instruction includes the phrase ‘out of your comfort zone’. Occasionally it’s repeated for emphasis; ‘Read, read, read and write, write, write.’ But what is often left out is how to read.

 

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How does anyone keep up with everything that is going on in the digital age? What would Charles Dickens do in this age when more books are published than ever before across three different forms – digital, audio and hard copy – and when authors are expected to post regular updates about their life and work across the many platforms afforded them by social media? Would he be tramping across London still? I like to think of him, armed with a smart phone, updating his Insta with selfies with Wilkie Collins or a beef pie and pint taken after a good tramp. Would he have tweeted ‘Carrying Wilkie in Cumberland #sillysprain#BFF’?

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Self-portrait in Despair, Courbet, 1844-45

 

Jeanette Winterson spoke for many authors at the recent Australian Book Industry Awards when she said:

What we’re really protecting is the life of the mind; the creative core of what we are. If you attack creativity what you’re saying is that it doesn’t matter that we’re human beings, because very human being ever born across this planet, across time, is part of the creative continuum. We’re protecting something which is so valuable. This is more than an industry. This is the heart of humanity ... We need to protect this ecosystem.  

Jeanette Winterson,  Australian Book Industry Awards,  2016

At the Australian Book Industry Awards last Thursday (19 May), Jeanette Winterston made an impassioned plea on the behalf of Australian writers and readers and everyone involved in the Australian book industry.  She urged us to fight the Productivity Commissions Draft Report on Intellectual Property ‘with every breath.’

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I've been thinking recently of my early years writing when I'd just started having poems published in various journals around Australia. I had begun my poetry apprenticeship - and, like any apprentice, I was helped enormously by those who had already established poetry careers. This was in the mid 80s - a time before the real burgeoning of creative writing courses and just before the establishment of the state-based writers centre in Victoria.

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Recently my tablet keyboard abruptly stopped working. Okay, I thought it was abrupt until I remembere the almond milk incident. I immediatley ordered another keyboard which, when it arrived, worked for a third of a sentence and froze. I had a mini breakdown, during which I alienated the family, including the dog, by not shutting up about how technology had failed me.

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