Friday, November 19, 2010

On Meeting Writers

I won't bother apologising for the long break between updates. It's marking season at Uni, and you can imagine the fun of that for yourself.

I'll tell you a couple of bits and pieces though...

Yesterday, I met David Malouf. He came to UC to work with some of our students, and deliver a couple of lectures (neither of which I was able to get to, owing to teaching and other commitments, worse luck.) I did get to meet him and chat for a couple of minutes though.

I'll be honest with you and admit that I thought I was over being impressed by meeting authors. Until I became one (whatever that means) I used to hold writers in pretty high regard. One of my fond memories of childhood is Roald Dahl sending a casette tape to accept the WA Young Readers Book Award, right back in the 1980's when I was about 12 years old : I remember being so thrilled to hear his actual voice, and he apologised for not being able to get there to accept the award personally. It was a pivotal moment of my childhood. Seriously.

When I first got published, one of the best parts of the whole thing was suddenly finding myself thrust into this world full of people whose names I'd been intimately acquainted with - often for years - as the authors of books I loved. One of the most memorable moments of my first time at the Somerset Festival of Literature in Queensland was finding myself swimming in the hotel pool beside Isobelle Carmody.*

Of course, you soon work out that authors are just like you - people who write.** And it wasn't long before I managed to get my obsessive author-fanboy geek out of my system.

Until yesterday.

Did I mention that I met David Malouf?

I stood there, trying desperately to make conversation, all the while wrestling with the fact that this friendly, unassuming bloke wrote some of what I consider to be the most important and beautiful Australian novels of the last century. He wrote Remembering Babylon, for goodness sake*** He writes gorgeous poetry. Geoffry Smart did a portrait of him. Other people write long and often utterly misguided literary critiques of his words.

And when we were introduced, I shook his hand and do you know what I said to him?

"Uhm. It's a pleasure to meet you." (pause, awkwardly, then: ) "I'm a huge admirer of your work."

Yep. I became a cliche. A tonguetied one, at that.


Still, it's nice to know, in a way, that the mystique is still there for me, especially in this open-access, ultra connected age that we live in. It's nice to know that that the little kid who sat in the WA state library and just marvelled at hearing his favourite author speak is still tucked away inside there somewhere.

*I almost drowned, then and there...
** bear in mind that this was before web 2.0, so there was none of this instant blog and twitter access that we have nowdays. Authors had a lot more, I dunno... mystique, I guess.
*** I used to teach Remembering Babylon to year 12's as part of English Lit. It was a book that opened a lot of minds, including my own.

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