For both writers and readers, attending Adelaide Writers’ Week is a treat not to be missed. For an Adelaide writer (like me), attending is pretty much obligatory. As both Writers’ Week and I (me?) have been around in Adelaide since the sixties, it might surprise you that I’ve never been.
I’ve always had some feeble excuse or other; I’m working, it’s forty degrees in the shade (which it often is), I haven’t read any of the authors and so on. In truth, it’s also been because I’ve harboured a suspicion that it was a bit pretentious, a bit precious; a sea of grey haired acolytes fawning at the feet of “great author”. Kind of presumptuous really, when I’d never bothered to go along and find out. But that’s just me. If there’s something everyone’s raving about, I get reactionary and find a zillion reasons not to do it. Childish some might say and some might be right.
However this year that will change. As well as the fact that every keen writer and reader I’ve ever known who’s been has praised it to the skies, it’s more than time to cast my ill-formed prejudices and apathy aside and get into it.
The event has a venerable history. It’s the oldest and perhaps best known literary festival in Australia and over the years has hosted many of the world’s greatest literary stars.
Probably every international author who’s come here has a story to recount about the experience. Indeed even fictional authors, as in the book I’m reading, “Zoo Time” by Howard Jacobsen, http://www.amazon.com/Zoo-Time-Novel-Howard-Jacobson/dp/160819938X in which his narrator, a successful author, travels to Adelaide for the festival and has an adulterous fling among the vines of the Barossa during an extra-curricular diversion from the speakers’ platform. For a “garrulous pervert” to which one reviewer likened his character, this is behaviour conforming to type. Indeed, as a self-confessed “man ruled by pointless ambition and a blazing red penis”, the only surprise is that he didn’t share himself around even more freely.
Then of course, there was Ted Hughes, British Poet Laureate, who visited the Festival in 1976 (post Sylvia). According to a biography I read some time ago, he is reputed to have had a similar extra-curricular diversion with a woman not his wife while in Adelaide. This may or may not be true, but it’s exciting to imagine there’s something a bit Rabelaisean in the late summer air of the Womens’ Memorial Gardens in March. Whether it’s the inflammatory effects of all that lyrical prose or the bubbling effervescence of seven days’ worth of sparkling intellect, or just the ambrosial scent of eucalypts and warm grass, who knows, but it’s something I’m looking forward to discovering.
One of the sessions that especially appeals, is “The Art of History”, to be presented by Tom Holland and Tom Keneally on Monday 4 March,1.15pm, East Stage. For more on this, see my piece under Articles on this blog, entitled “History, Herstory or Whose Story?”