Reading Australian Literature 2015

Presented with the School of Letters, Art and Media at the University of Sydney

Writers’ festivals and other popular forums invite writers to talk about their own work and creative practices. But what might they have to say about the books that excite their imaginations? There are few opportunities for writers to substantially engage with literature in the public sphere.

Reading Australian Literature is a series in which acclaimed Australian writers reflect on the Australian books they value. In a thoughtful and engaging public lecture, each writer will discuss a favourite Australian literary text. What has led them to these books? What do they find remarkable about them? Have these encounters with Australian books left an imprint on the speakers’ own writing?

Reading Australian Literature offers a unique insight into an ongoing writerly dialogue with our literary heritage. This popular series returns in 2015 with four speakers. In first semester, Charlotte Wood will talk about The Transit of Venus by Shirley Hazzard on Tuesday 31 March and Delia Falconer will speak on Seven Poor Men of Sydney by Christina Stead on Tuesday 21 April.

Reading Australian Literature is co-presented by the School of Letters, Arts and Media at the University of Sydney. The Australian Literature Program in the University’s Department of English is home of the oldest chair in Australian Literature, an exciting undergraduate major, a specialised honours stream and a variety of postgraduate and research options.


31 March - Charlotte Wood on The Transit of Venus by Shirley Hazzard

Charlotte Wood

"I was a latecomer to The Transit of Venus, with my first reading of it just a few years ago. But as soon as I began it I knew this would be a novel I could return to for the rest my life, each time finding a new experience within its pages. I’m delighted at this opportunity to immerse myself once more in Hazzard’s intricate, witty, breathtakingly confident, thoroughly Australian masterpiece."

Charlotte Wood is the author of four acclaimed novels and a book of non-fiction. Her last novel, Animal People, was shortlisted for the 2013 Christina Stead Prize for Fiction and longlisted for the 2012 Miles Franklin. Charlotte is the Australia Council’s Chair of Arts Practice, Literature. Her fifth novel will be published in October 2015 by Allen & Unwin.

2 June - Delia Falconer on Seven Poor Men of Sydney by Christina Stead

Delia Falconer

"I'll be speaking about Seven Poor Men of Sydney because it has been one of the great discoveries of my reading life, albeit a late one. I'm fascinated by the picture it gives of Sydney in the 1920s; but even more so by the intensity of Stead's artistic vision. Against the accepted view that this is an uneven book marred by the excesses of a first-time author, I want to argue for the astonishing maturity and political sophistication of her use of form."

Delia Falconer is the author of two novels (The Service of Clouds and The Lost Thoughts of Soldiers) and Sydney, a cultural history and memoir of her hometown. Her short stories and essays have been anthologised widely, including in the PEN Macquarie Anthology of Australian Literature. She is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Technology, Sydney.

15 September - Malcolm Knox on The Glass Canoe by David Ireland

Malcolm Knox

"David Ireland has always been an adventurous, challenging novelist. In The Glass Canoe, you see him writing for fun, going back to his earthy roots in a working class, Western Sydney pub. It is wild and Rabelaisian, shocking and funny, yet also compact and artistically elegant. I don't think any other writer has so perfectly nailed the animal humour of the Australian male."

Malcolm Knox's fifth novel, The Wonder Lover, was published in 2015. He is also the author of twelve non-fiction books, and as a journalist has won two Walkley Awards. He lives in Sydney.

13 October - Mireille Juchau on Patrick White's Riders in the Chariot

Mireille Juchau

"I was compelled by the atmospheric setting in Patrick White's Riders in the Chariot (1961) long before I realised that Sarsaparilla was a fictional version of Castle Hill, where I grew up. I also recognised in the characters Mordecai Himmelfarb and Harry Rosetree aspects of my family's experience as Jewish refugees during the post-holocaust period. Through White's evocation of place, and the materials he drew on - Jewish mysticism, symbolist painting, the violent history of Sydney's outer suburbs - I will explore the novel's chimerical "third dimension", and its themes of xenophobia and mysticism, exile and belonging, art and transcendence."

Mireille Juchau is the author of three novels: Machines for Feeling, Burning In, and The World Without Us published in Australia in 2015, and the UK and US in 2016. Burning In was shortlisted for 4 awards including the Prime Minister's Literary Award in 2007. Mireille's short fiction, essays and reviews are published in Australia and internationally. She was Scholar in Writing at the University of Technology Sydney, and has taught at several universities.