Friday, July 21, 2006

Malouf: by all accounts a nice guy

David Malouf is in town for the Brisbane Festival, which is headlined by the stage adaptation of Johnno.

For the uninitiated, Johnno distils the essence of BrisVegas perhaps even more forcefully than a visit to Kodak beach. (Although you could argue there's nothing more Brisbane than the odour of Kodak beach).

About a thousand (metaphorical) years ago I was dating someone who absolutely loved Malouf's books, and so there were lots of conversations, debates between her, I and a couple of close friends about whether he was a better writer than Stephen King, which of them would win a pub brawl, et cetera.

The debates filtered through into letters, comics, and then The Bane of Monkeys' Bladders.

(Interestingly enough, or perhaps boringly enough, there's no mention of Malouf in the most recent re-write).

Emma Rodgers, who was there at the Spiegeltent last night, says he was "very friendly, extremely interesting and loved taking questions from the audience".

"One lady who described herself as being about the same age as Malouf said her and her friends often wonder if they grew up in the same city as him because their childhoods were boring, boring, boring. I presume she was making the point that Brisbane in the 1950s sounds so much more exotic in Johnno.

"Malouf's answer was funny and a very interesting glimpse into the mind of a writer. He said that a writer sees and hears all trivial things - a person whom on nothing is lost. A writer can get just a small glimpse of something, he said, and their quality of mind and observation can make so much of it. A writer's memory is 'imbued with feelings'. He then told the lady, 'I suspect you were just not watching closely enough'."

I've also listened to Richard Fidler's interview with Malouf, during which Malouf says writers are like "puzzled observers".

"They're like small children really in a house where they're endlessly eavesdropping or trying to see what it is the adults are up to, and trying to work it out and they never really work it out.

"It surprises me because other people grow out of that stage and they grow up into real adults who think they know how everything works.

"In a way all writers are dumb and it's a good place to be. You don't fool yourself that you know the answers to any of the questions - you keep on asking and you keep on being puzzled. Other people seem to find the answers easily and writers don't."

He certainly doesn't sound like the kind of guy who would say "bollocks".

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