Monday, May 24, 2010

Highlights of the 2010 Sydney Writers Festival

As Sydney Writers Festival recedes into the rear vision mirror, here's my highlights of #swf2010

Lenny Bartulin and Neil Cross gave exceedingly good crime panel and were teamed up a few times over the days. They seemed to develop some good chemistry, making each other laugh as well as the audience. When it comes to giving a thumbnail sketch of the lads it's tempting to see them as source material for a potential crime-writer-buddies-sit-com; a recovering poet and an escapee from Booker Prize nomination, out do each other in finding the remotest places on earth in which to live (Tasmania and NZ) and write crime. And all this before Neil Cross even lifted the veil on Spooks.

"If something is too big to fail, it is, by definition TOO BIG"

So said Bill McKibben, who then went on to give the speculative fiction idea that's been knocking about the back of my mind some truly frightening substance. His latest book EAARTH ought to be shoved into the hand of every politician on this poor old planet. I'd really like to see Banksy get creative with the number 350 as well; explains why that's the number that needs to be emblazoned on our minds, in our hearts and tattooed into the consciousness of every politician in town. 

On a panel entitled "Too late to save?" but which everyone agreed should have been called - "We're screwed", Raj Patel was prepared to name names and apportion blame. When a guy who's worked for the World Bank and the IMF is prepared to name and shame and use the "C" word - Capitalism - when asked for the reasons behind poverty and hunger, then it's time to sit up and listen. He was insistent, and it's a point worth repeating, that he is not advocating a returning to mud huts or de-inventing the wheel. Rather, he is arguing for a fundamental shift in thinking about they way we humans have chosen to organise ourselves and in doing so he points out the hairy spotty bottoms of the Economic Masters of the Universe who have spent far too long prancing about encouraging us all to admire their fine and fancy pants.

On a personal note I finally got to meet and have a drink with my long-distance, long-suffering editor Jo Rosenberg, from Penguin. Released from her desk to wander blinking about in the daylight, we managed to catch up, talk a lot and get in a couple of glasses of wine before dashing off in different directions to different events. Such is the fun of the festival.

Final event for me was a visit to the SH Ervin Gallery for more wine and cheese and a peek at the Salon des Refusés before a talk by Grace Karskens and Ian Hoskins on Sydney Colony and Sydney Harbour. Then a trip to the Sydney Observatory to gaze at the Moon and Mars and Saturn.

Not even a rainy Sydney could ruin it. The crime sessions were full, the environment sessions were full,  the wharves were buzzing - lots of people still like to read it seems. 

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