Sam van Zweden



Wheeler Centre

A Wheely Great Program!

Yep, made that terrible pun again. I can’t help it. I just have to!

Today, the Wheeler Centre have released their events program for the next quarter.

I thought it would be hard to top last quarter’s program – Shane Maloney was very entertaining, Irvine Welsh was great, the Meanland panels on eReaders were important stuff. So I was curious to see what they’d be doing to beat that this quarter.

To be honest, I panicked a bit when I saw June. “The Deakins 2010” lectures take up most of June, and they’re not really something that interests me. As important as I know this stuff is.

July, however, is reasonably jam-packed with winners.

The week beginning on the 5th of July is “A Week of Love and Lust” … Most of what’s on during this week seems a little trashy, but no doubt far too enjoyable. Most of interest to me though, is the Lunchbox/Soapbox event about “The Case For Gay Marriage”. Well done, Wheeler!

Also during this week is a night about “Erotic Fan Fiction”, where the fantastic Marieke Hardy and Justin Heazelwood (and others) “turn their craft into a night of smut and hilarity”…

On the 14th of July John Birmingham, author of He Died With A falafel In His Hand will be speaking and promoting his new book.

“Voiceworks Live” on the 22nd of July will be a chance to meet fellow Voiceworks readers, as well as contributors and people behind the scenes of the fabulous publication.

On the 29th of July, Jennifer Byrne will be talking to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who is a reasonably controversial feminist activist and political. This one is ticketed, and will be taking place at the Capitol Theatre, so probably quite a big night.

And THE big one for this quarter: Bret Easton Ellis. Author of Less Than Zero, Rules of Attraction, and American Psycho, amongst others, Bret will be in Australia talking about his new book, which is based around the characters from his debut novel Less Than Zero.

All in all – you’ve produced a winner, Wheeler! This kind of stuff is what makes us deserve the UNESCO “City Of Literature” title.

Teaser Tuesdays #3.

Now, I know I haven’t done much here lately. Missed me?
I’m in the process of clambering back on the horse. I’m back into school, Irvine Welsh speaks at the Wheeler Centre tomorrow, hopefully next week I’ll be having some writerly researchy experience with some people from Streat, and I’ve been writing a whole lot, so more of my own work might start appearing… Also back into Yartz filming next week and hopefully my first on-screen appearance on Monday. In the meantime, here’s today’s Teaser Tuesday post!

Teaser Tuesday is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading.

  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

” ‘Cyclops, the men you snatched with such brutal  force
and ate within your cave were surely not
the comrades of a coward. You have caused
much grief; and it returns to haunt you now:
you did not hesitate; hard heart, you ate
your guests within your house; therefore lord Zeus
has joined with other gods to batter you’ ”
                    -from Homer’s “The Odyssey”

Meanland, Reading In a Time of Change

Last night the Wheeler Centre hosted the opening event for “Meanland” – a collaborative project between Meanjin and Overland. (Apparently the organizers found “Overjin” too ridiculous).

For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of seeing anything at the Wheeler Centre yet; it is a beautifully renovated old space on the Little Lonsdale side of the State Library. All the new fandangled lighting rigs and whatnot are reasonably inoffensive, and the public meeting space can seat a few hundred. The event last night was “booked out”, but had maybe 30 spare seats.

Sophie Cunningham, editor of Meanjin, MC’d the event, though her main role seemed simply to rehash between speakers and tell them when they’d been speaking too long. Fair enough, I suppose, when 4 speakers need to be squeezed into an hour.

 Before the event even started, I had a little to worry about: I was sitting two rows behind a particularly fetching baby who threatened to hijack the whole operation with its cuteness. I was also sitting next to a woman who was disgruntled about something, and kept doing this weird “T-ahhhhh” kind of sigh. She kept this up throughout the entire event, T-ahhhhing every time I picked up my pen, T-ahhhhhing every time someone moved half a centremetre, thus obscuring her view of the stage (she’s obviously never been short); T-ahhhhing at the very cute baby in front of us.

The panel for this Meanland event consisted of Margaret Simons, Marieke Hardy, Sherman Young and Peter Craven. The question on the table was: “What will reading look like in 15 years’ time?”. Each speaker was allotted a 15 minute window to voice their opinion.

One question that was tackled by all speakers was “what is reading?”. While the answer to this differed, there was no arguments about whether text are moving to screens via kindles, iPads and the like. The panel was reasonably varied in their reaction to this.

Margaret Simons held some hope for physical books because of their importance to children, and as cultural items like coffee table books, having “no intention to throw out my Jane Austen collection!”, while Sherman Young felt no hope or desire to fight for the physical text. While Simons was saddened by her prediction that e-readers would be the dominant mode of reading within five years, Young gave this transition a wider 15 years, and it’s a transition he welcomes wholeheartedly.

Marieke Hardy felt some romantic connection to books, and while she wouldn’t “want to finish The Great Gatsby and see a cursor,” she also seemed to accept that this is the way things are going. As the author of an “M-Book” (a book that gets sent in daily installments to a subscriber’s mobile phone), this seemed a reasonably inevitable position for Hardy.

Peter Craven… Look, I’m not even entirely sure that Peter Craven knew what the topic was. He rambled in an interesting way, but I wouldn’t say I came out with any coherent picture of where he’s coming from. He himself is a traditionalist, still writing with a pen which must be dipped and blotted, a member of Twitter only but another man’s hand. I got the feeling he’d resigned to the fact that e-readers and screens are the way of the future, but stood in very traditional shoes, bemoaning how sad it all is for the industry.

Sherman Young did make a very good point though. We’ve all resigned ourselves to this “the medium is the message” mind frame, saying that because what we consume is moving to screens, it’s being dumbed down, it’s losing its essence… But it doesn’t have to. We create the thing, and while e-readers present a great many “possibilities” for a world of uber-text, these don’t have to be inevitable.

I’m a bit torn on this issue myself. I certainly have fears for the industry and the tradition of reading. I have no greater pleasure than time at home alone with a good book and a coffee. I take great pride in my thoroughly middle-class collection of books on my huge-ass unstable Ikea shelving. And what happens to the fantastic pastime of second-hand-book shopping if e-readers take over? And how can those of us on student wages afford iPads or Kindles?

Having said all this, I won’t say no to not having to print off reams of PDFs for school, paying so much for ink, and lugging five trees worth of paper on trams to and from school.

I don’t think Margaret Simons’ prediction of 5 years of e-reader domination is correct. Perhaps Sherman Young’s 15-year prediction is closer to the mark. But there will always be something that physical books can do better than screens. And it is precisely that romanticized thing about the smell of pages and dog-eared pages and marking favourite passages. While e-readers allow for interactive, exciting, and changing texts, the private spaces that are allowed for in traditional books, that close relationship between author and reader, is utterly irreplaceable.

Gala Soothes Home-Haircutting Aftershock

This morning I cut my own hair. I was feeling out of sorts, somewhat dissatisfied with the world. And my fringe had been hanging in my eyes for weeks.

Being poor and restless, I took up my scissors and gave it a good chop. A very rough, far-too-short chop. A chop that turned out looking not entirely like anything my fringe has ever experienced. It’s trying to be something, but it just looks confused.

To soothe the discomfort which has only been inflated by my hair cutting, (my partner hasn’t woken up to laugh at my uneven hair yet) I decided to sit down and watch some of the footage from the Wheeler Centre’s opening event, “A Gala Night of Storytelling”.

Yesterday the footage of Christos Tsiolkas, John Safran and Chloe Hooper was uploaded. On Thursday the first six writers’ footage was uploaded. There are still a few more writers to go.

Each featured writer was asked to share and discuss “those tales that have been handed down to them through the generations, each giving voice to an inheritance of wisdom, of understanding, of identity”. Some writers took this more seriously than others – some accounts are poignant, some funny, all are pretty enlightening in terms of where such revered literary figures have come from. I can honestly say that I only found one or two of these speakers dull…I’m pretty sure you’ll be able to pick which ones they were.

But at least even the boring ones distracted me from my wonky fringe… Time for round two with my scissors: The Straightening.

774 Lineup Bonanza

An interesting lineup on radio station 774 ABC Melbourne, with the “prolific” (and very grandfathery-sounding) Alexander McCall Smith, Stephen Cummings, and Michael Williams (Head of Programming at the Wheeler Centre).

Engaging, entertaining, absolutely worth a listen. What a great group of people to put together in a room!

…I love Michael Williams. He speaks so well, and is so great to listen to. I saw him on a panel at The First Word last year at the Emerging Writers Festival, and, honestly, Wheeler could not have chosen anyone for this job more in touch with things and more like a real person.

Have a listen (sorry about the link, I can’t figure out how to embed audio in mp3 format):

…and a big thanks to Keith for letting me know this interview exists, you were right, I’m certainly interested in this!

oh, wheeeeeler!

Dear Wheeler Centre,

You linked me. I love you. You linked my front page, so for those hits looking for the blog they’re actually talking about, it’s here.

“Girl with big pen praises Wheeler Centre”… so glad you noticed!



I’d like to briefly blog today about the latest fantastic installation in Melbourne’s “UNESCO City Of Literature” status…

This has been a long long time coming, but it’s finally here! In February, The Wheeler Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas opens its doors.

Trying to books tickets for its first event proved disappointing – I had to wait until a pay day, and even then there were still four weeks to go until the event – plenty of time, I thought. However, many many fellow Melburnians are excited about this event, and beat me to it. Sold out. Fail.

However, there’s some really exciting stuff coming up there, (apart from the fact that it’s just going to BE there) – Irvine Welsh will be talking to Alan Brough on the 10th of March. I have tickets for this. I got in early.

Good news; the website is incredibly up-to-date and user-friendly. They daily blog about interesting things reading and writing, and their events calendar is posted pretty far ahead of events – the current calendar already runs up to May.

In other news, I went yesterday to enrol at RMIT. I’m officially itching to start, having talked to lecturers and convenors about what we’ll be working on, the fact that RMIT is across the road from the Wheeler Centre and the State Library, what’s expected from us, and what we can expect from the course. Let me at it! Now!

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