The business of presence


This business of presence is essential to all live performance, whether the players are musicians vigorously bowing and putting their arm and shoulder into it, or banging or blowing, or dancers leaping or holding themselves precariously balanced and still, or actors, or acrobats, or singers using their breath to create sounds that are almost miraculously the shape of emotions. Because all these performers are using the body – a body just like our own – at its highest pitch of possibility and skill, we too, as we identify with their effort, are made aware, and in a unique way, of what the body actually is, and this is essential to the sense we get of our own body, the exhilarations we feel, the rush of energy we get as the soprano reaches for her high note or the acrobat goes flying across space and catches the bar.

– David Malouf, ‘Shared response to our humanity

David Malouf attended a recent meeting of major performing arts artistic directors to discuss the proposed national cultural policy. This essay is his response to that discussion.

Auction: The Library of an English Bibliophile, Part II

Later this month Sotheby’s will be auctioning the second highlights from “the library of an English bibliophile”. Included in the mix are rare editions, in dust-jackets, of Dubliners, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, The Great Gatsby, Tender is the Night, The Sound and the Fury, Tarzan of the Apes and The Maltese Falcon.

I’ve always been partial to the cover of Tender Is The Night but Booktryst has an excellent post on why The Great Gatsby dust-jacket is so rare that the expected sale price of the book in the upcoming auction is between $160,000 and $180,000.

The painting on the cover was originally titled Celestial Eyes by Francis Cugat.

Celestial Eyes - Francis Cugat, 1924. Gouache on paper.

Charles Scribner II (of the publisher Charles Scribner’s Sons) has an excellent lecture on the Gatsby cover: Celestial Eyes – from metamorphosis to masterpiece.

And for those of you who don’t have a lazy $190,000 laying around you can always pick up a t-shirt from Out of Print Clothing.

The week in writing – October 4

As the announcement for the Nobel Prize for Literature is due, The Wheeler Centre takes a look at the seasonal speculation on the Nobel Winner and the attempts and arguments for the prize, valued at over $1,000,000, to go to American novelist Phillip Roth.

PORT magazine interview Sylvia Whitman who now runs Shakespeare and Company, the Paris book shop made famous by George Whitman, her father, who describes the shop as “a socialist utopia masquerading as a bookstore”.

Meanjin interview five Australian writers (Kerryn Goldsworthy, Mathew Condon, Peter Timms, Delia Falconer, and Sophie Cunningham) about their work writing about Australian cities for the UNSW Press series.

Baker Street Irregular Michael Dirda writes about his first encounter with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his creation Sherlock Holmes in The Paris Review.

The Slap, an 8 part ABC television series premieres this week. Based on the novel by Christos Tsiolkas there are interviews from The First Tuesday Book Club, The Book Show, and a Q&A.

Katie Beaton takes on Wuthering Heights at Hark! A Vagrant. Also, NPR speak with her about her new book.

Some published letters:

  • from T.S. Eliot to Virginia Woolf: “Forgive the unconscionable delay in answering your charming letter and invitation. I have been boiled in a hell-broth…”
  • from Ernest Hemingway to Ursula Hemingway: “You must be having a whangleberry of a time with that sledding, I’m glad you’re such a good sport about getting hurt and I’m sure that the boys appreciate it too.”
  • the letters of Ezra Pound written every few days, sometimes every day, to his parents have been published: “You have my hearty sympathy for having possibility of genius in the family but I suppose it cant be helped…”

David Malouf on Jeffery Smart: A Conversation

We have a new Events page on the site which will list upcoming literary events. You can subscribe to the calendar for this but every now and then we feel compelled to draw your attention to something we are looking forward to.

This Friday David Malouf will be speaking with artist Jeffrey Smart. Malouf will talk of his friendship with the artist and discuss the artist’s work in conversation with Mark Ledbury, Power Professor of Art History and Visual Culture, Director of the Power Institute and curator of the new exhibition Jeffrey Smart: Unspoken.

In 1980 Jeffrey Smart painted a portrait of Malouf. There is also a study that was made in this process. Both paintings feature the word OVIDIO which is a reference to the poet Ovid whose exile inspired An Imaginary Life, Malouf’s 1978 novella.

Smart also painted Germaine Greer, Margaret Olley, and Clive James.

The exhibition Jeffrey Smart: Unspoken runs from October 2nd to November 27, 2011.