Friday, January 30, 2009

What's the difference between Australian literature and a woolly mammoth?

Peter Carey has a really excellent, impassioned piece in today's Age on what the elimination of territorial copyright will mean for Australian writers and writing, here.

I am reminded of a passage in Other People's Words, the memoir of former Australian publisher, general enabler and all-round legend Hilary McPhee of McPhee Gribble as was, who apprehensively noted the straws in the wind back in 2001. If the reader will forgive a bit of egregious self-quoting, here's a summary from my review of the book for Australian Book Review:
... she deploys single, sharply focused images as motifs to link up different epochs in her life and different eras of cultural history, motifs positioned in the text both to herald and to echo its central concerns and themes ... there are the immigrant children at primary school in the late 1940s, 'the boys with their straight backs and red cheeks and the girls in full skirts and wooden clogs' being encouraged to sing and dance in national dress for their classmates -- an image in sharp contrast to the flattening-out of cultural differences that she finds herself fighting against forty years later.

And her image for that erosion of local difference in writing, the effect she fears globalisation has already begun to have on literature, is the glittering annual party thrown by the publishing giant Bertelsmann at the annual Frankfurt Book Fair: 'And the food tastes of nothing at all.'

Cross-posted from Still Life With Cat

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