Dispatches from Caroline Baum embedded with the literary forces at Adelaide Writers’ Week

by |March 4, 2013

Author: Edward St Aubyn Some writers from Europe got stuck in Dubai due to bad weather and delays, and all the hotels were full so they arrived in a pretty dishevelled state but Edward St Aubyn and Fuchsia Dunlop recovered quickly from their ordeal.

It was great to get Steven Poole’s take on the UK horsemeat scandal as part of our session talking around his ranting entertaining polemic, You Aren’t What You Eat! For him , the current scandal exposes the hypocrisy of the British attitude towards food as a class issue. When we broadened the scope of our conversation he was unfamiliar with the excesses of fine dining pet food, and was stunned when I told him of liver flavoured meringues, sold in a luxe pet shop in Sydney. Author: Fuchsia Dunlop

Audience feedback I got later was that he was a bit sneering and cynical and his views were too extreme for the sake of provocation, failing to take into account the middle ground where many of us are trying to eat well and responsibly and not in fancy restaurants but using cooking as a way to express love and creativity to feed our families and friends.

I heard raves from  those lucky enough to hear Peter Robb talk about Lives, his collection of essays about everyone from artists to serial killers and enjoyed a few snatched moments of NZ writer Emily Perkins talking about how in her novel The Forests, she was trying to avoid writing that was exposition all, aiming for a more fragmented style of narrative, which I guess is closer to how we mostly experience life. She is such a great stylist and such a thoughtful reader, and hearing her talk about Katherine Mansfield’s short stories made me want to go back and read them again.

That’s one of the treats of these festivals, getting recommendations from authors of books they admire.

If only there were time to read them.

from Caroline Baum
at Adelaide Writers’ Week 2013


Adelaide Writers’ Week brings together some of the world’s greatest writers and thinkers for a celebration of the written word that will surprise, delight, challenge and entertain readers of all ages. Adelaide’s iconic literary festival continues with a whole new host of writers, stories and literary adventures until 7th March.

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About the Contributor

While still in his twenties, John Purcell opened a second-hand bookshop in Mosman, Sydney, in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Since then he has written, under a pseudonym, a series of very successful novels, interviewed hundreds of writers about their work, appeared at writers’ festivals, on TV (most bizarrely in comedian Luke McGregor’s documentary Luke Warm Sex) and has been featured in prominent newspapers and magazines. ​Now, as the Director of Books at booktopia.com.au, Australia’s largest online bookseller, he supports Australian writing in all its forms. He lives in Sydney with his wife, two children, three dogs, five cats, unnumbered gold fish and his overlarge book collection. His novel, The Girl on the Page, will be published by HarperCollins Australia in October, 2018.

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