Nobel Prize-winning author Saul Bellow once commented that “all a writer has to do to get a woman is to say he’s a writer. It’s an aphrodisiac”.

A great month for writers' festivals

15:32:PM 27/06/2012
Corrie Perkin

Byron Bay writers festival 2011
Byron Bay writer’s festival 2011

Nobel Prize-winning author Saul Bellow once commented that “all a writer has to do to get a woman is to say he’s a writer. It’s an aphrodisiac”.

How many writers’ festivals did the Canadian-born Bellow attend before his death in 2005, I wonder? In these intense literary gatherings, women attendees frequently develop crushes on male (in some cases, female) authors. I suspect the five-times-married Bellow might have enjoyed the opportunity to appear at these events, if for no other reason that it was a chance to make women swoon.

In this year of the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon, it is possible that the next round of writers’ festivals – due to begin in August – will have an added frisson in the various theatres, marquees and town halls where bookworms muster. Let the fun begin!

The first writers’ festival on the August calendar is the Byron Bay Writers’ Festival, which runs August 3-5. Established in 1997 and set in one of Australia’s most beautiful coastal resorts, the Byron Bay litfest continues to attract an impressive list of writers, publishers and literary commentators. The setting and the mild winter climate are powerful lures, but the festival also has a well-earned reputation for providing its visitors with thought-provoking and stimulating events.

Festival director Jonathan Parsons’ 2012 program is compelling. His international guests include Pulitizer Prize-winner Katherine Boo, author of the current bestseller Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity; Hong Kong writer Xu Xi, Pakistani journalist and writer Mohammed Hanif, and the author behind the popular Inspector Singh crime novels, Shamini Flint from Singapore.

The list of local authors is also impressive and includes Elliot Perlman, Alex Miller, former High Court judge Michael Kirby, political commentator George Megalogenis, children’s writers Andy Griffiths and Morris Gleitzman, former Greens leader Bob Brown, Susan Johnson, Ailsa Piper, Sophie Cunningham, Stephen Sewell, Rohan Wilson and more.

From August 10-12, the inaugural Bendigo Writers Festival kicks off with a well-rounded program of interviews, book signings, workshops, discussions and debates. Attendees include Alex Miller, Don Watson, Alexis Wright, Ita Buttrose, David Marr, Gideon Haigh, Tony Birch and Kerry Greenwood.

Then later in the month the Melbourne Writers Festival kicks off one of its strongest programs in years with a keynote address by English actor Simon Callow, acclaimed for his Charles Dickens performances and whose recent book Charles Dickens and the Great Theatre of the World celebrates the bicentenary of the author’s birth.

The festival, which runs from August 23 to September 2, will launch its program on July 20. We recommend bookworms hit the website early and book, as tickets to the main events are likely to sell out within hours.

For more information on the festivals, log on to:

» www.byronbaywritersfestival.com.au

» www.bendigowritersfestival.com.au

» www.mwf.com.au

Fiction

All That I Am

by Anna Funder

$22.95 (Penguin)

The 2012 Miles Franklin Award winner continues to do a roaring trade among local and international readers keen to know what the fuss is about. All That I Am deserves our attention because it is ambitious, it is well-crafted, and it has won several key literary awards. Funder’s characters are part of a late 1920s left-wing political movement in Germany whose ambivalence towards, then contempt for, Adolf Hitler and the Nazis has dire consequences. Themes of commitment, resilience, truth and endurance will keep book clubs chatting long into the night.

Bio

All In A Don's Day

by Mary Beard

$22.99 (Profile Books)

Some may see this as too British-centric for Australian audiences, but Cambridge classics professor Mary Beard’s attempt to humanise the world of academia through her highly popular blog has proved a hit with young and old readers.

Beard’s blog has been running since 2006 and subjects covered in this selection range from Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint and whether it deserved the Booker Prize, to 10 Latin quotes that could be used on the London Underground’s PA system. (“Medio tutissimus ibis’’ – “you’ll go safest in the middle”.)

Cooking

Latitude 36.50: Warming Recipes From The Mountains

by Jean-Michel Gerst

$40 (New Holland)

July is a quiet month for new-release cookbooks. But this beautiful hardcover caught our eye because it celebrates (a) winter, (b) the migrant chef who has embraced Australian produce and (c) the magnificent Snowy Mountains. Jean-Michel Gerst grew up in north-west France’s Alsace region and now lives and works at Thredbo ski village. “Snow food is comfort food,” he writes. “It warms you up and gives you all the energy you need for a big day out on the slopes.” Lamb shanks in orange juice and star anise followed by walnut tart with cream should get you going.

Gardening

David Austin's English Roses

by David Austin

$29.99 (Garden Art Press)

Part of this text was first published nearly 20 years ago, but with new colour plates – superbly reproduced, which is important for a rose guide – and at a highly affordable price, this is certainly worth buying. Now is the time to buy your bare-rooted David Austin roses and start planting, and this gem of a hardback will provide everything you need to know.


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