The Melbourne Writers Festival concluded recently and by all reports it was a resounding success. Your correspondent was lucky enough to attend several days of the festival, having purchased tickets to what he thought was the Melbourne Waiters Festival and then subsequently sought to make the best of his error.
The main event on the festival's schedule was the Fairfax/Readings/Bob Jane T-Marts Literature Series, a full day of lectures designed to poke, prod and generally dissect the fundamentals of the art. "What is Literature?" asked David Marr in his keynote address, causing a ripple of chin stroking amongst the audience. "Perhaps one could more profitably ask what isn't literature," Marr declared, ungrammatically, before suggesting that coconut husks, aluminium cladding and antacid medication "probably" count among the things that literature isn't. Jason Steger then appeared on stage, asking "Where is Literature?", or at least so we assumed until it transpired that Steger was actually asking "Where is the shitter?". Steger was escorted from the theatre and directed to the appropriate facilities. Thomas Keneally was next, pondering the age-old question, "Literature: Wha?" The afternoon session was no less spirited and insightful: Professor Raimond Gaita wondered "What the Frick Does Literature Want?", while Christos Tsiolkas concluded the series in a peremptory fashion with "Watch Out! It's Literature!", a high energy lecture that Tsiolkas' audience, particularly those seated in the first three rows, will surely never forget.
Other highlights of the festival included: the Obligatory Genre Whinge (featuring a panel-led singalong of "Nobody loves me, everybody hates me, think I'll eat some worms"); the Best Dressed Poet competition (won by Mr J.K. Krumples of Preston who was pleased to thank his major sponsor, Dimmeys & Forges); and The Future of the Book, a round-table discussion that overcame early difficulties (specifically the lack of a round table) to deliver a powerful affirmation of the written word. (Unfortunately I can't offer a more specific account: note-taking was prohibited at this panel.)
The festival was officially closed by Lord Mayor Robert Doyle who burned a ceremonial truckload of Betty and Jim maths books, thus signaling Melbourne's return to generalised illiteracy and drunken thuggery after a precious fortnight of intellectual mutual masturbation. Your correspondent, intellect thoroughly chafed, was sad to see it all end, but confident that the 2010 festival will be even better. Festival Director Steve Grimwade was coy about the treats in store, but he did offer a small clue: "We're booking strippers. Lots of strippers." Your correspondent's brain is, in apparent contravention of his anatomical arrangement, literally drooling in anticipation.