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Tim Winton is a living treasure
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I'm reading
Tim Winton is a living treasure
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I'm reading
Tim Winton is a living treasure
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"When I was a boy I didn't know anybody like me. People who make money from abstract things didn't exist in my world for one thing. People who write $10 words didn't exist in my world."
Conversations
19 December 2017

Tim Winton is a living treasure

Interview by Myke Bartlett
Photography by Elizabeth Looker

Myke Bartlett on Tim Winton...

Tim Winton comes bounding across the room, his hand out to shake mine. “How’s your mum?” Realising this makes for a surreal start to an interview, he builds a joke of it, insisting it’s his standard opener for every publicity meet and greet. The truth is, I’ve actually interviewed Tim before, and we discovered then that he and Mum used to go to the same church. That was three years ago, when he was slogging through a hectic touring schedule; one he’s now repeating for his memoir The Boy Behind The Curtain.

Last time we met, I got the feeling Tim would rather have been anywhere else than on the publicity circuit. I don’t mean to suggest he was your clichéd difficult author. Far from it. He wasn’t unfriendly or uncooperative so much as squinting hard into the light at the end of the tunnel. It was only when our chat was over that he seemed to realise it wasn’t half as painful as he feared. This time, he seems far more comfortable—and I probably am too. He slouches back in his chair, draping a jacket across himself to fend off the room’s aggressive air-conditioning. If you were watching from across the room (nobody is), you might think he was readying himself for a doze. But Tim likes to talk. In person, he’s as funny, direct, clever and, yeah, down-to-earth as you’d hope. He doesn’t look like a Living Treasure (the National Trust recently declared him so) and maybe he doesn’t sound like one either.

We talk a little about the liminal space Tim has always occupied as an author. He’s from a place—and a class—where authors and intellectuals didn’t exist. Where, as he puts it, “nobody knew any $10 words.” Yet there can be few Australians who use words so well and to such acclaim. Just as there can be few Australians who so acutely map the connections between our nation’s mythology (the way we see ourselves) and its character (the way we are). Consider the legendary Cloudstreet, which intricately ties the biographies of two families to the spirit of the land they inhabit.

Tim has written plenty about the importance of land, not least in his previous memoir Island Home. I’m curious to know where he feels most comfortable these days, as an exile from the working class, as a Living Treasure. We meet in a hotel lobby in Melbourne, and while there’s something wholly artificial about sitting down with a stranger who has their half of the conversation written down (for what it’s worth, I largely ignore the questions I have on paper), I get the feeling that it’s here, not quite in the real world, where Tim really needs to be.

This story originally ran in issue #51 of Dumbo Feather

MYKE BARTLETT: How long is this publicity tour?

TIM WINTON: Two weeks. If I did it at a more civilised rate it’d take me four weeks.

What happens when you get home?

I usually get sick. I usually collapse for a few days, I’ll get home, have a swim. Get a tickly throat. Fill myself with absolutely hopeless placebos. If I’m lucky I’ll get a surf, and then I’m back to work.

How disciplined are you now as a writer? How often are you working?

Luckily for me there’s enough bad weather that I get a lot of work done. I work every day, but it depends what I’m working on. It depends on the stages of the work as well. There are times when it’s week after week after week, day after day, you can’t stop ‘cause you’ll lose momentum. By and large, historically, I think I’ve worked office hours five days a week. That was mostly when the kids were small and I would resist working at night. Now the kids are gone, things are more flexible so, you know, if I have good surf or good weather I’ll go on the boat or I’ll go out hiking or whatever for four days. And then in the back of my mind there’s that little protestant who knows that I have to make it up. Even if there’s absolutely no reason to do that, I’ll put a couple back in the tin. I work on weekends now a bit more than I used to. I keep pretty normal work hours for a surfing person [laughs]. That’s the thing. If I was a tradesman I’d be really unpopular. I mean everybody knows in the place that we live that if you want a job done, you have to first ask the tradie, “Do you surf?”

[Laughs].

If you give him the job and you know he surfs, you’ve got no one to blame but yourself.

So it’s still an addiction for you, the surfing?

I gave up a lot of that stuff for the sake of family life. Because it’s not a completely benign addiction. I think there’s a lot of people, men in particular, who neglect their other responsibilities. Not just their employment, the really serious responsibilities like family. There’ve been marriages where they’re just absent. They have surfing widows. I’ve never let it get to that level. When I was in my twenties in particular I couldn’t afford the luxury of surfing very often ‘cause I was too busy working to keep the wolf from the door. In my forties and fifties,

This story originally ran in issue #51 of Dumbo Feather

This story originally ran in issue #51 of Dumbo Feather

I’m doing more now than I have done it since I was a teenager. And I probably take more pleasure in it now than I did when I was a kid. ‘Cause I understand how the physical part of your life gets more precious the older you get.

You can feel the window closing, you know?

I wondered if writing is a similar kind of addiction.

It’s a habit, yeah.

Are there writing widows as well?

I think a lot of us men and women, whether we’re in the arts or not, allow work to overtake our lives. And I think there are so many people who are in unsatisfactory marriages ’cause they’ve realised they’ve married a person who’s married to something else. But it’s not an addiction in the same way for me. I mean there’s pleasure in it. But it’s also a pattern of behaviour, it’s a way of organising time. It’s not just one thing, some of it’s about contemplation and wonder and imagination. And some of it’s about keeping the taxman happy. It’s all bound up in the thinking. I’ve been writing since I was a teenager. It’s what I do. And if you’re not doing what you normally do for a while, you notice it. I’m not sure whether either of these things really comes down to truly become an addiction, but they’re certainly habits of being.

Do you remember why you started writing?

I think to be close to the excitement that I got from reading. You know,

something miraculous happens when you pick up a book written by someone you’ll never meet. And it’s a pretty prosaic, unflashy bit of technology. It generates something way beyond the sum of its parts.

When I was a kid I used to find joy in the strangeness and the magic of being drawn out of myself into some other world in a book. I think that was the attraction. I wanted to be in that biz. I wanted to be close to that action. I wanted to be near that fire I guess. My original storytelling came from self-preservation really.

What do you mean by that?

Oh we had a long walk home from school and there were always bigger kids walking home! You know, when there’s unsupervised children and significant periods of time, there’s nothing that a small kid needs less than a big kid who’s suddenly become bored. When a big kid gets bored he’s liable to test out the limits of his interest and his boredom and his inequalities on the smaller kid. You’d be walking along and you’d feel the presence. Sometimes you’d see the shadow, someone just drawing on you. But I’d get the first word in. I used to tell stories and try to entertain my way home. Which is another way of saying, entertain “his” way home, the big kid’s, and thereby keeping myself safe! And learning timing and how to round off a story. I’d figure out the narrative shape and timing by seeing the proximity of my driveway. And if he lived a couple of doors down then I’d learn how to end the piece or, you know, get to a pivot point, and then just disappear stage left.

You wouldn’t end on a cliffhanger?

No, no.

You don’t want to bring him back the next day!

He’d be there in the morning! [Laughs]. On the way back! So no, I used to learn to either round things off or just leave things nice and unresolved in the air. And then pelt down the driveway, close the door and I was on my own. It was also a way of passing time. If it wasn’t some mildly malevolent older schoolboy, it’d be some bored girl who was in a different class and you fell in together by accident. You’d consume your time by just telling stories and I guess that’s when I realised I was good at it, you know.

You touched on something which I wonder about, which is the importance of boredom really. Do you think kids still have access to boredom?

There’s been this parental anxiety to fill children’s lives. And to fill it with something worthy and healthy. On top of that, you know, children’s lives have been subsequently filled more and more, and then overstuffed, with technological means of arresting boredom. But it seems to me that the boredom threshold has gotten much, much lower. And as the attention spans got shorter I sometimes wonder is it just my memory that when we were bored we invented stuff? It might just be my imagination but it sometimes seems to me now when kids get bored they get into a state of agitation and irritation? Adults now have been trained in the same way. When you suddenly get no service, you know, when you press some button and you don’t get an instant response. When the plane’s five minutes late, we get the same irritation.

I wonder if we were ever any good at boredom, or if we’ve got worse at boredom because boredom’s so rarely available to us. You go somewhere in the third world, people waiting for the train for seven, eight hours. And they very sensibly know how to handle it. They just go to sleep. You know what I mean? You lie down on the railway platform with everybody else and you put your head on your bag in the stifling heat and you just go, “Well I can’t do anything about the fact that the train isn’t coming” and go to sleep. People like us, we’d go nuts!

I know. I had to wait 10 minutes for a tram the other day and it felt forever.

You’re almost, “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” But I think boredom is related to wildness. I don’t just mean that in a kind of natural history sense, I mean openness, possibility, unorganised reality. Everything seems very contained now, very catalogued. And as we know, we’re living life according to four or five algorithms. In financial terms when they talk about “wildness” they mean things that they haven’t accounted for. To me that’s just God laughing. That’s the actual living world asserting itself. Things refusing to submit to our notions of order. And that’s why I love natural wildness, and that’s why I guess I’m interested when wildness breaks out in people. In communities and in our mind. I mean, I think that’s why dreams are interesting. I don’t find dreams interesting in a Freudian sense—in the sense that they’re very meaningful—I’m interested in the fact that they are wild consciousness asserting itself. There’s something miraculous about that, and strange.

I think that we’ve lost our capacity for submitting to mystery. And living with mystery.

It seems like an odd example, but you know the Malaysian plane that went down wherever it went down. I think I understand people’s grief. What I find interesting to watch is the rage that built over time which was not about the fact that people’s lives were cut short without reason. The rage was that they didn’t know where and why and what.

You couldn’t Google it and find out.

That’s it. In this day and age, you should be able to dial somebody up, rack ‘em up on Doctor Google and find out about them. It’s almost as though people are now living with this mentality that the world and all its possibilities are finite and available. You just have to hit the right button. You know, we may never know what happened in that case, in the same sick sense that we never knew lots of other historical mysteries. It just seemed evident to me that people had now been trained not to accept not knowing things. It provoked a kind of rage in people and that interests me, well, I guess for a number of reasons. But mystery is central to life. And certainly central to art.

Do you think your appreciation of mystery comes from your religious upbringing?

Yeah I think so. And the funny thing is that it was a religious tradition that wasn’t all that invested in mystery. Having grown up in a religious tradition which traded on certainty, I don’t know if that was excellent training. But it was somewhere to come from in terms of journeying through adulthood with an increasing appreciation of mystery and an interest in mystery. Post-modern Australia is very, very secular in a way that I approve of in terms of its public space. But historically Australia’s been traditionally quite irreligious, quite skeptical, quite pragmatic. And in a way I find that has been useful as well ‘cause it’s something to come from. I say that in the same way that I talk about being an Australian and being an artist. There’s nothing like coming from rock bottom to know what there is to aspire to. Do you know what I mean?

Yep.

Unless you know what it looks like when the cupboard’s bare, you don’t know how lucky you are when the cupboard’s full. It’s probably a silly analogy but I am interested in mystery. Having come from a religious tradition that didn’t abide uncertainty, where doubt was something to fear, it was interesting coming into adulthood and realising how much there was to know and that knowledge was partly about understanding how little you knew. Some of that’s also about trying to retain some of the gifts and skills of childhood. The wonder. A proper sense of bewilderment. We get trained to give up things for something better. When you stop being a kid, you give up a lot. And I don’t think they necessarily replace it with anything better. You submit to the idea that, “Okay, I don’t know everything.” But you get sold this idea that soon you will. Of course you don’t! [Laughs]. You can see it with children as they change and your influence over them—your completely benign influence—wanes. They become suspicious, they become skeptical and they become harder to inspire in some ways. A child will do something useless without apology. They’ll lie on the floor with a crayon and, in the case of my children, draw big pictures on the back of the typescript of Cormac McCarthy’s All The Pretty Horses [laughs].

Oh no. Really? [Laughs].

Yeah! It was probably a collector’s item. It’d be a collector’s item now because they drew on it probably. But do you know what I mean? Again that comes back to my thing about art and wonder. Art and awe. Art’s useless, you know. And requires no excuse for being useless. So a child doesn’t need to justify why she or he’s writing that picture or drawing lines in the sand or skipping or building some dumb-fangled thing up a tree. That’s the sort of stuff that we give up at our peril as we get older.

Either individually or as a society, we learn to let go of certain innocent joyful things that add richness to our lives.

Like just singing as a matter of course. We’ve been robbed of that. When I lived in Ireland, I just could not believe how impoverished Australians had allowed themselves to become in two centuries. The people who came in chains on the boats would sing to each other and they would sing as a matter of course, just as the people whose land they were supplanting sang as a matter of course. And yet somehow by the time it got to 1960s suburban Perth, you only sang the team song if you won the game. And in special circumstances, provided you were completely pissed, you might sing a song whose lyrics currently eluded you. Just singing as a matter of course. Someone would start it up and someone else would just kick in, you know. Or someone will sing on the bus and brighten everybody’s day.

If someone does that now you see everyone move to the other end of the bus.

Yeah that’s right. They’d be invading my space so that’s an offence against my person. I’m sure there’s some species of trigger warning for singing, you know? “You’re making people uncomfortable.” And actually there’s a literal example of that a few weeks ago. Where I surf there’s a grass hut on the beach that some surfer’s built, just to get out of the sun. There’s always local Australian blokes who go down and surf a day and they sit around and talk. And one day this European backpacker dude showed up. He was there for days coming and going from the beach. When he wasn’t surfing he’d spend his day sanding this little guitar. And when he wasn’t sanding it he’d be playing it. And then he’d just start singing. And he was making people really uncomfortable. It wasn’t ‘cause he was foreign and it wasn’t anything that he was singing. It was just the fact that he was just singing happily, and quite well, on his own. You could feel the vibe. The subtext being “what’s this joker’s caper? What’s going on?” You know. It was a kind of a flamboyance and cultural confidence that was making people uncomfortable. If he was doing it for money, we’d understand. Or if he was a perhaps maybe out of the outside if he was known well enough in the community to be a fully licensed and paid up eccentric, you know, then maybe that’s a slim pass.

But we’re suspicious about flamboyance.

Oh yeah. In an Australian context he was making himself very vulnerable.

You talk about class in the book, which is still considered a bit of a dirty word in Australia. You write that your character, your worthiness is inherently linked to your financial standing. That there are people who bother and people who can’t be bothered essentially.

That’s now the cultural assumption, which has been amplified by the political language of “lifters and leaners”. I think when Australia was more class-conscious life wasn’t better. But it was a little more honest. And I think there’s a sort of dishonesty in not acknowledging that we’ve submitted ourselves to the idea that we no longer live in a society. And that we’ve surrendered much more of our autonomy than we ever imagined we could to corporations. We just haven’t got the balls to own up to that. Neither have we got the courage to own up to the fact that it’s made more people poorer and fewer people richer. You know, the trickle down thing it turns out to have been a furphy. The only thing that trickles down is the trouble. But even if the trouble trickles down, there’s money in trouble.

When you turn a society into an economy, and you enhance the conditions for poverty and despair and distress, you enlarge the world of crime and disorder and, goodness me, who would have thought? There’s even money in locking people up.

We’ve seen that domestically, we’ve seen that on our borders. There’s money in putting children behind barbed wire. There’s money for putting children in restraints and spit-hoods. There’s money in locking up guys who’ve fiddled their tax as long as they’re not really rich guys and as long as they’re not corporations, like banks. God, listen to me, I sound like an old lefty! But it is true to me—the only thing that trickles down is trouble. And yet it works well in this heartless inhumane model ‘cause there’s profit to be made in incarceration. We need to reinvent the wheel.

You write about having transcended your class, having come from a working class background to now be middle class. For the younger Tim that we glimpse in some of these pieces, how do you think he would feel about Tim Winton, living treasure, literary figure?

I think my middle-aged self would be incomprehensible to my boyhood self, but for so many reasons. When I was a boy I didn’t know anybody like me. People who make money from abstract things didn’t exist in my world for one thing. People who used 10-dollar words didn’t exist in my world. When I won the Vogel prize at 21, I’d never been in a hotel or a taxi or an aeroplane. But the thing is, I’m the writer I wanted to be. I wanted to be a writer since I was 10. And I got to be. And I got to be a writer early, you know. I think I started thinking that I’ve got more or less what I wanted out of my life in my early twenties. I didn’t set my bar very high in terms of satisfaction!

By the end of my twenties I’d published more books than most moderately successful people get to publish in a lifetime. But the writing life and writing as a form of work and writing as a communal cultural kind of thing was stranger than I could ever have imagined it would be. You know, it took me to places I couldn’t have foreseen.

Having come from that background and suddenly being thrust into this literary scene and this middle class environment, how did you acclimatise?

I think it took a long time. I was uncomfortable. When you come from a working class background and you cross the boundaries, it’s not uncommon for people to feel confusions of loyalties and you get survival guilt and all that. So it took me a while to integrate all of that. And maybe it’s not a completely successful experiment in some senses. But I feel reasonably comfortable about it. And that’s partly because, culturally, there’s some stuff I didn’t leave behind. I’ve carried some of those values with me, certainly some of those habits of being and of mind with me. I can’t tell if it’s by choice or if it’s subconsciously, but I’ve mostly lived near or around people who are familiar to me in terms of class. But I don’t belong in the working class anymore. And my commitment to the upper middle class—‘cause I’m, you know, I’m too posh obviously now for the mere middle class!—is tepid. I guess it’s just the thing of being a bit deracinated. You’re not one or the other. That said, I’m not sentimental about being working class.

You’re not sentimental?

About some working class stuff. No. There’s lots of things about working class culture that I don’t miss at all. But I don’t like monocultures that much. This is why I was never really comfortable living in the inner city for the years I did. For the sake of the kid’s education.

Around Fremantle.

Yeah. I mean lovely people, lovely places, but everyone in furious agreement. It was no different to really being stuck in a working class suburb where you can’t get a conversation with anybody that’s not about football or, you know, the glories of the hop.

Do you think that it’s necessary for an artist to be neither one or the other? To be out of your element to some extent?

I don’t know if it’s necessary but I think it’s useful. It’s useful not to settle for life in an enclave. Again, something I learned at a young age. The downside of the glories of the inner city is smugness. And the endlessly reinforcing circle of satisfaction. “I’m all right, you’re all right, it’s everyone else who’s not all right.” You get that wherever you go. Every form of culture’s like that. So if you’re unconvinced, if you’re a bit eclectic about what you take from them, then I think that helps. There’s no one who’s not interesting.

There aren’t any people who are inherently uninteresting to you. Or people who you couldn’t find something in common with.

That’s why I can live in, and have lived in, small redneck communities quite happily. And that’s an odd thing when you’re someone who lives out of their head and uses $10 words and reads books that you have to import. And gets the wine sent up on the road train! I’m spending my time with tradespeople. It seems to work okay for me. So I’ll paddle out in the water and spend time talking to people who come from totally different backgrounds to me. I don’t get a hundred percent satisfaction from every encounter, but I don’t get that anywhere!

So I find people interesting. I went through a period of snottiness in my twenties. But when my family came back from Europe, where we’d been living for two years, I remember the very first morning—we were staying with my mother-in-law in Shenton Park. I got up early ‘cause my whole sleep pattern was out of order. Dawn’s crack and I just go for a walk. And there’s a milk bar and it’s got the plastic fly strips, and there’s this bloke behind the counter, and I just got talking about football with this guy. And I stepped back into a very pleasurable world. And I realised for two years I hadn’t been inside any culture. I’d been travelling for two years and I was on the outside trying to accommodate and find my way in. I just realised there were simple things that you needn’t allow to get to a certain toxic level of overkill and disgust. Things that did give you some connection with people. Just some little level of commonality with people who weren’t in your narrow rut. For me it was a bit of a revelation. Just walking into a milk bar, picking up a newspaper and having a very mundane yak with a guy and feeling like I was using my own language. I was using my own language on seven different levels that I hadn’t been able to use for a couple of years. So in that sense I’d realised that I had to recalibrate a bit. A little like going away from home and then appreciating your home for its absence, I think I probably spent too many years in my twenties feeling like I was too good for certain things. What I realised was that my liberal left-wing education had made me a snob [laughs]. That’s the simple truth of it. And everywhere I go I see people whose progressive education has inadvertently narrowed some parts of them and made them into puritans. People anxious about linguistic hygiene. Where people are policing one another and it’s almost as though the younger they are and the more proximate they are to their tertiary education, the more puritanical and punitive their instincts are. All for good reasons. But the fruits of that not always being very useful or even particularly humane.

You’re seeing very intelligent people, progressive people, cutting themselves off from the mainstream.

Yeah. That’s right. Or just turning into finger-wagging wowsers. But

that was a liberating moment to realise that I’d somehow inadvertently cut myself off into a kind of a snobbery. And so I became a little more consciously omnivorous for a while. And then it stopped being conscious. It became instinctive.

I realised that my life was richer as a result. I had a wider group of friends and—I haven’t really ever thought about it until we’re talking about it in this way—I wonder if it affected the work. ’Cause I keep getting this question, you know, I’ve heard it all week. “Why do you think people read your books and not other people’s books?” So it’s “how come you’re popular?” [Laughs]. It’s not for me to say any of that. I think if I was writing in the spirit of my education, in the full spirit of my education, it would be less open. If I was writing closer, if I was more proximate to my fundamentalism, it would be a little less open too.

You said you’re not very sentimental about your working class background. Are there things that you are sentimental about then? I mean for example your working space. You’ve worked in the same little fibro shed for a long time now.

Yeah, that’s gone now. I’m living a bit more seasonally. I’m on the central west in the summer and the rest of the year I’m living north. I’m up in the desert edge. I’m living in a bigger house, but basically it’s a shed with benefits. But I am sentimental about certain objects and I’m probably sentimental about houses. For instance, there’s only one house that I ever lived in as a child that’s still standing. That’s the house in Albany, where I was a teenager for three years. That was the house where I stood behind the window with the rifle [as detailed in his new book The Boy Behind The Curtain]. Every time I go to Albany I drive by, ‘cause it’s really odd that it’s still there in a culture like ours that is so full of self-disgust that it has to erase itself every generation, you know. So I can be a bit sentimental about houses and objects. I might not have the fibro shed that I had all those books in, but I’ve got the desk. I think one of the desks that I use is an old desk that we got for 25 bucks.

You’ve held onto a $25 desk?

Yep. I still use things like that. I’m sentimental about some pens and just stupid little things you know. And my wife would say that I’m certainly sentimental about some t-shirts. Every time she throws them out, like, they come back out of the bin.

Why is that? Why do you have this sentimental attachment to these objects?

I guess ’cause they’re history manifest. They’re the past manifest. Some of them are just good t-shirts, they were good and faithful servants, so it’s like putting down a dog, you know.

[Laughs].

You can’t do that lightly. Some of it’s just about the way they remind you of certain things. There’s one slightly ghastly Hawaiian shirt that my wife just can’t get me to throw out. Cost me about six bucks, I’ve always liked it. And it’s comfortable as well. So I’m probably a bit more sentimental about “things” I suppose. Which again is very odd for a boy, to grow up in a fundamentalist Calvinist environment where we were a bit suspicious of things.

Of the physical world.

Yeah. You know, we didn’t honour the physical world. Objects were just some form of cosmic grist [Laughs].

[Laughs]. “Cosmic grist”, I love that! You’ve written two non-fiction books in a row now. Is fiction becoming harder to write as you get older?

Oh everything’s harder to write. Two non-fiction things being in a row is just an accident. I probably shouldn’t say it but “Island Home” I originally thought was an essay that would sit in a collection and it just got out of hand.

At the same time there does seem to be a vogue for memoir at the moment. It’s almost as if we only want to hear true stories.

The festival of oversharing, you mean? [Laughs]. Maybe people are anxious about things like authenticity. But I’m always writing essays while I’m writing fiction. The order in which you publish things doesn’t always reflect the order in which things are happening. I’m still a fiction writer. I’m not a non-fiction writer. It’s harder to write non-fiction.

Is that right?

Oh yeah. Quite a bit harder. ’Cause your responsibilities go beyond the work.

As a novelist your only responsibility is to the work itself. That it works in and of itself. And that it’s beautiful.

Non-fiction you have responsibilities to the real people in the real world that you’re writing about. You have a moral weight that.

The boy in the opening chapter, The Boy Behind the Curtain, it seemed like quite a good metaphor for a writer really. There’s the peering out down the barrel at the townsfolk.

Yeah. That occurred to me. But it’s probably not one that I’d rest with I think. ‘Cause I think it’s pretty disengaged. And it’s also a bit hostile. I think, maybe, to some degree there’s that thing that until recently I’d live more behind the curtain, the veil of fiction in terms of putting an imaginary world between me and the reader. That’s a bit more comfortable. But yeah, the idea of the artist as the cold disembodied observer slash sniper, that’s a bit more classical modernist than my work. That’s the sort of mid-century male novelist who thought that there was just no politics in art, that the writer had no social responsibilities, that they were above all accountability. You know, the stuff that people lapped up in mid-twentieth century. All those movies and books about books and movies, where the artist was amoral and debauched and that was great. It didn’t matter if he was an utter prick. It didn’t matter if everything about him was vile. I don’t buy that. That’s not my view of the world.

You’re not that writer.

Nah, nah. Not me.

Myke Bartlett

Myke Bartlett was born in Perth, and spent his first twenty years trying to escape. A trained journalist, Bartlett writes on politics, movies, pop culture and rock music for Australia’s best known cultural publications. His debut young adult novel Fire in the Sea won the 2011 Text Prize. Read more at mykebartlett.com

Photography by Elizabeth Looker

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