Volume 3, No. 2 August 2016

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Letter from the Editors

Welcome to the August 2016 issue of Writers in Conversation. An interesting mix, this time, with an emphasis on literary critics and criticism. Featured are prominent Australian critic Kerryn Goldsworthy, Professor John Thieme from the University of East Anglia, and French writer Jean-François Vernay talking about his recent book on Australian fiction.

We have three British writers in conversation with Nick Turner about the Orange Prize for women's fiction - Dr Goldsworthy also has something to say about prizes in her wide-ranging conversation with Gillian Dooley.

To round the issue out, we have interviews with American poet Robert Masterson and German novelist Andreas Albrecht.

We hope you enjoy reading the issue!

Gillian Dooley and Nick Turner, Editors


From Volume 4, no. 1, February 2017 Writers in Conversation will be published in Open Journal Systems and this website will no longer be updated.


Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 6 of 6
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    Literary Prizes and Contemporary Women’s Writing: An Investigation through Interviews
    (2016-07-26) Turner, Nick
    In 2011, I conducted research on the Orange Prize for Fiction. Now called the Baileys Prize, it was first awarded in 1996, the first literary prize run and judged solely by women and open only to women writers. It was in part a response to the seemingly male bias of Booker Prize judging panels – in their awards and their gender balance in panels. I was particularly interested in the prize’s remit, which includes the words ‘originality’, ‘excellence’ and ‘accessibility’. The research was stimulated by a (female) academic and novelist I know who felt that the last word potentially dumbed down women’s writing, criticising the non-specialist nature of some of the panels and the inclusion of ‘lighter’ fiction on the longlists. In short, the prize was not doing the question of women’s writing being taken seriously any favours – in fact the reverse. I discussed the prize, what it was felt to have achieved, and the contentious issue of accessibility being equated with dumbing down with many novelists, critics and former judges. Sir Simon Jenkins remained against the Prize, seeing it as form of sexism that was unnecessary in a field where women led; Kate Mosse, bestselling novelist and co-founder of the Prize naturally defended it, quoting the remaining need for the Prize in a culture that still worked against women writers’ success. Her passion was infectious, and convinced me the Prize has helped advance women’s writing. Margaret Drabble expressed uneasiness about an all-woman prize; A.S. Byatt felt it ghettoized women writers. Anne Fine said she had moved from an argument against the prize to doubting her earlier views. Interestingly, then, some leading women writers and critics are uncomfortable with the prize. There again, as the interviews below show, it rightly has a great deal of support. It has now been running for twenty years; its 2014 winner, Eimear McBride’s A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing, a stream-of-consciousness novel reflecting on abuse and rape in parts, is hardly ‘accessible’. In 2015, the prize was won by Ali Smith for her ‘experimental’ novel How to be Both. Smith is often called one of Britain’s leading novelists: with Hilary Mantel shortlisted previously, the Prize is certainly spotlighting the most important contemporary women writers. The three most substantial interviews are below. Louise Doughty's novel Whatever You Love was short-listed for the Costa award for fiction in 2010 and long-listed for the Orange Prize 2011. The highly successful Apple Tree Yard was selected as a Richard & Judy Book Choice in the spring of 2014. She judged; Alex Clark is a journalist who was the first female editor of Granta, who judged the Orange Award for New Writers in 2005. Doughty and Clark were both judges of the Booker Prize in 2008. Linda Grant is a British novelist whose book When I Lived in Modern Times won the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2000. These interviews were conducted via email.
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    An Interview with Jean-François Vernay
    (2016-07-26) Christopher Ringrose; Vernay, Jean-Francois
    The second edition of Jean-François Vernay’s book A Brief Take on the Australian Novel (Adelaide: Wakefield Press) was released in 2016. This incisive history of Australian fiction is remarkable for a relatively young scholar, both for its ambitious scope and its innovative approach, employing structural techniques derived from the world and language of cinema. It is designed to appeal to the general reader seeking to test their views against Vernay’s, to those new to the area of Australian fiction who might use it as a guide to their reading, and to those engaged in academic study. As has often been noted, Jean-François Vernay’s French-Australian parentage and background give him an unusual and distinctive perspective on Australian writing. Jean-François is also the author of Water from the Moon: Illusion and Reality in the Works of Christopher Koch (New York: Cambria Press, 2007), as well as numerous other critical studies. His book The Seduction of Fiction: A Plea for Putting Emotions Back into Literary Interpretation will be released in August 2016 as part of Palgrave Macmillan’s series Studies in Affect Theory and Literary Criticism. He is also a creative writer in his own right, notably of Un doux petit rêveur (2012).
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    John Thieme on Text and Context in Postcolonial/Colonial Writings
    (2016-07-26) John Thieme; Sharma, Sunil
    Professor John Thieme is a Senior Fellow at the University of East Anglia, UK. He has held Chairs at the University of Hull and London South Bank University and has also taught at the Universities of Guyana, North London and, as an annual Visiting Professor, at the University of Turin. His books include The Web of Tradition: Uses of Allusion in V.S. Naipaul’s Fiction (1987), The Arnold Anthology of Post-Colonial Literatures in English (1996), Derek Walcott (1999), Post-Colonial Con-Texts: Writing Back to the Canon (2001), Post-Colonial Studies: The Essential Glossary (2003) and R.K. Narayan (2007). He was Editor of The Journal of Commonwealth Literature from 1992 to 2011 and he is General Editor of the Manchester University Press Contemporary World Writers Series. His book Postcolonial Literary Geographies: Out of Place has just been published by Macmillan Palgrave. As a critic, Thieme knows the value of the afterlife of iconic texts and how they can be sites of contested readings. As a person, he comes across as positive, accessible and friendly, rare with well-known personalities. He talks of many intersecting issues in this long e-mail interview with Mumbai-based writer Sunil Sharma.
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    ‘Time and Space do not care what I believe’: Robert Masterson, American Poet and Author in Conversation with Ajit Kumar
    (2016-07-26) Ajit Kumar; Robert Masterson
    Professor Robert Masterson lives and works in the megalopolis of New York City, but spent his formative years in the American West, growing up and going to school in Colorado and New Mexico. First published at age 19, Masterson has written award-winning fiction, journalism, and creative nonfiction steadily ever since. His books of poetry and short prose, Trial by Water (1982), Artificial Rats & Electric Cats (2008), and Garnish Trouble (2011), have become collector’s items. Masterson’s work as a lecturer, a writer, and a teacher has taken him around the world, and his work appears in numerous anthologies, journals, magazines, newspapers, and on websites across the Internet. He is a professor of English at the City University of New York’s BMCC campus and divides his time between New York, New Mexico, and travel. Dr Ajit Kumar interviewed Professor Masterson about his different literary books and many other less shared facts of his life.
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    In Deep Waters with Kerryn Goldsworthy, Freelance Writer and Critic
    (2016-07-26) Dooley, Gillian Mary; Goldsworthy, Kerryn
    Kerryn Goldsworthy has been a freelance writer and critic based in Adelaide since 1998. She is a regular book reviewer for the Fairfax press, Australian Book Review (ABR), and the Sydney Review of Books. She was the editor of ABR from 1986 to 1987 and lectured in literature at the University of Melbourne from 1981 to 1997 following her doctoral studies at the University of Adelaide. She is the author of three books: a short story collection, North of the Moonlight Sonata (McPhee Gribble 1989), Helen Garner (in the OUP Australian Authors series, OUP 1996), and Adelaide, in the UNSW Press series on Australian cities in which leading Australian authors write about their home city (NewSouth 2011). She has edited four anthologies of Australian short fiction and was a member of the editorial team that produced The Macquarie PEN Anthology of Australian Literature (Allen & Unwin, 2009). In 2013, Kerryn won The Pascall Prize, the only Australia national prize for cultural criticism. She was the inaugural chair of the judges' panel for the Stella Prize (for books by Australian women) 2013-15, and has also been a judge for the Miles Franklin and the then Commonwealth Writers' Prize. Kerryn conducted a popular blog titled ‘Still Life with Cat’ for several years. Her social media presence has now moved to Facebook, but the Blog still remains and is full of delights. I particularly recommend a post from September 2009, which sets out some ground rules for book reviewing. ttp://stilllifewithcat.blogspot.com.au/2009/09/and-bad-bad-review.html. I started our conversation with what I felt was the most obvious subject for discussion, book reviewing.
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    An Interview with Andreas Albrecht
    (2016-07-26) Andreas Albrecht; Heide Fruth-Sachs
    Andreas Albrecht was born in 1951 in Cottbus, and he grew up in the Deutsche Demokratische Republik (DDR), East Germany. He has written radio dramas, novels, short stories and poetry. In 1997 he was the recipient of the Munich Literature Prize, the Literaturstipendium. This interview was conducted in German and translated into English by the interviewer.