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The Longform Society: Meeting #3: The Art of the Celebrity Profile
A good celebrity profile is a rare thing. Those that walk the line between quality writing, respect for the subject, and honouring the reader’s desire for a glimpse behind the curtain – while avoiding the murky depths of rumour mongering – are few and far between.
Some have made history, for good and bad reasons. Take the recent cringe-worthy profile of Brad Pitt in GQ (which in turn inspired the excellent companion piece by Marina Hyde in the Guardian), or the ones that created their own zeitgeist, such as Vanity Fair’s profile of Caitlyn Jenner, or profiles that become classics through the combination of celebrity of author and subject, such as Richard Flanagan’s analysis of David Walsh in the Monthly.
In this meeting of the Longform Society, Sophie Cunningham, Mel Campbell, Maxine Beneba Clarke and Cameron Adams discuss and dissect the writing that celebrates our ongoing fascination with celebrity, and some of the most memorable pieces by, or about, the superstars of our times.
The reading list
· 'On the Road with Julia Gillard: Sketches of a prime minister in her final months', by Chloe Hooper, from the Monthly
· 'Welcome to the Summer of Margot Robbie', by Rich Cohen, from Vanity Fair
· 'Dwayne Johnson for President!', by Caity Weaver, from GQ
· 'Frank Sinatra Has a Cold', by Gay Talese, from Esquire
Sophie Cunningham is the author of five books, the most recent of which is City of Trees: Essays on Life, Death & the Need for a Forest. She is a former publisher, former editor of Meanjin, former Chair of the Literature Board of the Australia Council and was a co-founder of The Stella Prize. She is an Adjunct Professor with RMIT's Non/fiction lab.
Mel Campbell is a freelance journalist and critic who co-hosts the fortnightly literature and culture podcast The Rereaders. She is a columnist on writing at Overland magazine, and a university lecturer and writer-for-hire on film, TV and media. Her first book was the nonfiction investigation Out of Shape: Debunking Myths about Fashion and Fit (2013), and she’s currently co-writing a second romantic comedy novel with Anthony Morris; their first was The Hot Guy (2017).
Maxine Beneba Clarke is a widely published Australian writer of Afro-Caribbean descent. Clarke is the ABIA and Indie award winning author of over nine books for adults and children, including the critically acclaimed short fiction collection Foreign Soil, the best-selling memoir The Hate Race, the Victorian Premier’s Award winning poetry collection Carrying the World, and the Boston Globe/Horn Prize winning picture book The Patchwork Bike, illustrated by Van T. Rudd.
She is the editor of Best Australian Stories 2017, and Growing Up African in Australia. Her forthcoming poetry collection is How Decent Folk Behave (Hachette).
Cameron Adams is a music writer working at the Herald Sun newspaper in Melbourne. He spends his days coaxing musicians to say more than just, 'I make music for myself, if anyone else likes it, that's a bonus'. His work is published nationally in newspapers and online, and he never reads the comments.
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