The literary world is famous for its bitter feuds: Gore Vidal and Norman Mailer, Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, V.S. Naipaul and Paul Theroux. Professional jealousy is often at the heart of literary rivalries – and these rivalries can be toxic indeed. In the case of Vidal and Mailer, the feud was so toxic it eventuated in a notorious punch-up.
But a healthy rivalry can be a strong motivational tool – as the saying goes, envy aims high. In this discussion hosted by Stephanie Convery, our panel of (hopefully) peace-loving writers will broach an uncomfortable issue from a civilised, non-combative perspective, revealing the books they wish they’d written and why.
We’ll also explore some broader questions on the topic: Is the green-eyed monster more prevalent in the literary world than in other fields? Are envy and admiration two sides of the same coin? And what are the differences between artistic and commercial literary jealousy?
Stephanie Convery is a Melbourne-based writer and the deputy editor of Overland magazine. Her work has appeared in the Guardian, Meanjin, The Lifted Brow, ABC’s The Drum, the Big Issue, and other local and international publications.
Ramona Koval is a writer, journalist, broadcaster and editor. She is an Honorary Fellow at the centre for Advancing Journalism, University of Melbourne.
Born in Hamilton in western Victoria in 1953, Shane Maloney is one of Australia’s most popular novelists. His award-winning and much-loved Murray Whelan series – Stiff, The Brush-Off, Nice Try, The Big Ask, Something Fishy and Sucked In – has been published around the world.
In 1996, The Brush-Off won the Ned Kelly Prize for Crime Fiction. In 2004, Stiff and The Brush-Off were made into telemovies starring David Wenham as Murray Whelan. In 2009, Shane Maloney was presented with the Crime Writers’ Association of Australia Lifetime Achievement Award.
Sonya is a bibliotherapist with The School of Life and this year was part of the Melbourne Writers Festival, offering bibliotherapy taster sessions in the Dumbo Feather Caravan. Sonya also leads shared reading circles in community settings and hosts literary salons as part of her social enterprise, The Literary Hand.
She started her working life as a genetic counsellor and community educator. As a lifelong reader and as a passionate devotee of ‘slow reading’, Sonya is convinced that the book-drunken life is the only way to stay sane!