The satirical provocations of Jonathan Swift, the wry reflections of Joan Didion, the convoluted musings of Derrida, that dreadful treatise you wrote in Year 11 on the role played by Lady Macbeth in her husband’s demise – all fall into the delightfully broad category of the ‘essay’, perhaps the most flexible of non-fiction forms.
Some examples are, of course, more successful than others, but the beauty of the essay is that it can embrace uncertainty, irony and contradiction in ways that other forms of non-fiction can not. A great essay can challenge, inspire, educate, provoke and entertain.
In this discussion, three renowned Australian essay-writers – Anna Krien, Karen Hitchcock and Robert Manne – will come together with host Nick Feik to shed light on how they each approach their work and to discuss the state of the essay in Australia today.
Anna Krien is an award-winning Melbourne-based journalist, essayist, ction writer and poet. She is a 2018 Sidney Myer Creative Fellow. Her first book, Into the Woods: The Battle for Tasmania’s Forests, won theLiterary Award for Advancing Public Debate in the 2011 QLD Premier’s Literary Awards and the People’s Choice Award in the 2011 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards. Her second book, Night Games: Sex, Power and Sport, won the 2014 Davitt Award for Best True Crime Book, the 2014 Cross British Sports Book Awards’ New Writer of the Year Award, the 2014 William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award and was shortlisted for the Walkley Non-fiction Book Award and the Stella Prize.
Karen Hitchcock is the author of Quarterly Essay 57 on caring for the elderly (March 2015). She is the author of the award-winning story collection Little White Slips and a regular contributor to the Monthly. She is also a staff physician in acute and general medicine at a large city public hospital.
Robert Manne’s many books include Making Trouble and The Words That Made Australia (as co-editor). He is the author of three Quarterly Essays, In Denial, Sending Them Home and Bad News. He is a Vice-Chancellor's Fellow at La Trobe University.
Nick Feik is the editor of the Monthly magazine.