Melbourne Writers Festival Kicks Off

Melbourne’s annual writers festival begins tonight and tomorrow with the festival’s two keynote events. Tonight, US writer Jonathan Franzen will speak on autobiographical fiction while tomorrow night the Orkestra of the Underground will perform a musical adaptation of Oscar-winning illustrator Shaun Tan’s book, The Arrival.

We’ve already covered one highlight of the festival - a visit from Argentinian novelist César Aira - but as always there are plenty more. Eliot Weinberger is one of America’s most distinguished literary voices. The poet, essayist, critic and translator has championed distinguished writing from Spanish and Chinese throughout his career and his review essays are regularly published in the New York Review of Books.

Charlotte Smith may live in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales but she is the curator of the Darnell collection, one of the world’s finest collections of antique clothing, footwear and accessories. She has a degree in art history and lectures on the history of fashion. She’ll be speaking on fashion in the films of Alfred Hitchcock.

Cop this for a CV: the straight-ish Jon Jon Goulian is an NYU law graduate, a former assistant to the editor of the New York Review, scion of the New York intellectual establishment, on the list of Rolling Stone’s Hottest Breakout Stars of 2011, a former hiphop recording artist - indeed, “perhaps the only former hip-hop recording artist who is also a member of New York’s delicate and droopy intelligentsia-in-training”, proclaims the New York Observer. The Observer profile concludes, “taken together, he amounts to a most bewildering weirdo.” Although he was a celebrity before putting pen to paper, Goulian has just published a memoir of androgeny, The Man in the Grey Flannel Skirt.

Many music fans will be familiar with the work of Simone Felice, one of a trio of brothers from the Catskill mountains in upstate New York that founded the band the Felice Brothers. Simone was their drummer but has since left it to star in the noted duo, the Duke and the King, and to concentrate on his solo career. Simone’s also a writer - a novelist and a poet - and his novel Black Jesus has just been published in Australia. In one of his three festival appearances, he’ll be at the Corner Hotel alongside Kim Salmon and Laura Jean in an event called ‘Lyrical’, exploring storytelling through song.

And we’re looking forward to delving into Drawn From Life, a free newspaper featuring graphic art and comics by leading local and international illustrators, cartoonists and graphic artists, edited by Oslo Davis. They’ll be distributed at train stations tomorrow morning and will be stocked at festival venues until 4 September.

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