Friday High Five: Aust Lit, Creativity, Bad Punctuation

We share five of our favourite links to news, reviews or articles that we’ve discovered over the past week.

Stephanie Guest was the student who organised the Australian literature discussion group at Melbourne University last year, after the university’s official subject took a hiatus. She wrote about the experience (and not taking ‘no’ for an answer from Helen Garner) for Australian Book Review’s February edition. Stephanie is assisting the Wheeler Centre with our forthcoming free series, Australian Literature 101 (with Ramona Koval).

Helen Garner told Stephanie Guest, 'Your perseverance is very bracing'.

Helen Garner told Stephanie Guest, 'Your perseverance is very bracing'.

Jonah Lehrer is one of those science writers who perfectly translates to the average reader, without dumbing down. He recently wrote for the New Yorker about why traditional brainstorming doesn’t work – and the perfect (accidental) conditions for creativity, as epitomised at a ‘strange, chaotic’ M.I.T. building that housed Noam Chomsky, Amar Bose (Bose hi-fi speakers) and the scientists who developed radar systems that helped win World War II. It was ‘one of the most creative environments of all time’.

Jonah Lehrer's next book will be 'Imagine: How Creativity Works'.

Jonah Lehrer's next book will be 'Imagine: How Creativity Works'.

Here at the Wheeler Centre, we’re fans of dodgy punctuation spotting, particularly when it results in unintended hilarity. Comedy website Smosh found some doozies lately. What happens when sign writers use quote marks for emphasis? You get ‘cheese’ burgers, sandwiches made ‘fresh’ in store and professional ‘massage’.

The quotation marks make this sandwich seem suspect. (From the 'Smosh' website)

The quotation marks make this sandwich seem suspect. (From the 'Smosh' website)

We always like a good-news story about increased funding for the arts. In the US, President Obama is proposing a 5% increase in spending for three cultural grant-making agencies and three Washington, D.C., arts institutions. He said, ‘we are told we’re divided as a people, and then suddenly the arts have this power to bring us together and speak to our common condition’. Ah yes, he’s the president who authored two critically acclaimed bestselling books – a refreshing change from his predecessor, who famously called for us to pose the question: ‘is our children learning?’

Obama: A president who reads (and writes) books.

Obama: A president who reads (and writes) books.

Over at the Guardian, a publisher writes about how sick she is of the collective sneering about chick-lit, responding to a confrontational interview with Oxford-educated Sophie Kinsella (Confessions of a Shopaholic), where the interviewer mused, ‘I still struggle to understand why a woman of her intelligence would want to write about women at their silliest’. Jenny Geras, editorial director of fiction at Pan Macmillan, wonders, ‘Why do I so often hear intelligent, educated women admitting that they read commercial women’s fiction, but only as a “guilty pleasure”?’ She quotes Caitlin Moran’s gauge for judging whether something is sexist (ask, ‘Are the men doing this?’) and suggests that , no, men are not feeling guilty about reading John Grisham and his counterparts.

Sophie Kinsella: 'I always thought chick lit meant third-person contemporary funny novels, dealing with issues of the day.'

Sophie Kinsella: 'I always thought chick lit meant third-person contemporary funny novels, dealing with issues of the day.'