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Biography & memoir
John Clarke: A Celebration
CLARKE, John, Dip Lid, PhD in Cattle (Oxen). Advisor and comforter to various governments. Born 1948. Educ. subsequently. Travelled extensively throughout Holy Lands, then left New Zealand for Europe. Stationed in London 1971–73. Escaped (decorated). Rejoined unit. Arrived Australia 1977. Held positions with ABC radio (Sckd), ABC Television (Dfnct), Various newspapers (Dcd), and Aust Film Industry (Fkd). Currently a…
Hisham Matar with Hilary Harper
‘One day justice will be done and the jailer will replace the jailed.’ Hisham Matar’s father wrote these words in a smuggled letter to his family in 1992, while imprisoned in one of Muammar el-Qaddafi’s notorious jails in Tripoli.
Jaballa Matar was a political dissident, kidnapped in 1990 by the dictator’s agents, and jailed. For years he wrote occasional letters to his family – but then the letters stopped. In the decades since, his London-based son, a writer, has worked to find out what happened to his father; to learn if he is dead or alive.
Matar’s latest book, The Return, describes this hideous quest with exquisite skill and sorrow. In April, it won a Pulitzer Prize. His previous books, the Booker-shortlisted novel In the Country of Men and Anatomy of a Disappearance, dealt with similar themes, winning praise from the likes of J.M. Coetzee.
‘You make a man disappear to silence him but also to narrow the minds of those left behind, to pervert their soul and limit their imagination,’ Matar writes in The Return. It’s a story of exile, absence and appalling suspense told with rare gentleness and restraint.
In this episode of the Wheeler Centre podcast, this extraordinary writer makes his second visit to the Wheeler Centre to discuss his life, career and the art of recollection with Hilary Harper.
Bare Bones with Tracey Spicer
Virginia Trioli and Tracey Spicer — Photo: Helen Withycombe
In the 1990s, Tracey Spicer was a smart, talented young journalist rising quickly through the ranks at Channel Ten. But even as the network’s national news anchor, she had to play the role of the ‘good girl’, submitting with a smile to onerous daily hair and make-up routines and humouring advice from network bosses such as ‘stick your tits out’.
She was famously sacked (or ‘boned’, in now notorious industry parlance) by email in 2006, after returning from maternity leave. After that, it was No More Mrs Nice Spice. She sued, won a sizeable settlement, and embarked on the path to become the Tracey Spicer we know today … defiant, outspoken and given to hilarious public confessions.
Candy Bowers performs — Photo: Helen Withycombe
Her funny and candid new book, The Good Girl Stripped Bare, starts with her early life in suburban Brisbane, traces the highs and lows her career in journalism and touches on many other subjects – from anxiety to class warfare to the beauty myth. In conversation with her friend and contemporary Virginia Trioli, and with a special performance from Candy Bowers, Spicer talks about work, life and feminism today.
The Fifth Estate: Behind the Broadsheet
Last year, when Chris Mitchell released his memoir, Making Headlines, much was made of the book’s more gossipy elements: the fancy dinners, brazen ultimatums and the sometimes bitter quarrels with various powerful figures. In this conversation, Fifth Estate host Sally Warhaft goes deeper with the former editor-in-chief of the Australian.
Mitchell was at the helm of Australia’s only national…
Picnic at Hanging Rock
‘She felt herself choking and tore at her frilled lace collar. “Miranda!”’
Fainting spells, frilly collars, mystery, hysteria and a truly awesome backdrop – Joan Lindsay’s Picnic at Hanging Rock might be 50 years old this year, but it remains a point of Australian cultural obsession. The book – written by Lindsay in just four weeks back in 1967 – has inspired a film, a radio play, stage adaptations, fashion spreads, music videos and a new miniseries coming out this year.
Why do we keep coming back to Lindsay’s eerie tale of a Valentine’s Day school picnic gone wrong? Perhaps it’s the ambiguity around fact and fiction; perhaps it’s the striking combinations of imagery or maybe it’s the maddening obscurity of the ending.
At this celebration of Joan Lindsay’s iconic novel (and its enduring myth), Helen Withycombe hosts a conversation between Lindsay's biographer Janelle McCulloch, theatremaker Tom Wright (who adapted the play for Malthouse Theatre in 2016) and Helen Morse, who played the French teacher in Peter Weir's film version of the story.
They discuss the true story (and the mysticism) that inspired Lindsay, the book's refractions of nature and time, the troubling history of Hanging Rock itself and why Lindsay’s tale continues to haunt and provoke Australian storytellers today.
Left to right: Helen Withycombe, Janelle McCulloch, Tom Wright and Helen Morse — Photo: Jon TjhiaYou may also enjoy Podcast episode Australian Literature 102: Joan Lindsay: Picnic at Hanging Rock / Australian stories Podcast episode Australian Literature 101: Patrick White: Voss / Australian stories Podcast episode Australian Literature 101: Christina Stead: The Man Who Loved Children / Australian stories
The Fifth Estate: Mark Colvin
Mark Colvin was one of the most trusted and revered figures in Australian journalism. In this Fifth Estate discussion with Sally Warhaft, recorded at the Wheeler Centre in November 2016, he reflected on the release of his memoir, Light and Shadow, discussing the unlikely convergence of family and foreign affairs in his personal and professional lives, as well as…
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Falling Out of Love With Madness
(Click to watch video.)
Emma Forrest’s career as a writer almost predates her adolescence. She’s toured with pop bands, written a column in the Times, published several books including three novels, and dated stars of stage and screen. She’s also struggled with debilitating mental illness. This is how she described her descent into madness in a 2008 Guardian article advising sympathy for Britney…
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