Author Event

Sydney Writers' Festival 2017

The Sydney Writers' Festival programme was announced last Thursday night and there is lots to be excited about.  Here is a round up of our picks of the best books and authors to watch. 

For more information on events with these authors visit

Insomniac City by Bill Hayes

The Potts Point staff are rarely unanimous but on special occasions we all fall in love with the same book. Bill Hayes' tender, witty and intimate memoir is a love letter to New York and his late partner, the wise and compassionate Oliver Sacks. 

The Mothers by Brit Bennett

This is a masterful debut novel from a vibrant new voice in fiction. It tells the story of a determined young black woman, trying to find her way in the world after losing her mother. With frankness and humanity, Bennett tackles friendship, ambition, adulthood and the support and suffocation of community.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

The winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the 2016 National Book Award. A haunting, visceral novel that never flinches from the aberrations of history, while still singing with imagination and heart. Whitehead's Pulitzer Prize-winning story is about giving voice to those who need to be heard, perhaps now more than ever. 

The Return by Hisham Matar

Counting Hilary Mantel and Chimamanda Adichie among his readers, Hisham Matar is an essential voice in non fiction today. The Return is an extraordinary memoir that revisits Matar's childhood in Libya and dives into the difficult personal and political story of his father's life. 

I'm Supposed to Protect You From All This by Nadja Speigelman

This powerful memoir is force of nature, just like its provocative author and subject. Speigelman sets out to explore the stories and secrets of her mother and grandmother - both fiercely intelligent, French and a little bit nuts. The book is a wild ride filled with emotional intensity and dark humour.

In the Darkroom by Susan Faludi

When Susan Faludi received a matter-of-fact email from her estranged father informing her that he'd become a woman, she decided to revive a relationship that had long fallen away. The result is a fascinating, compulsively readable book which raises as many questions as it answers, and proves that there is no such thing as a singular identity.

Tao Lin @ Alaska Projects for the National Young Writer's Festival

Tao Lin is not like other touring writers.  He hates reading his own work, doesn't respond well to the question and answer format and seems a little like he'd prefer to be somewhere else at his own event.  Okay, okay, he's probably a lot like other touring authors, but there is something about his obvious apathy that is either utterly affronting or back-thumpingly heroic.   The crowd that attended the NYWF event hosted by Alaska Projects, for the most part, belonged wholeheartedly to the latter school of thought.  They laughed when he awkwardly sidestepped answering questions, empathised about the mainstream critical response to his books, endured with great humour a long slideshow of seemingly random images and commented over and over again about how much his work resonated with their lives.                                                                                                 Tao Lin is the author of three novels, two books of poetry and one short story collection.  He runs his own publishing house called MuuMuu House (which mainly accepts content found on the internet) and according to Bret Easton Ellis "is the most interesting prose stylist of his generation".
According to other critics, Tao Lin is either the end of the modern novel, a "Kmart-realist", or he is the voice of his generation and a playful minimalist.
Taipei is Tao Lin's latest novel.  The book follows the meanderings of Paul, a writer.  We go from Manhattan to Taipei, along the way experiencing love and pain with unexpected consequences; connections are made via technology and many a drug are ingested with careless ease.  
When NYWF author, Wilfred Brandt asked Tao about the autobiographical nature of Taipei, Tao agreed that much of the first draft of the book was drawn from his memory.  When he was further drawn on the topics of sincerity and irony, Tao responded that he believes everybody misunderstands the true nature of the terms.  "You don't know what you are intending when you say something" - sincerity and therefore love and romance don't make sense.  "I'm interested in writing about relationships without such simplistic definitions".
Questions abounded from the enthusiastic audience and whilst Tao didn't answer a lot of those questions directly, the evening threw up some interesting fodder - from what are Tao's influences (he's been reading the same book for 10 years The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa, and mostly reads those books he first encountered in college), how does he place himself in the American canon (no response), how does he feel about the critical response to his work ("If I didn't know me, I wouldn't like me either", but doesn't let readers' responses affect how he writes), how does he work (almost stream of consciousness writing, then labours over the editing), to the eggplant motif of Taipei (he didn't know about this, but "I think it has enough").
There were also questions about the author's ability to articulate the altered state of his characters.  Tao brushed these aside mostly, but did allude to a scene in Taipei where Paul does a book event whilst high.  What Tao himself meant by this can only be guessed at, but the twitterverse quickly made the leap - one tweet claiming "the author is superhigh". 
Twitter, blogs, online forums, Tumblr - these are the worlds of Tao Lin and his readers and where Tao Lin shines.  His is an intertextual universe where more than one medium is employed to tell the whole story. Other authors, such as Sheila Heti and Miranda July, similarly incorporate social media into their writing and novels, which sometimes gives them the feel of a collaborative art project.                                                                         Tao Lin's Taipei is strictly a novel and is written with little elaboration.  It may authentically capture the mood of a "connected" generation, but it feels like it is authenticity in a bubble as Taipei is a book about a generation of adults who don't know how to act or talk to each other face to face.  When the real world beckons, just like it was for Tao Lin at Alaska Projects, awkwardness and boredom ensue and mistakes happen.                         No matter how you see the work, there is no denying that Tao Lin is showing us how a new generation lives and engages with the world.  "Reading makes me feel less alone" said Tao Lin that night and it's obvious that many of the large crowd agreed with him.  One only wonders if it would be his own work that Tao himself would reach for when looking for solace.

Granta interview with Yuka Igarishi
Sydney Morning Herald review by Mark Tewfik
National Young Writer's Festival programme (Oct 3-6)

Anne Summers Event @ Yellow House Pop-Up

When we held our event with Anne Summers on June 25 at Yellow House Pop-Up, we knew some things.
We knew that misogyny and sexism were topics on everyone's list, that Anne Summers was the go-to woman on the topic, particularly after her landmark speeches in 2012 and sold-out sessions at the Sydney Writer's Festival.  We knew that Julia Gillard's struggles were proliferating the media and that our audience - made up of men and women - were in for a great night.

What we didn't know was that Anne Summers' remarks that rainy evening would be so incredibly prescient and that we would embark the next day on a new era of Australian politics.

"We thought that anti-discrimination would eradicate sexism."

From the outset, it was a rallying to the ramparts.  A battle cry to women (and men) everywhere to get angry and to make their anger about the inequality they experience known.  And whilst that may sound confronting to some, the conversation that ensued after Anne delivered her speech was incredibly inclusive and supportive.

Anne's thought-provoking questions -why is it after 40 years, women are still paid less than men and that men still dominate the top ranks of leading organisations - her pointers to objectives - financial independence, fertility control, freedom from violence - indicators of success - inclusion, equality & respect - and viewpoints on equality - is equality a good idea? - were discussed in great length long into the night.

"Women are penalised at least $1 million dollars in their lifetime."
Anne talked passionately about her respect for female leaders and women in power, particularly Julia Gillard. She offered an interesting perspective on reverse sexism in the case of the cautionary tale that unfurled in Queensland politics, which saw some of our first women leaders ousted within a short period of time.  And her statistics were often breathtaking.

Question time was dominated by questions about leadership, politics and of Julia Gillard's knitting habits. Broader strokes dealing with disability and racism were also addressed.

"If Misogyny is the theory, sexism is the practice."
In an age where women are supposed to be able to "have it all", the emphasis on motherhood guilt that proliferates our media is generated by the Misogyny Factor.  In a world where women can "be" anything they want, companies who strive to keep women underpaid and unrewarded are using the Misogyny Factor.  In a country where women's "rights" were forged more than 40 years ago, the Misogyny Factor is still going strong.
How does equality between men and women work?  If you really want to know.....

Be kept up to date and subscribe to Anne Summers Reports, an online magazine about topics you probably won't have read about elsewhere.  The current issue features a special interview with former Prime Minister, Julia Gillard.