Saturday, December 17, 2016

Away with the white dudes

No white dudes, presided over by the white dudes
Since May 2016, I've been avoiding myself. Well, not quite: I've been avoiding white dudes in my leisure reading. 

Why? What did I read? And how was it? Here's my feature in this weekend's Sydney Morning Herald: 'Away with the white dudes'.  A sample:
Europe seemed to exemplify civilisation in my childhood household. Most authors in my bed's drawers were from east of the Atlantic: Arthur Conan Doyle, A. A. Milne, Enid Blyton, Roger Hargreaves, Goscinny & Uderzo. My Little Golden Books were edited in blue Biro to change American spelling to English ("checkers" to "draughts", and so on). The atmosphere was of violent but jolly adventures, undertaken by flawed but fun white folks. 
At the Sydney Writers Festival earlier this year, I was interviewed about my book The Art of Reading by author Jane Gleeson-White, who remarked on the Englishness of my tastes. Afterwards, a number of interviewers, readers and listeners suggested a similar palate: from Borges and Heidegger in the first chapter, to Woolf and Joyce in the last, my references rarely strayed from western Europe. 
I was omnivorous with genres in The Art of Reading: philosophy, sociology, poetry, science fiction, westerns, superhero comics. But my featured authors, I realised, were chiefly European or American men. I resolved to read differently for leisure: for six months at least, no white dudes. 
The point was not punitive, as if I was taking revenge against Aristotle, Ernest Hemingway or Frank Miller for indulgent machismo. Aside from making a tiny investment in a more egalitarian publishing industry, the point was not instrumental at all. Instead, it was an experiment without a hypothesis: resisting my usual appetites, and seeing what I discovered. I took recommendations in festival green rooms, nudged friends for their favourites, received gifts. Sometimes just took a punt in a bookshop. What I offer here is an all-too-brief, partial report of the adventure so far.
(There's a slight error in the feature: someone has put quote marks around my words, suggesting they're Anna Spargo-Ryan's -- hopefully they'll fix this on the online version.)

My #nowhitedudes caper is continuing. I've just finished Eka Kurniawan's Beauty is a Wound (we were on a panel together here), and now I'm reading Julie Koh's Portable Curiosities.

I've also been reading comics in the same way, but I didn't have words to spare in my feature. I hope do write up a quick sketch in the new year.

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