Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Malouf and Oz literature

I'm still chewing thoughtfully on this comment from David Malouf (same source as my last blog):

"There was a period about 15 to 20 years ago when we created the idea of an exciting national literature. Australian readers were encouraged to read a lot of Australian books [was this publicity then?], and they did. They were doing it partly because they saw it as a reflection of their world, but also because they believed in Australia in a new kind of way. I think people lost faith in that. I think there has been a falling off of a kind of patriotic reason for reading Australian books, and that has put a lot of pressure on publishers because they just can't guarantee that there's a reading public out there." And he adds that 20 years ago every university had a course in Australian literature now none do or maybe one.

Sometimes I think this is a loss, sometimes I think it's because our literature has grown up.

3 comments:

delwyne said...

What kinds of 'Australian' books do you think Malouf is talking about? I think Australians are reading Australian books. I think his focus is adult literary and non-fiction work. I suspect Australian children and young adults are reading plenty of Aussie 'literature', and are encouraged to do so in schools. Is this your experience Andrew? How do Australian fiction sales compare with OS published titles? Did you read Frank Moorehouse's article in The Australian some weeks back? To his mind the industry is travelling okay. Delwyne

Mack said...

I'm uncomfortable with the notion that it's our patriotic duty to cover ourselves in Australian litereature no matter the quality of the product. If it's good enough, people will read it.

It's a similar situation in the Australian film industry. Some of the dross that masquerades as quality Australian cinema is baffling. That's not to mention the stuff that's deliberately mind-numbing - any movie that tries to emulate The Castle's success.
While audiences are dealt with so cynically, they stay away. Forget a patriotic duty. Just give us some quality.

Andrew's black dog blog said...

I reckon, Delwyne, that the schools are a great fortress for Australian literature and kids are more committed to reading the local than adults. The trend in publishing though is that more people are being persauaded to read fewer books. So the latest Book Scan weekly figures has the latest Lemony at the top of kids bestsellers at about 10,000 then Artemis at about 2000 then we hit the Aussies (including our Australian Twelve Days at number five).