Posted by: Lisa Hill | April 14, 2011

Melbourne, City of Literature: Patrick White at the Wheeler Centre

Melbourne – as befits its status as a UNESCO City of Literature –  is a great place for events literary on an almost daily basis.  As a resident, I could attend all kinds of launches, author talks, panel discussions about literature and so on – if only work didn’t keep getting in the way.

Last night, for example, I attended a fascinating talk organised by Melbourne PEN featuring Translators as the Unsung Heroes of Literature.  Rodney Hall, twice winner of the Miles Franklin for The Grisly Wife and Just Relations, and author of 37 books, has had them translated into everything from French and German to Swedish and Korean. He explained the importance of the translator getting the tone of the book right, as well as the words, and he says that the joy of working with a translator is that there is no one else in the world who knows your book as well as you do, other then your translator.  It was a terrific evening, and it didn’t cost me a cent.

Reading Bookstores advertise a whole page of literary events in their monthly newsletter.  Many of these are free or have a token fee for attendance, and apart from the frisson of being in the same space as the authors you love, there is also the magic of being in a room full of booklovers.  (When most of your working day is spent among people who would rather chat about sport, this is balm to the soul).  Naturally, the unspoken part of the deal is that you should buy the book from Readings, and it would be shabby not to, in my opinion.  If I’ve already got it, I buy something else.  You can subscribe to the Events calendar online so that you don’t miss out.

The Wheeler Centre, Melbourne’s Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas has all kinds of events, but the one that lures me into the city at the moment is their Late Greats series, dedicated to Australia’s great writers of the past.  I’ve signed up for Thea Astley and Ruth Park, and last month I went to Patrick White.  I can’t embed the video here, but if you click this link, you can see the whole program.   Even if you’re not a fan of Patrick White, this panel discussion is a good intro to why he is so significant in Australia’s literary history.

And then of course, there is the Melbourne Writers Festival in August, and long before the event the organisers offer all kinds of bookish things to do.  International Authors don’t make the long-haul flight unless they have plenty of book promotion activities to do when they get here and so Melbourne gets the spin-off from authors attending the Sydney Festival and vice versa.   David Mitchell, for example, will be in town soon…

One mustn’t overdo it of course.  Gadding about at literary events can take a toll on reading time!

Update: 13.9.11

You can see the podcast of the sessions at the Wheeler Centre here.


  1. Lovely post as ever Lisa. So sad to report that due to events outside our control, we’ve had to cancel next week’s Thea Astley event. Rest assured, it’s not a true cancellation but rather a postponement. We’re all huge fans of Astley’s work at the Wheeler Centre and are determined to celebrate her work soon. We’ll keep you posted, and hope to see you when we consider the legacy of the Late Great Ruth Park. (or maybe before!)


    • Hi Michael, I’ll be there for Thea Astley whenever it is – and *grin* I’m already booked in for Ruth Park:)


  2. Thanks for this post Lisa – I looked at the White discussion on the Wheeler Centre website and enjoyed it. Pity it wasn’t longer!


    • It’s good, isn’t it? I still have David Marr’s massive bio of Patrick White on my TBR, and I keep promising myself to read it, and then I think, no, finish reading PW’s novels *first*, and then because I’ve only got three left that I haven’t read, I try and eke them out, delaying the bio even longer!


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