We need to talk about Lionel… a lot less

Leila, Melbourne gal and feminist, guest writes for Words and Leaves about hearing two very different women speak at the Melbourne Writers Festival – Lionel Shriver and Juliet Jacques – and how, respectively, they angered and inspired her.

Initially when I planned this review, I was going to write about how the authors I’d heard at the Melbourne Writers Festival – Magda Szubanski (Reckoning: A Memoir), Charlotte Wood (The Natural Way of Things), Yassmin Abdel-Magied (Yassmin’s Story) – all meditated on how reading and writing illuminates the human condition and helps us to know ourselves better. I was also going to write about how authors and readers can grow to love (or hate) the characters in the best books with as much passion as if they were real people. And how our favourite books are far more than just stories, instead becoming real experiences that enter into our memories and really change us.

I was going to write about all those things. And then I saw Lionel Shriver give her closing address.

Shriver described her views as ‘incendiary’. I prefer to describe them as ‘infuriating’.

8 things I learned at the Melbourne Writers Festival

I’ve always loved the beginning of spring, but I’ve discovered another reason to love it: the Melbourne Writers Festival.  For the last two weeks, Melbourne has been host to an overwhelming number of writers, thinkers and readers.

I only got to see a sliver of what was on offer, but here are 8 things that have stuck in my brain.

Australia’s asylum shame

A year ago, I moved back to Australia after 10 years in Scotland.  Over these last 12 months, I’ve been relearning what it is to be Australian – not in the cliched sense, but in terms of the nuances of daily life that I’d just clean forgotten about (such aggressive driving, for example) or never even known about (the oddities of school drop offs).

But more than anything, I’ve had to confront and compute my country’s attitudes to its indigenous people and its asylum seekers. I feel like I’m seeing these issues with fresh eyes, and I really don’t like what I see.