Saturday 15 September 2007

Thus concludes the Brisbane Writers Festival. An odd thing happened yesterday. I got a call from festival publicity who connected me to a journalist writing for the Australian who wanted to talk to me. I'm already on my way out of the house to my evening session at the Powerhouse, with the plan to take on board a couple of 'looseners' with my pal White, chairman for the session, on the way. Anyway, she arranges to come round for a quick interview. A cameraman arrives first, catching me unawares; he's taken fifty pictures by the time the journalist arrives and settles down with her notepad. I suddenly recall where I've seen her name in the last week: Rosemary Sorensen, arts writer for the Australian, wrote a negative review of Nicki Greenberg's Great Gatsby just a few days ago, ending it on a very peculiar note, 'Shaun Tan says... (quoting his praising blurb)... but then he would, wouldn't he.' Shaun told me yesterday that he would have considered it fair play if she reviewed his own book and criticised some structural aspect of it, but to snidely dismiss his personal taste in a review of another person's book was unseemly (I can't recall Shaun's actual words). She arrived with the definite idea that the 'graphic novel' is preposterous pretense at literary seriousness and was putting me on the spot to prove otherwise. I put up a vigorous and intelligent defence. I shall let you know if it makes print. Meanwhile, a quick tally shows that I have now promoted the cause in eleven separate public 'events,' and managed to mention my own books too whenever I saw the chance, since I posted the Melbourne Age article here three weeks ago. Can you imagine how many 'looseners' that entails?
(ps. The tv spot may turn up on ABC Sunday Arts later today, I guess.*)
pps. And a big round of appreciation to the lovely Cori Stewart, who fought to get the 'graphic novel' into the Brisbane show this year, and who organised all the events while sweetly putting up with my curmudgeonly rants. Bless you.
*Nicki thinks it's next week. (Not showing on this week's menu")



Blogger James Robert Smith said...

I've never understood why folk who spend their time submitting stuff to other folk who are likely to reject it subsequently get upset when they see a less-than-positive review of their work. It would seem to me that by the time they'd actually seen a project through the submission process and into print that they'd have developed quite a thick skin.

Some people just don't like everything they read. Unless the critic just out of hand told her readers not to buy the work of the person she's reviewing, there's really no reason to lose your cool.

What is that Australian comedian says? "Harden the f*ck up."

I'm glad she went to someone like you as an advocate of the graphic novel form. At least she's arguing with someone who can hold his own in such a debate.

15 September 2007 at 20:01:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Eddie Campbell said...

I wonder if i made myself clear. Writing a negative review of Nicki's book and dismissing Shaun Tan at the same time adds up to more or less rejecting the whole idea of the graphic novel out of hand. I was careful to say that Shaun would have regarded a negative review of either book as fair game.

15 September 2007 at 20:43:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Eddie Campbell said...

and Nicki's a professional lawyer and able enough to deal with the cut and thrust of literary review.

so i'm not sure who you're referring to , james. perhaps somebody else. I cry myself to sleep if somebody writes a bad review of my book. then I grit my teeth over breakfast, and plot my revenge. I have a long memory. Years later I will write a bad review of a book by one who wrote a bad review of one of mine, and the funny thing is that the critics are always the ones who respond to negative criticism (I could give examples).

15 September 2007 at 20:50:00 GMT-5  
Blogger James Robert Smith said...

Yeah, I see what you mean about the blog. I was speed-reading, as usual. I need to stop doing that. (Slow the f**k down, James.)

15 September 2007 at 21:28:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In an ideal world everyone would have thick skins and be able to brush off criticism, deserved or otherwise. The reality is that these things often connect on a very basic emotional level. Easiest way to explain it is to say that, if you're a parent, imagine someone telling you that your children are stupid, ugly and worthless.

Our personal works are indeed like children, carefully nurtured then sent into the big, bad world while we fret at home, hoping they won't immediately be trampled and spat upon. The other side of this is that it's sometimes useful to have your ego deflated. But that doesn't mean the pinpricks don't hurt when you receive them.

16 September 2007 at 10:10:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Nicki Greenberg said...

Heh heh - for the record, the comment in the Australian cracked me up - and I DO mean laughing!

It was not actually a review, but rather a sort of snippy literary "gossip column", which included a brief and dismissive glance at recent adaptations of novels into other media - mostly video games.

I got the impression (though I may be wrong here) that the writer had read neither my book nor any of Shaun's - nor in fact any other "graphic novels".

The only part that pissed me off was her dismissive attitude to Shaun's opinion. As he says - one's published work is fair game, but to make unfounded assumptions and snide comments about their personal taste and critical faculties... well, what more can we expect from a gossip column, I suppose...

Heh - something else that made me giggle - at the CYA conference, Eddie - your name tag was the only one that said "graphic novelist". Leigh Rigozzi's said "writer and illustrator", and mine said "author"! Cruel, no?


16 September 2007 at 17:18:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Eddie Campbell said...

Ah! you remembered the quote marks.

or maybe you were just quoting.

16 September 2007 at 17:22:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Nicki Greenberg said...

No, I did it for you, Eddie!

Thanks again for showing me such a great time in Brisbane. I had a ball. Now, back in chilly Melbourne, I'm all wistful and a bit sad that the trip is over. Looking forward very much to next time.

Oh, and I'm just in the middle of posting about the fourteen tits... stay tuned.

16 September 2007 at 17:45:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Colman G said...

@ John C:

Bad reviews are one thing; but Eddie's concern, if I've understood him correctly, is that this journalist may be a particular type of critic. This type treats the "graphic novel" and its ambitions with the kind of pompous skepticism that James Randi brings to claims of the paranormal: the "graphic novel" is more accurately termed a pseudo-novel; Eddie, Nicki and Shaun are ridiculous charlatans, Mystic Megs of the literary world.

...I'm not sure how wise it is to argue the point with these critics. Eddie is a decent pundit himself, I'm not at all worried about him, he can look after himself. But the rest of us? I'm not sure it's healthy, if that makes sense.

Cartoon adaptations of H.P. Lovecraft, for example, are never going to convince skeptics of the value of the medium. So, you know, fuck that. Seriously. If it means hiding crazy Uncle John in the basement every time visitors come round — who gives a fuck?

16 September 2007 at 21:14:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Greg G said...

As per Nicki's comment above: the piece was not a review, but rather one paragraph in a newspaper column of the sort that I assume was written in the time it takes to have a bath.

Calling her a critic is inaccurate, and being rather charitable to boot.

16 September 2007 at 22:06:00 GMT-5  

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