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More from David Marr …

September 18, 2016

To write my recent post on David Marr, I did some research, as I usually do when I take notes at a lecture or seminar, because I need to make sure that the book title or author name or quote that I recorded in my notes are correct. That’s how, for example, I found the exact quote from Cavafy that I used in my post.

However, when doing this research I sometimes uncover items that don’t relate to the topic I’m researching but are too good to not share. In the case of Marr, one of the pieces I found was an interview with Marr conducted by the National Library not long before the lecture. It’s not long but contains a couple of comments that I loved.

The full interview is available online at the NLA, but I’m just going to share his responses to three questions.

David Marr, Quarterly Essay Faction ManThe first question asked what was “the best part of writing” his latest book, his Quarterly Essay on Bill Shorten titled “Faction man”. Marr answered

Learning what I didn’t know then explaining it to readers as baffled as I once was.

I liked this because in the lecture we attended he described himself as an “explainer”. Makes sense to me. In fact it’s what we want writers like Marr to do for us, isn’t it?

The next question I want to share asked him for “the strangest piece of advice” he’d “ever been given as a writer”. He responded:

When you’re cutting, never cut the jokes. The old newspaper editor who told me this wasn’t inviting me to be trivial. He was saying: delighting readers matters and humour is a way to the truth.

I totally agree. We can be too earnest at times. A good sense of humour never gets in the way of the truth, in my experience.

The last question I’m sharing asked him for “the strangest question” he’d been asked about his writing. He said

My mother rang one day years ago and asked: ‘Are you working today or just writing?’ I’ve celebrated that ever since.

Besides making me laugh, it brought me back to his Seymour lecture and why he wrote his biography of Patrick White: it was inspired by a contradiction between White’s statement that his parents never wanted him to be a writer and the fact that his parents apparently bankrolled a publisher in order to encourage them to publish White’s poems. (Interestingly, Bill, commenting on my Seymour post, said that his parents didn’t want him to be a truck drive but they still helped him by his first truck. So, perhaps White’s parents’ action doesn’t contradict White’s statement about their wishes for him!)

8 Comments leave one →
  1. September 18, 2016 11:16 pm

    I’m with Bill: parents often have ambitions for their children that aren’t shared by the child, but #SpeakingFromExperience parents who love their kids will often help even when it’s against their better judgement.

    • September 18, 2016 11:34 pm

      Yes, I agree – and I think that parents should support their children in their ambitions (unless of course their ambitions are illegal!) We don’t have a right, really, to tell our children how they should live their lives do we? All we can do is love them, provide an education, advise them and provide support in whatever way we can. (And hope it all works out in the end!)

      • September 19, 2016 9:46 am

        I think what I’m questioning is why Marr should be puzzled by White’s claim and his parents’ actions and see it as a discrepancy. He’s making a story out of it (I’ve heard him say the same thing at an event here in Melbourne) as if it’s evidence that White was a liar, or self-deluded or something.

        • September 19, 2016 10:12 am

          Oh I didn’t read it that way so much as it just intrigued him. I think White could be very acerbic about his parents (moreso perhaps than many people whose parents disagree with them but support them anyhow?) so Marr saw that the story was a little more complicated. Saying that his parents didn’t want him to write but apparently not also saying that they nonetheless helped him get a start, suggests White was not telling the whole truth? (Which is different from lying.) I’d say it was evidence of a complex relationship that Marr was intrigued to tease out more.

          So, the story from Marr’s point of view is that he saw something interesting there, and that’s what inspired him to write his biography. I didn’t gather – at this lecture anyhow – that he was making more of a story out of this particular issue beyond that it was the trigger for his intrigue but I might be wrong as I haven’t read the bio?

        • September 19, 2016 10:35 am

          Oh, don’t remind me, I really *must* read the bio, I’ve had it so long, and I do want to… it’s just soooo long!

        • September 19, 2016 10:06 pm

          Yes, I know – but you read Xavier Herbert. YOU have NO excuse! Haha!

  2. September 21, 2016 5:57 am

    His mom’s question cracked me up!

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