Fragments from Sydney

1. Periodically the rain bursts down torrentially. The city is rambling and crumbling and green. Coming from Melbourne – which sits down in the south like a bunch of huts in a dust bowl – the weather seems exotic, like some Ballardian vision from The Drowned World. When not at the Writers Festival I’m typing away in the vast empty spaces of a grand old terrace house in Glebe.

2. Germaine Greer takes the stage after Jeff’s carefully and finely worded introduction. The applause in the packed hall is powerful enough that she raises two hands, smiles and says, “What am I going to do with you?” There is little doubt that she is wildly charismatic, and her talk is a grab-bag of issues about Australia. The crowd – a mixed group, generally older – applaud periodically throughout, though I wonder quite where they all stand, politically. A woman asks “Do you have hope for our female politicians? Can you foresee a female prime-minister?”. Greer answers “Do we really care?” Incensed, a woman sitting next to G and I calls out angrily “Yes we do!” Greer continues on, arguing that it’s a systemic problem, and mentioning Thatcher. “The plumbing doesn’t matter” she says. Afterwards I see an older woman wearing a t-shirt that says something like “My Marxist Feminist Days are Not Over.” She may not have been representative of the audience.

3. After the event three of us retire to the pub to debates about radio and television. G wanders in halfway through. Drinks. The conversation is good. This is what I go to festivals for. At one point I grandiosely claim that panels are for being on, not watching, and bemoan the state of the preparation that most writers do. I’m immediately pulled up on this by N, who points out it’s the role of a good facilitator to make the panelists work hard.

4. I have dinner with K and M at Cafe Otto in Glebe. We talk and talk into the night. M looks increasingly worn and pale. He has been ill. But it is good times. Again the conversation is good. It makes such a difference between being among one’s people – people who you share a deep understanding with. It makes me think of how much time I spend with other people, with whom I have little connection.

5. J and I talk – following the Greer speech – about the nature of charisma. I assert that it is composed of two things: 1) Immediate self-expression and the lack of calculation in that expression and as a correlate 2) Not really caring what other people think. It seems to me that Greer has these qualities. She says what she thinks immediately, without calculation, and often it does offend people. She doesn’t really seem to care. For that reason, it’s somewhat mesmerising, bacause you’re always wondering what she’s going to say next.

Rjurik Davidson

Rjurik Davidson is a writer, editor and speaker. Rjurik’s novel, The Stars Askew was released in 2016. Rjurik is a former associate editor of Overland magazine. He can be found at and tweets as @rjurikdavidson.

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