IN PRAISE OF THE COMMON READER
Ramona Koval delivers the Overland lecture
The common reader … differs from the critic and the scholar. He is worse educated, and nature has not gifted him so generously. He reads for his own pleasure rather than to impart knowledge or correct the opinions of others. Above all, he is guided by an instinct to create for himself, out of whatever odds and ends he can come by, some kind of whole – a portrait of a man, a sketch of an age, a theory of the art of writing. He never ceases, as he reads, to run up some rickety and ramshackle fabric which shall give him the temporary satisfaction of looking sufficiently like the real object to allow of affection, laughter, and argument.
—Virginia Woolf, The Common Reader, 1925
In 1995 I interviewed America’s brilliant literary essayist, novelist and teacher William Gass. While his essays were full of civility and light, earning him three National Book Critic Circle Awards for Criticism, amongst other honours, his just published novel, The Tunnel, was quite different. William Kohler, its protagonist, is a man in his fifties, a professor at a midwestern university, who’s just finished his magnum opus, Guilt and Innocence in Hitler’s Germany, which has taken him thirty years. When Kohler sits down to write an introduction to the book, he produces instead passages full of bigotry, self-loathing and loathing for humanity. Here, he justifies the Holocaust and his hatred for the victims and his miserable masturbations over his marriage and his affairs. The ‘tunnel’ is Kohler’s metaphor for a sewer, an alimentary canal, a vagina. And it also refers to the passage he’s secretly digging under his house.
Gass’ book is itself designed like a thing that doesn’t want to be read. There is the forbidding cover, in black and white and red, reminiscent of the swastika flag and meant to be exactly so. Inside are designs of flags for the Party of Disappointed People, cartoons, typographical games, and filthy and anti-Semitic limericks and ditties in bold type.
Gass has been a professor of philosophy at Washington University in St Louis, and director of the international writing program there.
Like his protagonist, Kohler, Gass spent thirty years writing his magnum opus. He said that he wanted to make art out of evil, to prove that art has nothing to do with morality. He was interested in the aesthetic challenge of taking on certain kinds of contemporary evils and giving them eloquent expression. He said that “since art is for me primarily a form matter and not a content matter, then it should be possible to render anything whatever beautifully”.
I asked him how a novel that deals with the Holocaust, with Hitler and the camps, could be self-contained when the events actually happened in the real world; whether employing these real events carries with it some moral responsibility. He said it was a mistake to suppose that, because a book might be in some sense immoral or untrue, therefore it’s a bad work of art.
I asked him about the characters novelists create and whether part of the writers’ art is to make the reader care about them as human beings rather than as constructions on a page. His response took me aback.
“No. That’s childish,” he said. “That’s to confuse, seriously, a creation. These are not real people; they’re verbal constructs. To imagine that they’re real is a very, I think, naïve mistake … Fiction is not a road to truth. If you want to take the road to truth, you go through science and philosophy, say, or mathematics possibly; that’s certainly valid. The novel may of course contain things that turn out to be true, but then you have to re-establish them on their own feet and examine them the way anyone investigating the truth about something would. The novel is an imaginary world; not the real world.”
And when I said that most people did not read like that, he said:
Well, most people are not interested in art. They are interested in the world, they are interested in themselves, they’re interested in people like themselves; and the novel has traditionally played on this. It has created, indeed, this so-called ‘realistic’ tradition, which bourgeois society really loves. But of course it’s not realism at all, actually. It’s a fake. In a realistic novel, which people then mistake for life, you tend to know everything that’s going on; values tend to be relatively clear, action proceeds in a cause-and-effect manner, there’s a point to things, a purpose; there aren’t obscurities, the narrator is telling the truth – all of that kind of thing and of course it all leads to a final resolution. And I just think that, well, that’s all very nice, and I love Trollope too; but it isn’t life. Life is not storytelling. Life is full of obscurities, repetitions, confusions, pointlessness – in fact pointlessness is what it’s all about. So in one sense, oddly, I would argue that my book, for all it’s so-called confusing surface, is more realistic than the so-called realistic tradition.
So the people who read novels to pretend to find out about life are just fooling themselves – but they want to be fooled. And there are a lot of novelists ready to oblige them.
Gass was arguing that obscure writing is actually more realistic. Were, then, stories that sounded the least ‘real’ the most ‘true’? Was life really not about storytelling?
I have not been educated in either literature or literary theory but I knew that Gass represented one end of a spectrum which placed the importance of text and language above character and story. But I had studied science and it occurred to me that Gass might have, in turn, a rather naïve view of what truths were possible using scientific approaches.
Even the most difficult concepts in science are regularly conveyed by means of a story of some kind. In fact, these kinds of stories – that the immune system was like an army; that the inside of an atom was like Schrödinger’s cat in a box – helped human beings understand more about the realities and truths that science pursued than we otherwise might. Perhaps stories even helped us pose the kinds of questions we went on to solve both experimentally and theoretically.
But was I being childish? Did I really want to be fooled about life?
What is a childhood? We assume that it is a time of innocence, a time when we play with our toys and our parents provide a warm and supportive home and gently introduce us to the world around us.
Today in America there are legions of adults combing the shelves of schools and public libraries for ‘unsuitable’ stories that might corrupt young minds. This year, top of the American Library Association’s annual list of texts about which parents and school officials complained was an award-winning picture book called And Tango Makes Three, based on a true story about two male penguins who together hatched an adopted fertilised egg at New York’s Central Park Zoo.
One of the first stories I remember was told to me by my father, a Jewish Holocaust survivor from Poland. So what did he think important to tell a child?
A woodcutter was wandering about in a forest.
I imagined it was in Poland. I always thought Poland was cold and possibly snowy but when I went there it was summer and the cornflowers bloomed in the fields. Fields of rye. Maybe they were rye flowers. I’m sure there must be rye flowers, although I’m not certain they are blue. And the flowers in Poland were blue.
Anyway, in this story there was simply a man and there and then he came upon a bird that, my father said, he wanted to kill and carry home to feed his family. I remember my father said he grabbed the bird, which is very hard because they are such sensitive flighty things, and all the ones in the St Kilda gardens that I had chased would never have been caught by grabbing. And maybe my father, the uneducated Polish tailor, just didn’t know the right English word. But now the bird is in the man’s hands. And just before he kills the bird – and, did I tell you, I am five years old when this killing is about to happen – just before he breaks its neck, it speaks to him.
“Don’t kill me,” says the bird.
“Why not?” says the man.
“Because if you let me live I will reward you by telling you three secrets of life.”
“All right,” says the man. “What are they?”
“One – don’t believe what you are told. Two – don’t climb higher than you can. And three – don’t reach for things beyond your grasp.”
And the man let the bird go and it flew and flew, higher and higher, onto the top of a very tall tree. I imagined it was like a Christmas tree, not a straggly gum tree or even one of the palms on Beaconsfield Parade, across the road from our flat.
And now the bird begins to laugh, and, really, I hear it as a cruel laugh, a jeering laugh.
And I hear the voice of the bird, no longer sweet.
“Oh, you are such a stupid man! You let me go, but I have a heart that is pure and solid gold and if you had killed me you would have had riches beyond your dreams. And now you have nothing! Not even a bird for your dinner!”
This made the man very angry. He realised that he had lost his fortune. And he began to climb the big tree. And he climbed it to the very top to the part where the branches get smaller and smaller and hard to hold and the tree top moves in the wind. And just when he got to the topmost branch and the bird was within his grasp, it flew off and hovered just over his head, and he held out his hand to reach it, and lost his balance and toppled over, crashing to the ground.
He was dead.
And, my father said, the man thought he had lost his fortune but, actually, he had been given three secrets for life. He was told not to believe what he was told, and yet he believed the bird about the golden heart. And he was told not to climb higher than he could and he didn’t listen, and he climbed to the top of the tree. And he was told not to reach for things beyond his grasp and he did, and he fell to his death.
What a strange story! But I liked it and I remember asking for it to be told again and again. I was intrigued by the paradox of being advised not to listen to advice. It was the opposite of stories about heroic adventures and magic powers and striving for success, just the kind of story that arose in a feudal landscape where no-one expected too much and it was best not to make waves.
When I began to work in broadcasting, my father said if you have to speak up, speak nicely and, above all, don’t be controversial.
At primary school they played us the 1944 recording of Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Happy Prince’, as adapted for radio. Another story about a bird and a man, but this time the man was already dead, a statue, and the bird was a swallow resting at his feet. She was on her way to Egypt to join her friends, after waiting behind to resolve an impossible love affair with an unsuitable object – a reed, in fact.
I found a recording of the story while I was writing this, and heard again the tones of Orson Welles, and they took me back to the mat at St Kilda Park state school where we sat on the floor for story time.
“High above the city,” he begins, “on a tall column, stood the statue of the Happy Prince. He was gilded all over with thin leaves of fine gold, for eyes he had two bright sapphires, and a large red ruby glowed on his sword hilt.”
The story tells of the prince’s awareness, after a life of carefree happiness, that there were people in his city who were poor and needed help, and how he cried all over the little swallow at his feet.
“When I was alive and had a human heart,” he says, “I did not know what tears were, for I lived in the palace of Sans-Souci, where sorrow is not allowed to enter. So I lived, and so I died. And now that I am dead they have set me up here so high that I can see all the ugliness and all the misery of my city, and though my heart is made of lead yet I cannot choose but weep.”
Can you imagine how sad this sounded, intoned by Orson Welles?
The prince asks the swallow to help him, and slowly the sapphires and the ruby and the leaves of gold are given to the needy of the city (including a writer in a garret who needs to finish a play he’s working on). But winter comes and the prince has given everything up and the swallow has helped so much that she has missed the opportunity to fly with the other swallows to Egypt and she falls dead at the statue’s feet. And somehow the statue is dead again, too, and he’s melted down by the burghers of the city because he is no longer beautiful and the only thing left is his heart of lead.
And the story ends like this:
“What a strange thing!” said the overseer of the workmen at the foundry. “This broken lead heart will not melt in the furnace. We must throw it away.” So they threw it on a dust-heap where the dead swallow was also lying.
Then Orson says:
“Bring me the two most precious things in the city,” said God to one of his angels; and the angel brought him the leaden heart and the dead bird.
I still adore this tale of sacrifice and love, and I’m amazed that, after all this time, it still has the power to move me. What a very different bird is the sweet swallow from the nasty bird in the Polish forest! But, again, there is the paradox of the prince enlisting the swallow to bring happiness to various people in the city, while causing the death of the good little bird.
There were other stories that I found equally unforgettable. When I was nine, I read Hans Christian Andersen’s 1845 story, ‘The Red Shoes’, about an orphan girl called Karen who wanted a pair of red shoes just like she had seen a princess wear. She managed to acquire a pair and not only wore them to church, already a show-offy thing to do, but – worse still – she thought about them when she was taking communion.
Of course she had to be punished.
An old soldier with a red beard whom she passed outside the church cast a spell and that was it. She was cursed to dance uncontrollably until she met an executioner. And she was so tired from the out-of-control dancing she begged him to cut off her feet, which he did, and her feet went on dancing in the red shoes around the countryside.
The story concludes, “And he carved her a pair of wooden feet and some crutches, and taught her a psalm which is always sung by sinners; she kissed the hand that guided the axe, and went away over the heath.”
She went on to become a very pious girl who was finally allowed back to church, minus her feet. I can still see the bloody feet in the red shoes dancing and dancing over the wooded landscape.
So never want what princesses have – and if you get it, don’t think about it in church, or your feet will have to come off and you will have to kiss the hand of the man who chops them. Another paradox – the God of forgiveness and do-unto-others so unreasonably cruel to a poor girl who was already an orphan, just because she loved her red shoes!
If childhood is a time of innocence, tales like these were an assault on grace.
I officially lost my literary innocence on the floor of the Camberwell Bus Library in 1965. I’m not sure if they still have this kind of service in urban centres like Melbourne, but, after we moved to the eastern suburbs and to our own house, the bus used to come and park down near the shops, and, for immigrant families like mine, where parents had been only been educated to primary school and where their first, second, third, fourth and fifth languages were other than English, for these families, the bus was much less daunting than the big main library near the Camberwell Town Hall. Such institutions presented problems – they were hard to navigate when you looked different and spoke with an accent. The bus was much easier. There were fewer books, and things could be approached on a more human scale.
So Mama took my hand and got me registered, and I had a card and was so proud. These were the books for children and these were the ones for grown-ups. But I quickly tired of the children’s section. I noticed that, as you lay on your belly on the floor of the bus that smelt of lino and rubber, deciding which books to take, you could read the spines of the adult section. There I spied Kafka and Kazantzakis, Kerouac and Koestler. There I learned to put things into alphabetical order.
I decided to sample Kafka’s The Trial because, as you might remember, it’s rather a slim volume. I took the book up to the librarian.
Please sir, I said, like Oliver Twist, may I have this one?
But that’s for adults, he said. You’re only in Grade Six.
But please sir, I’ve read all the interesting ones for kids. I’d really like to try this.
And he let me borrow it.
I walked home gravely, the book in my clammy hand, its plastic reinforcement getting misty.
Actually I hadn’t read all the books for kids – C.S. Lewis had passed me by, so had Tolkien, and most of Enid Blyton.
But I remember reading The Trial, getting the idea that Kafka was writing about some system that was bewildering to his protagonist, that for some reason he was being investigated for something he didn’t do. For me, it had echoes of childhood and my own general state of bewilderment.
I read the book again when I was much older, and understood it more. But the bus librarian gave me confidence, and the bus itself was small enough to make me think I had its measure and that people in there would take me seriously. In his 1947 report, ‘Public Libraries in Australia’, one Lionel McColvin said of these kinds of services, “Nowhere else in the English-speaking world will books have to be taken so far for so few, and nowhere else will they mean so much.”
In the pages from this library, and in the books my teachers gave me, I found myself, in a sense. I read Christina Stead’s The Man Who Loved Children and discovered a girl with a difficult relationship with her father, and knew for the first time that my own experience was not an isolated case in a world of good daddies and happy games and being tossed into the air by strong arms.
I read ‘My Mother’s House’ and ‘Sido’, the stories by Colette, which gave me a child’s-eye view of adults in a French provincial village; I followed the tragic life of Flaubert’s Madame Bovary who read too many books and thought reality should be romantic, and I still have an image of her walking over the edge of a cliff, her face pressed close to the book in her hands. That scene was never in Flaubert but it’s the way my mind catalogued her fate.
While William Gass implied that childish reading tends towards the simplification of life, I found that I learned adult truths from stories. Perhaps we need to believe that stories are real, need to identify with characters so that they come to life and affect us, like the statue in ‘The Happy Prince’.
In 2000 the first Inuit-made feature film – Atanarjuat, the fast runner – was released to wide acclaim. It warns of the danger of setting personal desire above the needs of the group. Atanarjuat falls for a woman promised to his rival and so has to flee from the community, running naked for miles and miles over the ice. This scene in the film is extraordinary, seemingly shot in real time, and bone chilling.
Writer and filmmaker Zacharias Kunuk said he heard the story of Atanarjuat from his mother when he was a child, falling asleep side by side with five brothers and sisters:
Our father would wake up at the crack of dawn and harness his dog team and go out hunting for our family, and our mother would put us to sleep at night with all these stories about our ancestors, how they lived, and what would happen to us if we were like this one or that one when we grew up … once you get that picture into your head of that naked man running for his life across the ice, his hair flying, you never forget it … buried were all these lessons we kids were supposed to learn about how if you break these taboos that kept our ancestors alive, you could be out there running for your life, just like him.
He may have heard the story as a child, and listened to it in a childish fashion, but he made the film as an adult and we saw it as adults and learned the lessons of the fast runner as we shivered in the cinema. In our own Western traditions, stories have been told from before the time of the Old Testament or Socrates, asking how we are to live, what makes a happy life, and how is it possible to honour the very souls with which we are blessed.
I have a friend who is an extremely observant Jew. We have begun a conversation about why he is resistant to reading novels and why I am determined that it will do him good to read them. He offers a deal. He agrees to read my novel, which I say will take him three hours, if I will agree to go to a one hour teaching session with the new local rabbi.
Three to one – how could I not agree?
We complete our tasks. I am struck by the rabbi’s lack of interest in the views of the women gathered to discuss a Torah reading; my friend has a long list of questions for me about my book.
We talk of storytelling. He asks why he should listen to stories from people he knows nothing about. Who are they to tell these stories and what are they trying to say in them? Isn’t it better to hear the stories from the sages – the people whose spiritual goodness has been proven? After all, the Baal Sham Tov – the founder of Hassidism – used stories to move the spirit in those whom he thought spiritually dormant.
My friend tells me a story about Reb Zusia from Anipol, who lay on his deathbed surrounded by his students and disciples. He was crying and no-one could comfort him. One student asked his rebbe, “Why do you cry? You were almost as wise as Moses, our great teacher, and as kind as Abraham, the patriarch.”
Reb Zusia answered, “When I pass from this world and appear before the Heavenly Tribunal, they won’t ask me, ‘Zusia, why weren’t you as wise as Moses or as kind as Abraham?’ Rather, they will ask me, ‘Zusia, why weren’t you Zusia?’ Why didn’t I fulfil my potential, why didn’t I follow the path that could have been mine?”
Like the woodcutter’s tale, this story tells us how to live. On the one hand, we are urged not to reach too far and too high, not to expect too much. On the other hand, we are told to be the best we can be. Which advice do we choose? Is there one rule for a simple village tailor and another for a distinguished rabbi? Does choosing between them depend on the time and place you find yourself, what century it is and how easy it is for you to act on your desires? The threat of death hangs over all these stories, making the choices both poignant and dangerous.
And, if my friend prefers to hear stories from people whose spiritual goodness has been proven, what might he make of a writer who wishes to make art out of evil?
I went into labour with my first daughter at the age of just twenty-one. Packing my bag for the hospital, I included the usual things, as well as the draft of my honours thesis in microbiology. I thought I might be able to write between the contractions and then, when the baby had come, between the feeds.
After the birth, my friend gave me a gift I have long cherished. A book of short stories. She explained that, as a single mother of a seven-year-old, she knew that short stories were all you ever got a chance to finish. These were the work of American writer Grace Paley. The collection was The Little Disturbances of Man and when I read it, I heard a voice that resonated with me, making me laugh and cry. The stories seemed full of practical wisdom.
‘Goodbye and Good Luck’ is still my favourite, the first story she wrote in 1956, at the age of thirty-four.
In it, an ageing woman reminisces fondly about her youth and the love of her life (a not always faithful actor in the Yiddish theatre). It is a story we expect will end badly for her but, instead, it moves to an unexpectedly blissful conclusion.
The story begins like this:
I was popular in certain circles, says Aunt Rose. I wasn’t no thinner then, only more stationary in the flesh. In time to come Lillie, don’t be surprised – change is a fact of God. From this no-one is excused. Only a person like your Mama stands on one foot, she don’t notice how big her behind is getting and sings in the canary’s ear for thirty years. Who’s listening? Papa’s in the shop. You and Seymour, thinking about yourself. So she waits in a spotless kitchen for a kind word and thinks – poor Rosie …
Poor Rosie! If there was more life in my little sister, she would know my heart is a regular collage of feelings and there is such information between my corset and me that her whole married life is a kindergarten.
I really want to read you the whole story: it is so lovely, so full of hope and so full of grace.
As American novelist and critic Joyce Carol Oates has said: “How aptly named: Grace Paley. For ‘grace’ is perhaps the most accurate, if somewhat poetic, term to employ in speaking of this gifted writer.”
Paley has been called a lyricist of the domestic life, writing of men and women, children and parents and of politics of the kind that Overland has been concerned with since its inception. When asked why she wrote relatively little, she said, “for me there is a lot of time between knowing and telling” and, when asked why she didn’t attempt longer, more ambitious and technically challenging fiction, she replied: “Art is too long, and life is too short. There’s a lot more to do in life than just writing.”
“I was a woman,” she explained, “writing at the early moment when small drops of worried resentment and noble rage were secretly, slowly building into the second wave of the women’s movement. I didn’t know my small-drop presence or usefulness in this accumulation.”
Grace Paley was seventy-eight when I finally met her in New York at the French Roast, a coffee shop on the corner of 11th Street and 6th Avenue, in 2001. She was tiny and I towered over her to kiss her hello. Later she would tell me about a friend of hers who had died.
“Not like me,” she said, “my friend was petite.”
“And you’re not?” I asked, laughing.
“Petite in the garment industry but not in real life,” she said. “I’m just short and fat.”
We sat in the corner of the cafe, eating salad and drinking coffee, and talking about the terrible new president (the ‘American coup’, she called it), the Russians, the short stories of Isaac Babel, our daughters, her grandchildren, adoption, stories of women who had given up their babies, and her trip to Arizona to an Indian reservation for a writers’ workshop.
She asked me to walk with her. She needed to do some shopping and offered to show me her neighbourhood.
“You know something about life?” she said, as we stood up from the table.
“Tell me,” I said.
“When you’re seventy-eight and you get up from sitting at a table for a long time, your joints hurt.”
The reason why we couldn’t meet at her house, she said, was that her daughter Nora was not feeling well and had flown in from Vermont for a rest. Nora made her mother promise that she could have the house to herself.
“How old is your daughter?” I asked.
“She’s a middle-aged woman. If she were younger, I’d know more how to handle her.”
She said her kids resented her sociability when they were growing up. The numbers of people dropping by the house all the time bothered them, and now, she thought, maybe she overdid it.
We walked past her house on 11th Street and she pointed out the landmarks: the church, which was now a library, and the women’s prison now a courtyard.
“Is that where you were kept when you got arrested?” I asked. She wrote a story about her character, Faith, who had been arrested at a demonstration. Her cell was full of black women who were in for drugs or violence or prostitution. When Faith explains why she’s there, I seem to remember one of them shouting to the guards, “Get this housewife outta here!”
We walked to a hardware store to find some handles for an old chest of drawers. I asked as we walk along the street, “How is it when your friends die?”
“Terrible,” she said, “and they go in batches.”
We talked about the merits of having younger or older husbands. She said that friends who marry younger men are always concerned that their husbands will leave them, especially as they get older.
“They always think it’s the age,” she said, “but it could be other things. I like my old man.”
She stopped for a moment and smiled to me as she talked of her husband, Robert, who at eighty-two has started a new publishing venture with her in order to “publish books that lots of publishers have rejected”.
“I like my old man, but I wouldn’t want to be a younger woman married to an old man.”
She kept pausing in the street to tell me things about life.
“I had breast cancer last year. I had one breast removed, but I’m fine now. I’m good.”
As we parted we saw a professional dog-walker with five charges. He tied them to a fire hydrant and went into a shop. They all sniffed each other’s hindquarters and pissed on the hydrant. They looked just like a cartoon from the New Yorker magazine.
She pointed out the best way for me to get back to where I was staying and we kissed and parted. She walked slowly back to 11th Street, her bushy grey hair blowing in the February wind.
As I watched her walking away, I thought that I could have been in a story by Grace Paley. In many of them, the women simply go for long walks and talk. That day I had been given words of wisdom: a door had opened into her life, and closed again as she walked into the day.
Art not only imitates life, but life imitates art. Perhaps we not only learn about life from stories; perhaps we make our lives through the stories we tell ourselves about the things that happen to us.
Grace Paley died a few months ago at the age of eighty-four. Jess Row wrote one of her obituaries: “Like all the greatest masters of the short story – Chekhov, Hemingway, Sholom Aleichem, Raymond Carver, Amy Hempel – Paley had an uncanny genius for containing a world within a sentence … Her stories are often described as having a spontaneous, performative quality, like dramatic monologues. But this is a carefully cultivated illusion – her language mimics colloquial speech but pares it down to nubbins of almost Beckett-like brevity.”
Somehow I can’t see William Gass’ The Tunnel on a treasured list of books belonging to anyone I know. But I do know those to which I will return for the feel and comfort of a wise heart. It won’t be the books that play with language constructs, but those that give expression to the inner worlds we carry around inside our heads, that invite us to say, “Suppose it were me?”
We read to find out what the world is like, to experience lots of lives, not just the one that we live. If it is true that our lives are chaotic and we crave a shape, stories might be shapes that we put on experience, containing all the wisdom in the world. We can even choose what kind of wisdom suits us.
“When people get old,” Grace told the Paris Review in 1994, “they seem wise, but it’s only because they’ve got a little more experience, that’s all. I’m not so wise. Two things happen when you get older. You have more experience, so you either seem wiser, or you get totally foolish. There are only those two options. You choose one, probably the wrong one.”
Grace Paley was petite in the garment industry but not in real life. In reality, she was a giant. I can’t walk with Grace Paley in Greenwich Village in New York anymore, but I can open her books and feel her there again, her hand on my hand, her smile across the table, her voice – or a voice like hers – saying, as she does in the opening line of one of her stories, “There were two husbands disappointed by eggs …”.
How could you do anything except turn the page to see what happens next?
Ramona Koval is a writer and broadcaster. She presents The Book Show on Radio National and her latest collection of Radio National interviews is Tasting Life Twice: Conversations with Remarkable Writers (ABC Books, 2005).
© Ramona Koval
Overland 189 – summer 2007, pp. 3-10
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