The New York Times news bureau in Australia asks readers: ''What makes Australian intellectuals and cultural critics tick?" (It's not always a pretty picture) -- WHAT'S YOUR TAKE ON ALL THIS MESHAGUS?
Recently, the Sydney news bureau of the New York Times, overseen by veteran reporter and editor Damien Cave, posted a brief rant in its weekly newsletter to readers about the the state of Australian culture and its relationship with Aussie literary circles, sci-fi literary critics and public intellectuals. Cave was wondering "What makes Australian culture workers tick?"
Damien Cave is the new Australia Bureau Chief for The New York Times. He’s covered more than a dozen countries for The Times, including Mexico, Cuba, Iraq and Lebanon. Follow him on Twitter at @damiencave and on Instagram, also at @damiencave.
We hope you’re enjoying our weekly dispatches from our new Australia bureau. Tell us what you think at NYTAustralia@nytimes.com. - Damien Cave
Cave, who is now the editor of the New York Times in Australia bureau, a new posting for him, wonders why ''some'' (just some, most are open to new things) Australian sci-fi lit critics, among them James Bradley and Lucy Sussex, tend to be publicly negative towards the new lit genre of cli-fi, with sci-fi booster Bradley in the SMH in 2015 calling it "an unfortunate shorthand" ''[for climate fiction]'' and sci-fi short story writer Sussex calling it "an appalling term" in the Sydney Review of Books just the other day. Cave notes in a Times newseletter for readers of the Oz edition and his take is headlined''The Fall and Rise of Australian Culture ''
and he writes among other things: ''Sebastian Smee, a wonderful Asutralian art critic who returned to Sydney this year after winning a Pulitzer with the Boston Globe, wrote for us about the Art Gallery of New South Wales and its struggle to obtain the financing it needed to expand its exhibition and event space.''
''Later in the week, Besha Rodell, another Australian who has become a standout in the United States — in her case, Los Angeles — explored the battle over how to modernize Melbourne’s beloved Queen Victoria Market. ''
''Both pieces ***mined the tension*** in Australia that ***often seems to come with proposals for the new, the bold, the different.*** This is something Ben Shewry, the world-renowned Attica chef who Sam Sifton profiled this week as part of a special series of features on Australian food and drink, talked about when we hosted an event with him in Melbourne last month: ***the degree to which Australia tends to criticize new ideas and new literary genres, the nails that stick out, [just like Japanese culture].
Damien added: ''So is Australia becoming more open to bold creative expression or is this country ***just as eager as always to cut down the tall poppies who stick their heads up and stand out? "***
---- ''Quick, don’t overthink it: What comes to mind? What have you seen, heard, tasted, watched or read lately that’s Australian and that has really moved you or challenged you or made you want to share it with the world? ''****Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, *** and tell us what it is (multiple examples are welcome; if you've got a Top Five, I want to know) and explain your choice. In the next NYT OZ newsletter, I'll share a few choice contributions.Don't feel a need to be snobby, either. What we're trying to explore here is how Australians experience culture high, low or in-between and what that might reveal about the country's attitude toward insurgent creativity. ''
Several Australians already chimed in about Bradley and Sussex, and Australian literary critics and so-called public intellectuals
saying that James and Lucy were part of the problem and not part of the solution.
An adjunct professor of literature in Perth, said: ''There is some truth in this. But the big difference between the US and Australia is size - not just of the country, but of the SF community, the literary community, the intelligentsia. In such small worlds it's often difficult to dissent: Australian intellectuals tend to hunt in packs.''
Another Australian said: ''As an Australian I appreciate the perspectives that outsiders bring to our public debates even if they may miss some nuances or I may disagree with them. Australia is an island and our public debate often reflects that with limited, narrow perspectives and an attitude of anti-intellectualism. ''
And a third Australian wrote: "As an Australian who works in climate scenario planning, preparedness and resilience, I often use cli-fi and third party narratives to help build creativity and imagination in newbie leadership workshops. Being mindful of science based models, data and output is critical though as too much fantasy can lead to nonsense and lose audiences. Having first worked on climate in the early 90's through a risk and opportunity lens, I've seen a rapid growth in the tails of climate polarity especially in Australia. With othering, left goes left and right goes right which can create some room in the middle. However as each tail from doomers to deniers gets louder it can marginalise the other, traumatise the middle and stop critical thinking. As a Sydney citizen and avid reader, I've probably only read Sydney Review of Books once in 20 years! NY and London, Delhi and Asia are markers for my perspectives. I crowdsource my reviews to avoid homophilly and seek paragogy as an aid to forming my perspectives. I think "Big island small mind "is a fair criticism for the "squatocracy" and rather conservative anti-stereotypes that hog the arts here. Dan you've shown good leadership with ypur cli-fi public relations work,and the CF community is growing worldwide -- keep going and don't fear the misguided and snarky haters / knockers in Australia!''
And Ed Wright, a book reviewer for the Australian newspaper, started off his recent review of an Australian novel this way, ignoring the unfortunate attack dog tactics of literary critics Bradley and Sussex, writing in his first sentence: ''Cli-fi, which imagines our world in the aftermath of climate change, is booming. It’s a brand of dystopian narrative that often features desiccated landscapes, where resources are scarce and contested and ingenuity is required just to survive. Lotus Blue (Talos, 382pp, $22.99), the debut novel from Australian writer at Sparks, a much anthologised science fiction writer, is a compelling addition to these ranks.''
Poet, novelist, librettist Alison Croggan joins with the Bradley Sussex pack and says the cli-fi term is in her Australian literary opinion "naff." But she also said "Pax". So she means well even though she's a bit closed minded for a member of the Australian literary council. Hunting in packs. Seems to be an incestuous Australian literary intellectual pasttime. Sigh. Will it ever end? 100 more years. Provincial island mentality.
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