Further to my last post about saying yes to everything, in late November I found myself in the pulse-pounding position of being on stage before a live audience at the Village Roadshow Theatrette at the State Library Victoria for the recording of the Great Debate for Radio National’s The Book Show. The topic for debate was that ‘a writer’s only responsibility is to their art’, derived from a quote by William Faulkner. (As it happens, I used the same quote as the epigraph to a conference paper on the ethics of borrowing from real life for fiction).
With Wayne Macauley and Melanie Cheng, I was part of the negative team, taking on the debating might of Katherine Colette (whose latest fiction project involves toastmasters), Robert Lukins, and former barrister (and mate) Jock Serong, under the watchful eye of The Book Show’s Sarah L’Estrange.
It was an interesting exercise to put my case together, and I’m grateful to my debating coach and fellow author Nick Gadd for playing devil’s advocate during this process. While I stand by most of the points I argued, I’m not entirely sure about others — something I sense was shared by speakers on both sides of the debate. While we didn’t necessarily let our ambivalence show on the night, generally speaking, writers of fiction like us tend to dwell in the liminal spaces between black and white, right and wrong, positive and negative. Whether this makes us second-rate debaters is up to the listener to decide.
The debate will be broadcast on Mon 9 Dec at 10AM, or you can listen here to the podcast.