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I'm Laura Kroetsch, Director of Adelaide Writers' Week. Come and journey with me through the marvellous world of literature. If you feel inspired, get involved and leave a comment at the bottom of the stories!

Not long now - an announcement

24 February 2017

Because I’m chairing a session with Keith Houston and Alberto Manguel I’ve been thinking about books and reading and how materiality can make for epic tales, and how the intimate act of reading can take you to unexpected places. And my hope is to use these musings as a way to highlight a couple of books I like and to announce a couple of new writers to our event.

I’ll start with Houston’s The Book, which is a history of the objects that make a book – paper, ink, thread, board, and glue. And as such it is a history of empires, madness, and human ingenuity. It’s a book about 2000 years of our relationship with the tactile objects that together make what is arguably our most valuable object.

Manguel’s Curiosity is just that, a history of curiosity explored through the act of reading. Manguel has always identified as a reader, and it is through exploring the books and writers he admires that he considers questions including – “how do we reason?”, “how do we question?”, “what can we possess?” and, “what is true?” He takes Dante as his guide, and my advice is that you follow along.

Manguel’s questions are big and broad and roam to fascinating places. And just recently I’ve been reading three books that take up those questions in intimate and sometimes heartbreaking ways.

In the way of all literary festivals we have had some last minute changes, sadly both due to illness. And so here I’ll talk about two new titles and two new conversations. The first is the new novel by Michael Sala, The Restorer, a novel about a family and the way they negotiate the precipice that is the reconciliation of a marriage.

In this novel Sala tells the story of a man who buys a derelict house in an effort to gather back his family. His wife is, at first, willing; his daughter is not, and his son is increasingly adrift. He continues to patch and mend and hope that he can keep what surely must be his.

I’m new to Sala’s work, but the chair for the session is not, so I do encourage you to come along and listen to Geordie Williamson and Michael Sala talk about the beauty and the frailty of families, or as Manguel might have it: “what are the consequences of actions?”

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Family stories continue with the addition of Catherine de Saint Phalle and her stunning memoir, Poum and Alexandre: A Paris Memoir. In her first work of non-fiction de Saint Phalle tells the story of her parents, two eccentric individuals living in Paris after the Second World War. As they move away from their seemingly disapproving families, their young daughter struggles to understand their flaws and the beautiful world they inhabit.

The book Poum and Alexandre pairs most easily with Caroline Baum‘s Only; another story of damaged Europeans trying to make their way through the war. Hers is a story of a young girl and later a woman making sense of an unconventional and often very lonely childhood. Only is both a tender tribute to her parents and a love letter to Europe. Together these two gifted writers will talk about the age-old questions that surround families – what is true and who we are.

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Our final addition is not a writer, but a talk. Celebrated biographer Paula Byrne comes to Adelaide with a terrific biography of Kick Kennedy, and will also be talking about Jane Austen. Byrne is an Austen expert and she will be giving a talk about Austen in terms of both the objects in her life and her relationship with theatre. There will be plenty of time for questions so this is a must see for Jane fans! And the question is I suppose “how do we imagine a life?”

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Which brings me back to books and reading in particular, as at the beginning of Curiosity Manguel writes –

The art of reading is in many ways opposed to the art of writing. Reading is a craft that enriches the text conceived by the author, deepening it and rendering it more complex, concentrating it to reflect the readers’ personal experience and beyond. Writing, instead, is the art of resignation.

Which I consider an invitation to come along and meet the books through the writers and then, more importantly, through their books. And bring questions.

I look forward to seeing you in the garden…

For your chance to win a mystery prize pack of books by Adelaide Writers’ Week authors, tell us who you’re most excited to see at #AdlWW 2017. Email us with your full name, postal address and answer by Wed 1 Mar to be in the running. Winners will be notified via email.