May 27, 2013

Page Turning with Ramona Koval at AWRF 2013

Dubbed by The Times Literary Supplement "Australia's literary microphone mistress", the journalist Ramona Koval has written a book (By the book) in praise of the art of reading. -- From the AWRF 2013 brochure.

Not having lived in these latitudes long enough to have been acquainted with The Book Show and its star Ramona Koval, I ducked into this session more or less on a whim, after bumping into (literally) two librarians I'm fond of, who were happily queuing to see it, and told me why. A book (By the Book) in praise of the art of reading? I'll queue to that! Ramona Koval? Her as well! Ramona is the name of one of my all time favourite book characters, a strong early influence on my world view: Ramona Quimby, persistent, independent, exasperating, always wanting to know more than she needs to, and, of course, all round annoying little sister to Beezus.

But when Ramona Koval walked out, it was someone else she reminded me of, and it was... Colette! And no sooner had I realised that, than there she was telling the session chair Carole Beu of the Women's Bookshop (you might want to keep that in mind for later) that she loves Colette, that in fact on her computer she keeps a photo of "Colette at 83, with a cake".

Why don't you talk more about yourself in your book? asks Carole, perhaps sensing in the sharing of this confidence an aperture towards the personal. "Well," smiles Ramona, a bit sphinxlike, "The people with whom I've had arrangements are all still alive..." Now that is definitely not channelling Colette, who never let something like that stand in the way of a good story.

Ramona Koval

But what are the good stories, and why are they good? Here we were treated to some enjoyable skirmishing.
Carole: "I read women's fiction. You don't mention any of the women's fiction I've been reading in the last 20 years."

Ramona says that she likes to read any kind of book - for example, she has lately been reading about Robert Scott!

Carole, firmly: "I would never read a book about Robert Scott."

Ramona: "How about Marie Curie?"

Then we had:

Carole, commenting on Koval's book Speaking volumes: conversations with remarkable writers: "As the owner of the Women's Bookshop I couldn't help noticing that out of 29 writers, only 9 are women. Why is that?"

Ramona: "Well, I picked the best interviews, I don't know, maybe the women weren't as interesting."

Carole: "I'm constantly aware that the balance is skewed in the favour of men."

Ramona: "If somebody's written a book that chimes with me, I don't care who's written it."

Colette: "Women, men, Je m'en fous!" and takes a bite of cake.

Some of the 29 writers included, by the way, are John le Carré, Harold Pinter, Ian McEwan, Martin Amis, Amos Oz, Mario Vargas Llosa, Jeanette Winterson, PD James, and Hanif Kureishi, who makes a "matter-of-fact revelation that he never reads a book beyond the first 100 pages". Now that chimes with me -- it happens to me, okay, not quite always, maybe two out of three books!

And now, from the series "Every miller draws water to his own mill":

The review of Speaking Volumes from which I gleaned the above information, the work of an Australian journalist named Anneli Wright, ends with this observation: "The single disappointment is the dearth of Australian writers represented among Koval’s handpicked selection of those she deems remarkable."

Take that, Ramona! (I don't think she will.)

Ditulis Oleh : Karen Craig // 14:00


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