Friday, June 16, 2017

The New York Times news bureau in Australia asks readers: ''What makes Australian intellectuals and cultural critics hunt in packs and want to cut down tall poppies of creativity?''

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?"

''I’m honestly not sure what my questions last week and the answers we got reveals about the degree to which Australians welcome or resist the boldest forms of cultural expression, which was one of the questions I raised last week. This seems to be something that Australians themselves, separate from me, continue to debate. ''
''On Twitter in particular, there was some resistance to the idea that there might be Australian constrictions on creativity, the idea that some element of “tall poppy syndrome” might undermine the expression and celebration of bold creativity that breaks with convention. But in our inbox, we also found several emails from creators of all kinds who said they either left Australia because of this issue, or had been forced to confront it in their own lives here. ''
''This NYT newsletter is not the forum to continue that ''discussion'' (though we will keep discussing it in our subscriber Facebook group) which is a closed FB group only for paid subscribers to the NYTimes, in order to keep out outliers and rabblerousers. ''
Cave, who is now the editor of the New York Times in Australia bureau, a new posting for him, wondered why ''some'' established-genre cult-genre  literary critics, tend to be publicly negative towards new literary and cinema genres in such publications as the SMH and the the Sydney Review of Books. Cave noted in a Times newseletter for readers of the Oz edition and his take is headlined

''The Fall and Rise of Australian Culture ''

and he wrote 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? "***


****Write to us at, *** and tell us what you think.

'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 narrow minded Australian ''literary critics'' who hunt in packs and so-called ''public intellectuals''
saying that they are 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.''


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