Engaging Readers

This week I have been introduced to two delightful writers. I met their work through Radio National programs. I have been thinking about writing a great deal recently in my role as supervisor of a number of student theses and research projects at the University of Canberra. I have been thinking about engaging implied readers too. Ironically this is a post about writing stimulated by being a listener.

On Tuesday Richard Stirzaker was a guest on Bush Telegraph and was interviewed by Michael Mackenzie. The interview celebrated Richard’s ability to explain scientific principles to a lay audience. The interview centred on Richard’s book Out of a Scientist’s Garden. A trail for a book launch noted that:

Out of the Scientist’s Garden is written for anyone who wants to understand food and water a little better – for those growing vegetables in a garden, food in a subsistence plot or crops on vast irrigated plains. It is also for anyone who has never grown anything before but has wondered how we will feed a growing population in a world of shrinking resources. Although a practising scientist in the field of water and agriculture, the author has written, in story form accessible to a wide audience, about the drama of how the world feeds itself. The book starts in his own fruit and vegetable garden, exploring the ‘how and why’ questions about the way things grow, before moving on to stories about soil, rivers, aquifers and irrigation. The book closes with a brief history of agriculture, how the world feeds itself today and how to think through some of the big conundrums of modern food production.

This the YouTube presentation by Richard.

On Wednesday Phillip Adams interviewed Jonathan Gold. This is the trail for the interview:

In the US, food critic Jonathan Gold has a cult following, not just because he is the first food writer to win a Pulitzer prize, and not just because he won it while working for a free, alternative newspaper, LA Weekly, but because his reviews embrace both high end cuisine and low rent neighbourhood joints. His reviews are equally riffs on food, music, politics and art; his tastes are bold and adventurous. Just don’t ask him to eat a scrambled egg.

The interview led me to Jonathan Gold’s writings in the LA Weekly and a real desire to find out more about the riffs that so captivated Phillip Adams. I liked  The Gorbals: Stomp, the Restaurant as an introduction to his writing. This is the opening paragraph:

The Gorbals, perhaps, is a restaurant that should not be seen by the light of day, when the boxy tables look like a shop-class project, the artfully scuffed floors look worn, and the back-room speakeasy vibe is overtaken by the thought that the dim space may have once served as an industrial laundry room. The music is still good, various Iggyisms and post-Iggyisms and proto-Iggyisms, but you get the feeling that the chefs would rather be sitting on a couch smoking cigarettes rather than flipping matzoh brei, and although the $5 Bloody Marys with fresh horseradish are of a strength that you may not have experienced since sophomore year in the dorms, on a Sunday morning the staff may be as hungover as you. As crisp as the blintzes are, as rich as the latke-studded pork belly hash can be, the Gorbals is not a fluffy, happy place to brunch.

Jonathan Gold’s book Counter Intelligence (Where to Eat in the Real Los Angeles) was written in 2000 and is a collection of  “over 200 of Gold’s best restaurant discoveries–from inexpensive lunch counters you won’t find on your own to the perfect undiscovered dish at a beaten-path establishment”. It is available as an e-book. This blog post (from if it’s hip, it’s here) celebrates Jonathan’s Pulitzer Prize and links to a Washington Post article that is a delightful account of his work. This is the set of works that was considered by the Pulitzer Prize judges and this some biographical material about Jonathan Gold.

Richard and Jonathan have distinctive approaches to writing and sharing experience. As a supervisor of student work I am keen to share different forms of writing as a way of stimulating voice in writing. My hope is that by providing a diversity of forms each student’s voice can be enriched by access to writers such as Richard and Jonathan who offer thick description of the worlds they experience.

Photo Credits

Listening

Jonathan Gold

Road to Heaven

Listening Pleasure: Thinking About Performance

This week on my journeys into Canberra I have had an opportunity to catch up with ABC Classic FM and Radio National. Three items in particular helped me think more about performance. Two were symphonies played on Classic FM and one was a discussion about writing on Late Night Live.

The two symphonies were:

1. Aaron Copland conducting Appalachian Spring (1979)

2. Henryk Górecki‘s Symphony of Sorrowful Songs (Symfonia pieśni żałosnych)

Aaron Copland’s performance as a conductor composer encouraged me to think about how tacit knowledge is made available and confirmed my fascination with performances of understanding. Goriecki’s symphony was so beautiful (it was the first time I heard it) it prompted me to think about performance beyond words and how resonance is a fundamental relationship we have we each other and the world.

The Late Night Live conversation was between Phillip Adams and Mark McGinness. This is the web site trail for the interview “The obituary has had a relatively short life, becoming a regular fixture in Australian newspapers in the early 1990s. However, obituaries have become almost mandatory reading, offering up a celebration of life amid the usual gloom. But how do obituary writers get such an insight into the dearly departed?”

It was a delightful interview and I was left with a very clear sense of the precision required to share a life. It made me think about how coaches communicate and how writing whilst going beyond the 140 characters of Twitter can have an intensity that celebrates lives through thick description. This obituary of Michael Romanoff encapsulates the themes of the interview.

Photo Credits

Simon Ilic Leaning Tree

Michael Sarver Appalacian Trail

Janusz L River Sings