Monday, 1 April 2013

The Invisible Thread, editor Irma Gold

"The Invisible thread : one hundred years of words" is an anthology of writing from Canberra authors (I counted 75 of them) celebrating local fiction, non-fiction and poetic writing in the year of the centenary of the national capital. Our group was pleased and proud that Irma Gold was able to attend last week's meeting and add her perspective as editor to our discussion of the book. We had lots of questions for her.

We were interested but not surprised to hear of considerable debate among the Advisory Committee members as to the criteria for inclusion. It was decided that the writing did not need to be about Canberra, though much of it is, but that the author needed to have lived a significant amount of time in the region. This explained the omission of Frank Moorhouse whose "Cold Light" (that we studied recently) was set in Canberra but who has not actually lived here. Another debate was whether there should be more than one piece from some authors. To keep the book a manageable size it was decided to limit authors to one piece each. Thus while some prose authors get five or more pages, someone as eminent as David Campbell is represented by just the eight short (but memorable, we thought) lines of his poem "Mothers and daughters". Some of us felt that the extracts from prose works had created a taste to dip further into works of an author while others felt that the works which were complete in themselves had more impact in the book.

Irma explained that each member of the committee had studied the works of particular authors and made a shortlist from which she herself had selected the one piece for inclusion. She explained that one objective in the inclusions had been to create a flow from one piece to the next - so that there could be "a conversation" between adjacent pieces and they could inform each other. In our group some had enjoyed this feature while others had preferred to skip to writers they knew or to pieces which caught their attention.

We all noticed the wide range of genres covered, appreciating, for example: Dorothy Green's scathing review of "Porn birds"; an extract from CEW Bean's war history "Anzac to Amiens"; startling extracts from the science fiction short story "The Glass woman" by Kaaron Warren and from the young adult fantasy novel "Mister Monday : the keys to the kingdom" by Garth Nix". We appreciated the wide range of backgrounds our authors come from, including two indigenous authors. We each had 5 or 6 favourite works from the book too numerous in total to list here, but some appeared on more than one of our lists including the works from Alan Gould, Geoff Page and Marion Halligan. We enjoyed, as one member put it "the breadth of vision of Canberra authors - outward looking and bringing a wealth of experience of other places". 

Irma said that each member of the committee had enjoyed finding surprising pieces they had never read before. All of us certainly did. One of us said "I thought I knew Canberra writers, but I didn't".

We were able to thank Irma for her attendance and insights and plan which Canberra writers we were inspired to read more of over tea or coffee and delicious cake with quinces.