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This year’s annual conference of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature was held in mid-July at James Cook University in Townsville, to which some two hundred delegates flocked to soak up ideas, information, sunshine, and the odd ale. Everybody had a good time except possibly the indefatigable organisers, Tony Hassall, Robert Dixon, and Stephen Torre, who, if they were not too exhausted to enjoy themselves, ought to have been. In general, the relaxed and benign atmosphere one has come to know and love at ASAL conferences prevailed.

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Vale John Hanrahan. Dear reader, if you think you miss him, you should see how I feel. I tried to get a Sydney person to take over this column. I really did. He said no. (Actually, he laughed.) So for those Sydney people who complain that ABR suffers from rampant Melbocentrism (and as a native of Adelaide I am far from blind to the ravages of this local disease, myself), bear in mind that the number of Sydney writers who get asked to write for ABR is considerably greater than the number who actually do. In the meantime I shall do my best, faute de mieux, since neither rain nor hail nor sleet etc., and ABR’s monthly deadline waits for no person …

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Now we are in the season of missed and mellow fruitfulness. The mellow fruitfulness belongs to the winners of literary awards and literary grants. The missed are those who are eternally short listed but never ascend the throne. Of course, some books shortlisted never have a chance of winning. They are put there for encouragement, minor recognition, sometimes tokenism.

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Melbourne has Moomba and Melbourne Cup week. Sydney and Perth have cultural festivals. And so, pre-eminently, does Adelaide. Even from the backblocks of Melbourne, Adelaide Writers’ Week stirs up a real thrill.

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My first contact with Arthur Phillips was through a note signed A.A.P., attached to a short story that an editor couldn’t find space for. The note pointed out that the story lacked reality, e.g. a child was allowed to sit in a hotel bar. When I finally got to meet A.A. Phillips, it was over a drink. The pleasure at meeting was enhanced by a child at the next table. I ribbed Arthur about this, telling him that he had sinned against the commandments of social realism. He allowed me my small victory (the story is still unpublished) and then told a number of very funny stories against himself. I knew him only slightly, but that minimal acquaintanceship showed him to be as extraordinary and as delightful in his living as he was in his writing.

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