What can we make of the fact that, of the forty-seven stories selected by Robert Drewe for this year’s The Best Australian Stories collection, thirty-three are written in the first person? The influence of Creative Writing classes has to figure in any stab at an answer. It would be interesting to do the rounds of the universities to discover whether the teachers of such courses actively encourage the use of ‘I’, or if it happens obliquely, resulting from the way that writing exercises are structured. One wonders, too, if that old saw, ‘write what you know’, is discussed in the first week of these courses, and if such a practice contributes to the writer’s feeling more comfortable and secure when deploying the first person.
Fashions of publishing may also play a part. Many of the most talked-about books in recent years have been riffs on the memoir theme. The notoriety of those who have cheated on the veracity of the memoir, and created bestselling hybrids, may, paradoxically, have encouraged experimentation with such writing, particularly from new writers.