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Art of Fiction

Are you a regional writer?

I suppose I am, if your definition of a regional writer is someone who evokes atmosphere and themes which have a particular relevance for a region. Firstly, to take the most obvious thing there has always been a particular buccaneering business style, dating from the days of the goldrush of the 1890s and in various eras since, and the whole 1980s materialistic era was written even larger on the West Coast than other places. Going even further back in historical terms when you think of the peculiarities of the exploration of this coast, both by the French and the Dutch, that is something which distinguishes the West Coast. Because of my particular enthusiasm for history and research and canvassing matters of the early exploration, it is a theme which has found its way into three or four of my books.

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It has a relevance in one sense because it is a worry, since we live in a world which seems to have taxological problems. People like to be able to put things in one category or another. I seem at the moment to be writing in a way that sits on the line.

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I’ve left formal art criticism behind to a certain extent and I’m glad to do that.’ I found the area of art criticism very inhibiting and when I was waiting the book on Joy Hester in tandem with my first novel, crossing the t’s and dotting the I’s, and getting everything absolutely correct, suddenly seemed enormously constraining. But writing about Joy Hester, who is difficult (because so many of her works deal with states of feeling), I think I helped push my writing further and further away from the correctness of art history and towards a much more lyrical and imaginative way of writing.

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Novelist Fred Dagg, the alter ego of New Zealand refugee John Clarke has quickly established an audience in Australia for his erratic political and social comments. In ‘Novelist’, transcribed here from his record of The Fred Dagg Tapes he offers advice to aspiring writers.

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