Open Page with Kim Mahood

Australian Book Review

MAHOOD Kim 300Why do you write?

To work out what I think, which requires digging through the received ideas and lazy generalisations that clutter the surface of my mind, and crafting the language to describe what I’ve found. I also have a strong desire to communicate certain things.

Are you a vivid dreamer?

Yes, I have vivid dreams full of ridiculously obvious symbolism.

Where are you happiest?

In my studio.

What is your favourite film?

There’s no single film I could claim as favourite – among the films I’ve loved are The Royal Tenenbaums, Lost in Translation, Beetlejuice, Birdman, Blue Velvet, Picnic at Hanging Rock, Apocalypse Now, Doctor Strangelove, and All About Eve.

And your favourite book?

There are too many great books around to have a favourite, but I do have a predilection for dystopian fiction – I cut my literary teeth on 1984 and Brave New World, and re-reading Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale never disappoints.

Name the three people with whom you would most like to dine.

Oscar Wilde, for brilliant conversation; Leonard Cohen, because I’ve been smitten by him since I was nineteen; Janet Malcolm for her fearless intelligence.

Which word do you most dislike, and which would you like to see back in public usage?

‘Agile’ would be at the top of my current list of dislikes – I loathe good, functional words being co-opted by politicians and public commentators.

Humbug (verb) – to pester or make demands on; humbug (noun) – bad behaviour causing discomfort and anxiety.

Who is your favourite author?

Right now it’s Tim Winton, whose choice of Position Doubtful as his book of the year [in The Age] has done more to bring it to public attention than all the reviews, writers festival events, book launches, and public appearances put together. I also think he’s a terrific writer. On another day I might choose Alice Munro, or Randolph Stow, or V.S. Naipaul.

And your favourite literary hero and heroine?

My favourite literary hero is Geryon, the winged red monster in Anne Carson’s Autobiography of Red. My favourite literary heroine is Sybylla in Miles Franklin’s My Brilliant Career.

Which quality do you most admire in a writer?

The capacity to take you to a place, real or imagined, physical or psychological, and make it part of your own lived experience forever.

Name an early literary idol or influence whom you no longer admire.

John Steinbeck – I loved him when I was in my teens, but haven’t read him for years.

What, if anything, impedes your writing?

My art practice (which my writing impedes), and the time I spend in the desert, although that provides the raw material for my writing. I also dislike sitting still in front of a computer.

How do you regard publishers?

Scribe, my current publisher, has been a writer’s dream to work with. I’m predisposed to favour small Australian publishers.

What do you think of the state of criticism?

I don’t participate enough in our literary culture to have an opinion. The state of reviewing seems fairly healthy, but I really don’t know about criticism.

And writers’ festivals?

It’s character-building to sit at the post-session book-signing table while fans queue for the other writers and no one buys your book. In my experience, the smaller the festival, the more fun it is.

Are artists valued in our society?

Yes, but not always for the right reasons.

What are you working on now?

A long story, possibly a novella, about a massacre on the Kimberley frontier in the 1920s, and an essay for The Monthly.


Kim Mahood is a writer and artist based in Wamboin near Canberra. She is the author of the memoirs Craft for a Dry Lake and Position Doubtful.

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