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Open Page with Chris Masters

January–February 2018, no. 398

Open Page with Chris Masters

January–February 2018, no. 398

Why do you write?

I figure that with practice I might improve. Even if I don’t, I will persist. If in an entire book there is one sentence that works, I see it as proof of growth. Sometimes that sentence stares back at me as if it came from somewhere else.

Are you a vivid dreamer?

The mind continues to conjure with greater imagination than can be recovered when consciousness returns.

Where are you happiest?

Like most people, with those I love. Life can deliver some harsh surprises, but also sublime moments, delightful but unanticipatable. I look forward to the next time I am ambushed by a random burst of happiness.

What is your favourite film?

Monty Python’s Life of Brian. Joyous irreverence. My kids love it too. We smile and laugh in unison.

And your favourite book?

The hardest question. Forced to choose one for my desert island, I will nominate Pride and Prejudice.

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

Jane Austen, John Curtin, Barack Obama.

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

‘Lifestyle’, although inoffensive, manages to irritate. Some glorious, if faded expressions deserve resurrection. How about ‘galoot’?

Who is your favourite author?

Olga Masters.

And your favourite literary hero or heroine?

The second hardest question. I will go with Hazel Motes from Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood.

Which quality do you most admire in a writer?

Depth and the quest for insight.

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

I once met Roald Dahl. We did not hit it off. The experience exposed the banality of fandom. For that I can thank him. In the few hours we spent together, I discovered a not very nice person.

What if anything impedes your writing?

The usual: the need to earn a living. The courts have been a major impediment to truth more so than verbiage. Mostly, though, I am not too bothered. If writing becomes torturous I turn to something else and wait it out.

How do you regard publishers?

They can become like extended family. There is still a strong bond to my mother’s former editors at the University of Queensland Press, and I am close to colleagues at Allen & Unwin.

What do you think of the state of criticism?

Mixed. We have world-class critics in Australia – and some shockers. The small market makes the author more than usually vulnerable to institutional competition. And how dispiriting to sense that the reviewer has not actually read the book?

And writer’s festivals?

They seem to survive because of the large number of female readers.

Are artists valued in our society?

Yes. I am heartened by the number of smaller town councils and the like that see value in arts/literary events.

What are you working on now?

My brother Roy and I are undertaking a project for the sole purpose of having fun. In this objective we will probably fail. Worth a try, though.


Chris Masters is an award-winning journalist and author. He won a Gold Walkley in 1985 for his Four Corners report on the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior. His reports ‘The Big League’ and ‘The Moonlight State’ both led to royal commissions. He is the author of Inside Story (1991), Not for Publication (2002), Jonestown (2006), Uncommon Soldier (2012), and No Front Line (2017).

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