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Open Page with Patrick Allington

August 2020, no. 423

Open Page with Patrick Allington

August 2020, no. 423

Patrick Allington is a writer, critic, editor, and academic. His most recent work is Rise & Shine (Scribe, 2020), and his first novel, Figurehead, was longlisted for the 2010 Miles Franklin award. He has also had short fiction published in Meanjin, Griffith Review, The Big Issue, and elsewhere. Allington has taught politics, communications, and creative writing, most recently at Flinders University.

Patrick Allington

If you could go anywhere tomorrow, where would it be, and why?

Antarctica: in case it’s not there later. 


What’s your idea of hell?

There is no hell. But if there is, it has rats.


What do you consider the most specious virtue?

Any virtue can be too much, sometimes. Is ‘prolixity’ a virtue?


What’s your favourite film?

Brazil (1985), directed by Terry Gilliam.


And your favourite book?

One? I refuse to answer. For many years I would have said Peter Carey’s Illywhacker, and I still love it, but many more years have elapsed.


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

Angela Merkel, artist Hilma af Klint (her art is on the cover of Rise & Shine), and musician Roky Erickson.


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

I’d be happy never to hear the phrase ‘of course’ again. On the other hand, I don’t hear ‘kerfuffle’ nearly often enough.


Who is your favourite author?

It changes by the day. I’m currently in awe of the brilliance and boldness of Alexis Wright.


And your favourite literary hero or heroine?

The Saucepan Man from Enid Blyton’s The Faraway Tree series.


Do you have a favourite podcast, apart from ABR’s one of course?

I love Backlisted. It shakes the dust off old books with serious irreverence.


Which quality do you most admire in a writer?



Which book influenced you most in your youth?

I read George Orwell in my final year of school and was very taken with Keep the Aspidistra Flying (1936), which is an okay novel. I wrote about 1984 in my exam without having read it. 


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

I have mixed feelings about Enid Blyton – and about Gore Vidal.


What, if anything, impedes your writing?

Life. Work.


What qualities do you look for in critics, and which ones do you enjoy reading?

I appreciate critics who enter into a conversation with a book and who draw upon curiosity, wonder, and deep thinking to judge. Maria Tumarkin writes magnificently about writers and books.


What do you think of writers’ festivals?

I like bookchat, in moderation. Writers’ festivals benefit writers and readers, but I’m not sure they need to get ‘bigger and better’ year after year after year.


Do you read reviews of your own books?

Yes, though it’s no fun. I’m a lapsed critic, so I have a professional interest.


Are artists valued in our society?

Yes. But no.


What are you working on now?

A novel about self-imposed exile. Some essays about strange books. And I’m thinking about what happens next in the world of Rise & Shine.

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