Where are you happiest?
Maybe on my jetty as the sun sets over the river and the only company are pelicans and cormorants. Otherwise, in ten feet of water looking at a crayfish and thinking of recipes.
What’s your idea of hell?
An office where employees are trying to make the meeting last to knock-off time.
What do you consider the most specious virtue?
What’s your favourite film?
1900 or Vengo, though One Night the Moon always looms large.
And your favourite book?
The Snopes series of novels by William Faulkner.
Name the three people with whom you would most like to dine.
Mum and dad. I still need to talk to them. My kids, Marnie and Jack. Best meal was scallops and a few beers with my son at Huonville on a pontoon in the river.
Which word do you most dislike, and which one would you like to see back in public usage?
‘Gotten’. It’s a horrible word. I thought Australians would have had too much pride than to ape bad American English. The Age and ABC are current offenders.
Who is your favourite author?
Faulkner, Carson McCullers, or Cormac McCarthy. See what I mean about American English?
And your favourite literary hero or heroine?
Lenny in Of Mice and Men.
Which quality do you most admire in a writer?
Humility leaching into honesty.
Which book influenced you most in your youth?
Jet: Sled dog of the north. I was paralysed by concentration when I read James Fenimore Cooper’s Pathfinder, but reading it again recently I shrank away from the latent racism.
Name an early literary idol or influence whom you no longer admire.
Cooper; see above.
What, if anything, impedes your writing?
Nothing. If you can write in the cacophony of Sydney airport and look up to find three hours have passed (Rex Airlines delays are common), you can write anywhere.
What do you think of the state of criticism?
As always, there are some pompous fools ascending to positions of influence to betray the thoughtful critique of more modest and caring men and women.
And writers’ festivals?
I find them tiring but stimulating. I love black writers’ festivals or where there are half a dozen of us. It’s like family.
Do you read reviews of your own books?
Yes, of course – it’s hard not to. But that is not my audience. The stray and thoughtful letter of a reader is what I most love receiving.
Are artists valued in our society?
I used to think Australia was so uncaring about its writers. In Italy you are called Professore; in Scotland you are introduced to their leading politicians: in Australia you are asked to spell your name. I used to think it was terrible, but now I think it is about right. We should celebrate the story, not the writer. A writer without humility is as worthwhile as a game-show host.
What are you working on now?
Two novels, a book of poetry, two histories, a book of stories (Salt), three film scripts, and two plays. Trying to run a farm to produce perennial Aboriginal foods … and to play cricket.
Bruce Pascoe is an award-winning writer and a Bunurong man. His books include Dark Emu, Book of the Year at the 2016 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards. He works to preserve the Wathaurong language through the Wathaurong Aboriginal Co-operative and was 2018 Dreamtime Person of the Year.