Tag Archives: Charles Dickens

From True Crime to Purity: the 2016 Sydney Writers Festival

It’s that time of year again, as the Sydney Writers Festival gets up and running, with another impressive line-up of writers, critics, poets and more. Included on the list of free events is ‘The Underbelly of Sydney‘, a panel featuring Australian lecturer and author Dr Peter Doyle. Doyle will join Eleanor Limprecht, Anna Westbrook and Tom Wright in a discussion on the dark history of the city of Sydney. The panel will be held on Thursday, May 18 at Walsh Bay, from 11:30am-12:30pm. Here is a description:

Behind a pristine harbour and blue skies, our city has always hummed with an underbelly of adventure and misadventure. In the early days of Sydney, the cobblestone streets were lined with vice and violence. History’s players were the crooks and cops, thugs and judges, mad women and missing people. Local authors Peter Doyle, Eleanor Limprecht and Anna Westbrook join Tom Wright to share true tales of the colourful characters who shaped this city’s sordid past.

An associate professor at Macquarie University, Doyle is also an established crime author, the recipient of two Ned Kelly awards for fiction, as well as the recipient of a Ned Kelly Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011. Doyle’s latest work includes his new novel The Big Whatever, published in 2015.

The highlight at this year’s festival is the appearance of Jonathan Franzen, whose new book Purity (2015), said to be modelled on Dickens’ Great Expectations (1861), looks at contemporary surveillance culture and social media through the lens of his Julian Assange-esque character, Purity ‘Pip’ Tyler, whose name alone has evident Dickensian origins. Franzen’s  rather sanctimonious attitude in particular regards to social media (a trait that is well known amongst his fans and discreditors), has been the target of many an unfavourable review, including one that appeared in the Gawker Review of Books entitled: ‘Jonathan Franzen’s Purity Is an Irrelevant Piece of Shit’. Franzen will discuss his latest novel in conversation with Anna Funder on May 21, 2016 at Sydney Town Hall from 8:30-9:30pm, with tickets still available for purchase (his talk ‘My Reading Life’ on the 20th is sold out).  In spite of the author’s declining popularity amongst contemporary readers (especially those embracing social media platforms), the event is expected to garner a big crowd. Other ‘big names’ to appear at the 2016 festival include Julian Barnes, Jeanette Winterson, and feminist critic Gloria Steinhem, along with 2015 Booker Prize winner Marlon James.



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Our Man in Havana: New Hemingway Biopic

Biopics are the film equivalent of biographies: they can be decent but often they seem to be overly indulgent and superficial. Dickens is the most recent subject of the biographical attention in The Invisible Woman (2013), while the late David Foster Wallace is to be the feature of a forthcoming biopic (purportedly played by Jason Segal). But Ernest Hemingway is perhaps the most notable author to have been immortalised in film, his richly detailed life the subject of films including Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris (2011) and Philip Kaufman’s lamentable Hemingway and Gellhorn (2012). Midnight in Paris, evidently, focuses on Hemingway’s Paris years, while Hemingway and Gellhorn focuses on Hemingway’s Spain years. Now, a new biopic on Hemingway is set to be released, focusing on the author’s Cuba years, directed by Bob Yari, the film producer  behind films such as Somerset Maugham’s The Painted Veil (2006), now in his directorial debut. The biopic is the first major Hollywood movie to be filmed on the island of Cuba in fifty years, due to political tensions between the US and Cuba. While The Godfather II (1990) was forced to film its Havana scenes elsewhere, Carol Reed’s Our Man in Havana (1959), based on the novel by Graham Greene, was one of the few films to secure filming rights in Cuba. As opposed to Allen and Kaufman’s films, the Cuban biopic evidently sees Hemingway in his ‘Papa’ years when the author lived and worked in Havana during Fidel Castro’s communist reign, with the author now being portrayed by veteran actor Adrian Sparks, a shift from the young, strapping Hemingway we have seen in the guise of Corey Stoll and Clive Owen. The film will focus on the friendship between Hemingway and American journalist Denne Bart Petitclerc (played by the severely underrated Giovani Ribisi). In the same vein as most biopics, including Grace of Monaco, Diana, Capote, and J. Edgar, the unimaginative title (Papa), threatens to set the tone of the film as yet another big Hollywood money-maker without much substance. The political portrayal may also prove controversial, particularly in light of Cuba’s political status, as many biopics romanticise historical aspects of famous figures and events. Yet the film will be based on the memoirs of Petitclerc, which may potentially set the film apart from its one-dimensional contemporaries. And as the first major Hollywood film set in Cuba in half a century, the film is likely to be of great interest to both history buffs and Hemingway enthusiasts.

Hemingway with Fidel Castro



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