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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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