The sausage or the sizzle?

By Rhonda Dredge

Literary types can be critical. They condemn books for being “nice” and are particularly scathing of movies that rely too heavily on frilly costumes.

The Dressmaker, released this month as a movie, is based on a novel by Rosalie Ham, which she wrote in the CBD at the sausage factory, otherwise known as RMIT’s professional writing and editing course.

Antoni Jach was Ham’s teacher. Just how much fat did he pack into those sausages? Judging by the factory’s Facebook page, there has been plenty to go around. Another graduate has been shortlisted in the Lord Mayor’s Creative Writing Awards.

As a UNESCO City of Literature, Melbourne prides itself on the sizzle of its offerings.

Ms Justine Hanna, City of Melbourne librarian, is on the working committee for the Lord Mayor’s awards. She said there were more than 100 entries for the novella prize and more than 300 short stories.

Unfortunately readers will not have a chance to sample this feast because the manuscripts won’t be published.

Ms Hanna says she is trying to rectify the situation and hopes to have something up on the internet next year. Meanwhile she has had the pleasure of sampling the sausages behind the scenes.

Similarly, a list of finalists has been released for the Melbourne Prize and punters invited to vote yet there is nothing available for them to read. Surely a list of books should be included. How else did the judges make their selection?

Writers need readers more than they need prizes. Readers are the ones who follow their experiments closely, nom-de-plumes adding interest to the relationship, shifts from mystery to romance derided, changes of characters sometimes accepted.

Charles Dickens, the master of dark tales, fuelled his imagination with gruesome figures by using the instalment to put pressure on his narratives.

Readers of mysteries admire the way narrators are able to capture and transport them to out-of-the-way places, then bring them back with an explanation in the next chapter.

“Our job is to put the reader at the centre of literary culture,” Ms Hanna said. “It’s about the sizzle not the sausage.”

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