Difficult to swallow

July 17, 2009

Devour a BookI am so depressed about the Productivity Commission report that I have nothing more to say. Others write more eloquently on this topic than I can.

One thing I have been shocked by is how much really deep personal hostility seems to be out there toward writers themselves, which I find depressing beyond belief. The pro-PC camp has called us “greedy” – which sticks a leeetle in the craw when the average income of an Australian writer is $11,000 pa – “parasitic”, “self promoting”, “pretentious”, ” ‘authors’ ” (for this person the word itself is obviously a term of abuse – hence quote marks) and the list goes on. Call me naive or just out of touch, but where does this deep-seated antipathy towards creative people come from? What have they done to deserve it, apart from make a (very) modest living? Are other artists equally hated?

There has also been a lot of sneering when authors like Tim Winton and Richard Flanagan and Mem Fox express their views, described as “elegantly expressed outrage” and so on; it’s the same tack the anti-Obama camp took during his campaign: i.e. associating  skill with words with some kind of sneaky duplicity, logical conclusion being that anyone who uses language well is a deceptive person who must under no circumstances be trusted. Of course this also ignores the fact that the opposition commentators use language equally “cleverly”.

The funny thing is that all those people who hate writers so much are apparently still keen to get their hands on the dirt-cheap books that will flood the country as a result – that is, books written by the same kind of greedy, parasitic, pretentious, word-lovin’ “authors“.  (NB when I see a major retail discount chain passing on huge savings to customers I will eat my hat; according to the 7.30 Report’s piece on this the other week, quoting the ACCC, the CD /Oz music industry deregulation resulted in CD price drops of 8%. If the same thing happens to books, that’ll be a saving of $2.40 on a $30 paperback. Woohoo, break out the Krug.)

Below are some comments written by people who are less depressed than I, who still have some fighting fire in the belly. I’m giving up and never reading newspaper column blog comments on this topic again. Be warned though – these comments are by “authors” and use “words”. Let’s lynch ’em.


  1. My turn to agree wholeheartedly with you. I don’t get the suspicion, I don’t dig the hostility. Strange days indeed.

    I’m turning to drink, thus upholding my favourite stereotype of the writer’s life.

  2. You are not alone Charlotte.


    The general public seems to think that all authors have the income of JK Rowling….I am constantly having to explain that the measly 5% which I get as a picture book writer, is not the reason why picture books are expensive and that no…I can’t afford to give up my day job.

    I was lucky to get my first break from a small australian publisher years ago. It’s now just gotten a whole lot tougher for anyone who wants to start out.

  3. yes indeed. Not shucked but…

    More reason to tackle this from another angle- put energy into trying to get increased government funding for Australian writers, illustrators, editing and local publishing projects? Or at least detailed monitoring of impact to form basis for same.

  4. An insightful post – I agree – but don’t give up! Keep fighting!

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