The greatest thing about a writers festival also happens to be the worst: that after long months of planning, anticipation, dreaming and excitement, it’s all over in just a few days. The fleeting nature of festivals is why we love them; a distinct moment in time for those who are lucky enough to be able to say to others, ‘you just had to be there.’ In the four days between Opening Night addresses from Benjamin Dreyer, Jazz Money, Bill Hayes, Warwick Thornton and Sarah Krasnostein for the Festival’s return to Melbourne Town Hall and the final event, a sold-out conversation between the incendiary Bernardine Evaristo and incomparable Jan Fran, the thoughtful literary citizens of Melbourne turned out in their thousands (including more than 1,000 young students!) to celebrate and commune over writers and their stories, which have in turn become ours.
Backstage before her event, beloved author Emma Straub gave me a baseball cap (the same kind Succession’s Jeremy Strong was recently photographed wearing) that’s emblazoned with the name of her independent Brooklyn bookstore: Books Are Magic. For various reasons (professionalism, a large head and a short haircut that doesn’t suit hats of any kind), I didn’t wear the cap around the Festival, but I kept coming back to that simple phrase as I watched authors meeting each other for the first time or reuniting after being away from each other for a while; as I overheard the happy chatter from those gathered around Readings tables; and as moments unfolded on stage that prompted audiences to laugh, cry, exclaim or simply sit in a hushed, appreciative silence. Books Are Magic. And so was this year’s Melbourne Writers Festival.
That magic will live on as we share conversations from the stage to our podcast, bringing thrilling and inspiring conversations from the festival to audiences around the country and the world. We’re starting this year’s podcast program with the timeliest event of the festival: the conversation between Stan Grant and Anne Pattel-Gray, which took place on the day of King Charles’ coronation, about Stan’s essential, new book The Queen is Dead.