Art & Design


The Wheeler Centre’s new program

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The Wheeler Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas is a place for writers to congregate and share their work and their thoughts. Located right next to the State Library, the centre opened in 2010, and has become—as the name kind of ordained—a hub for writers of all bents and styles to interact with and share themselves with their readers.

Having seen the likes of Bret Easton Ellis, Jonathan Safran Foer and Alain De Botton in recent times, the new program kicking off in May will see yet more accomplished writers passing through The Wheeler’s doors. Here are a select few to look out for.

Sjon / Roddy Doyle, May 15
In between penning songs for Bjork, Icelandic scribe Sjon (with a name like that, of course he writes for Bjork) writes poetry, horror films and novels, one of which, The Blue Fox, won The Nordic Council’s Literature Prize, which to me sounds like a prestigious award bestowed by Odin and the other inhabitants of Asgard on only the most worthy of mortal writers.

Roddy Doyle self-published his first novel, The Commitments, in 1987, and was told that he would have trouble finding a readership outside his homeland of Ireland. Of course, The Commitments became a huge hit and went on to become an immensely successful film directed by Alan Parker. I wonder where that naysayer is now? Doyle has written a number of books since The Commitments, and recently opened a creative writing centre (not unlike the Wheeler Centre) called Fighting Words, in Dublin in 2009.

Joshua Cody / Jeffrey Eugenides, May 14
Two contemporary American writers are appearing at The Wheeler Centre on May 15, the first of which doesn’t even consider himself a writer. Astounding really, considering The New York Times called his book ‘The memoir of the year’. Joshua Cody’s memoir of his battle with Cancer, [sic], ended up being more than just another oft told story about one person’s battle with illness, but was rather a touching and amazingly well-written piece of literature.

One of the biggest names in contemporary American fiction, Jeffrey Eugenides’ first novel, The Virgin Suicides, was enough to earn him a place on the ‘contemporary writers that you should know’ list, but his second book, Middlesex, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 2003, sent him into the stratosphere of the ‘contemporary writers I’m astounded you haven’t ever heard of’ list. A book that you cannot put down, which is surprising considering its 500+ page count, Middlesex tows the line between easy to ingest prose and finely crafted literature. Plus it’s got story and character development coming out the wahzoo!

Stella Rimington / Hisham Matar, May 16
As close to a real-life super-spy as you’re ever likely to get without digging up the corpse of Ian Fleming, Stella Rimington (even her name sounds like it should have been in a Bond film) was the director of MI5 from 1992-1996, and was a real-life spy from the late 60s all the way up until 1990. She has now turned her hand to writing spy-fiction. Who better to do so, you ask? Exactly!

Hisham Matar grew up in New York with Libyan parents. The writer of many essays, Matar has also had two novels published, the first of which, In the Country of Men, was short listed for the Booker Prize in 2006.

Dava Sobel / Barbara Arrowsmith-Young, May 17
Dava Sobel began as a science reporter for The New York Times until the release of her bestselling popular science book, Longitude, in 1995. Her latest book, More Perfect Than Heaven, utilises a more dramatic approach in telling the story of how Copernicus revolutionised the cosmos.

Also based within the scientific field, Barbara Arrowsmith-Young was able to turn her learning disabilities around by teaching her brain to use alternate methods in its learning and processing, a process now referred to as neuro-plasticity, something that for years was thought to be impossible to do due to the fact that the brain seems to be hardwired a certain way. Barbara’s Arrowsmith Program has helped a great number of children and adults retraining their brains to overcome their learning disabilities. Arrowsmith-Young’s story is detailed in one of the chapters of the bestselling non-fiction book, The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge.

Chad Harbach / Jeanette Winterson, May 18
An editor and one of the founding members of the journal n + 1, Chad Harbach has recently become a novelist with The Art of Fielding. I say recently, but it took Harbach 9 years to complete this novel about baseball, which was published last year.

Jeanette Winterson. Ahhh… Jeanette Winterson. Sexing the Cherry.

With a list of novels that are about as long as the combined publications of everyone on The Wheeler Centre’s calendar for the month of May, Jeanette really is the one writer you should go listen to if you really love the art of fine writing. She has an OBE for godssakes!

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