Blogging the Sydney Conference

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  • 15 Jul 2014 at 7:35 pm #5640

    Rick Wallach
    Keymaster

    I will be blogging the Sydney conference on a relatively regular basis and, of course, all other participants will be encouraged to join in. I arrive in Oz on the morning of the 19th (Sydney time) and will begin reporting on the run-up to the conference and to Peter Josyph’s exhibition of artwork as well soon thereafter. Anyone with questions about the proceedings is invited to join in the fun. This will be our fifth international conference (after Berlin, Reims, Manchester and Warwick) and our first one on the Pacific side, but no doubt it won’t be the last.

    For now, though, it will be a marvelous opportunity to see American, European and Asian scholars meet in Parramatta, a Sydney suburb, for this long-awaited event to exchange ideas and insights and nudge McCarthy scholarship forward another quantum. This is my fourth trip down, to a city I have loved ever since my first visit here nearly 25 years ago, and I’m excited about the conference, the meeting of minds, and putting some faces to a bunch of long-term correspondents I have never otherwise met. Check out the conference schedule here: http://www.uws.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0011/714944/Cormac_McCarthy_Conference_program_Web.pdf

    I look forward to seeing everyone who’s going and being in touch with those of you who couldn’t make it this time. We’ll do our best to bring the mountain to you.


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    • This topic was modified 3 years, 2 months ago by  Rick Wallach.
    • This topic was modified 3 years, 2 months ago by  Rick Wallach.
    16 Jul 2014 at 8:10 am #5643

    Ken
    Member

    Great! Looking forward to reading all the reports here the next few days (and thereafter).


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    16 Jul 2014 at 1:48 pm #5644

    Rick Wallach
    Keymaster

    Day minus one: it’s six hours to Los Angeles, then a seven hour layouvre, then fourteen or so bottom numbing hours to Sydney. I have built myself a classic Italian sub – smoked turkey, cappacola and prosciutto with shredded lettuce, cucumbers, green peppers thinly sliced onions and tomatoes on a whole wheat sub roll with balsamic vinagrette dressing jacked with extra shredded garlic and a dash of hot pepper sauce for the schlep to the sunset side. When I was a kid and the Boeing 707 first entered commercial airline service American Airlines used to have an enormous billboard hanging from the Jamaica Avenue El where is crossed the Van Wyck Expressway heading southbound to Idlewild (soon to be renamed JFK) Airport. It showed a splendid array of foodstuffs, fanning out like the bottom of a culinary snow angel, including lobster, a fruit and cheese plate, a steak, crisp looking veggies, an unidentifiable slice of pie, a steaming up of coffee and an uncorked Champagne bottle with a full glass beside it. The billboard read: “Unbuckle Your Seat Belt – American Airlines to California.” That was then, this is now, and for all they care these days you can stumble off your six hour flight to LA looking like a Biafra baby. Ergo, I have taken prophylactic action to forestall the possibility of auto-digestion.

    I will spend this evening putting some finishing touches on my paper on Cormac McCarthy, Patrick White and their critics for next week (as opposed to a continuing series of “neurotic touches” that I will put on it en route and over the weekend, when jet lag has unhinged the security doors between my rational mind and bestial unconscious – which ought to make for some entertaining asides before the assembled multitudes). Of course, I have packed some winter duds – it can get cold in Sydney in July, thanks to our eccentric orbit – and some Dramamine in case the backasswards spiral of shower water down the drain confuses me and cause vertigo.

    They tell me that Peter Josyph will be arriving in Sydney within just a few minutes of me. My life has been like that for over thirty years now – Peter, there you’ll always be, behind me, and you will not go away….I will, being chivalrous by nature, offer to help him hang his exhibition and he, being paranoid, will disinvite me in no uncertain terms (this is a necessary ritual), leaving me free to find my way into town with a clear conscience to a steaming platter of balmain bugs, barramundi and yabbies – and I’ll sit there savoring the sweet succulent flesh of some the finest seafood in Oz, thinking about some of those neurotic emendations to my presentation.


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    • This reply was modified 3 years, 2 months ago by  Rick Wallach.
    23 Jul 2014 at 3:51 pm #5683

    Rick Wallach
    Keymaster

    Day pre-two: Lou Jillette, who has done a nothing short of spectacular job of pulling this conference together on the ground, met Peter Josyph and me at the airport and took us into Sydney for brunch. We went to a harborside cafe at Circular Quay, with views of the Sidney Harbor Bridge to our left and the Opera House to our right, and were served by an expatriate French waitress with eyes that must have been designed by Benvenuto Cellini. We had a great meal and Lou drove us around Sydney, especially through Glebe, the funky neighborhood of baroque terraces and balconys, cafes, old bookshops and small ethnic groceries bordering the University of Sydney. Halcyon day.

    I spent the following day mostly snoozing off my jet lag and strolling the Parramatta neighborhoods, discovering an inexpensive little gem of a Thai restaurant a five minute walk from my room, where I had my barramundi – a male one, whole, deep fried, with a chili sauce of pineapples, lychees and vegetables – and consummated my culinary initiation into Australian life. Barramundi is a delicious fish that is born male and becomes female as it matures. More antipodean weirdness – although, I guess, that’s not all that different from what happens in South Beach, back home, on a fairly routine basis.

    Day One of the conference was marvelous. As a precursor, Steve Frye, Petra Mundik, Beatrice Trotignon, Dave Holloway, Jan Norby Gretlund, David Gugin and I repaired to the small casino/pub at the foot of the Rydges Parramatta Hotel for dinner the previous night. Note how thi small camraderie expressed the truly impressive internationalism of this conference: at the table were participants from the US, Australia, Guam, Britain, Denmark and France. The actual representation would widen on the morrow to include Canada, South Africa, the Middle East, Singapore.

    I had fish and chips, the fish being flathead, an Ozzian river catfish which, like so many things down here, is weird looking but delicious. Seen from above, it resembles a planaria, but tasty is as tasty does (http://www.tackleland.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Flathead-Cover-Pic1-300×225.jpg).

    Day one dawned bright and breezy, with Stacey Peebles and Peter Josyph teaching a three-hour “master class” designed primarily for the UWS grad students. It was a pretty freewheeling affair, with Stacey covering a range of essential critical resources for McCarthy studies and Peter adding some of his own, uniquely jaundiced, critical insights and personal commentary about Mccarthy and the expanding circle of McCarthy studies. Interaction was lively and sustained, and the session ran late. Predictable. After a lunch break of couscous, fresh fruit and shortbread with passionfruit butter or lemon curd (remember that Society conferences have a long tradition of congealing around the palate), the first paper sessions opened with an Aboriginal invocation by Darug tribal elder Uncle Doug Simms and keynote speaker Dave Holloway, who – brilliantly, as usual – discussed The Road and several other works in the context of Leo Strauss and the political climate of neoconservatism. I thought it was an excellent way to open such a broadly represented conference, placing McCarthy’s work against a wider backdrop than the merely academic.

    Must run to breakfast now. I will return later to add comments on the rest of the day’s panels and on the opening of Peter’s exhibition of paintings, “The Lost Blood Meridian Notebooks,” this evening.


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    23 Jul 2014 at 7:32 pm #5685

    wesmorgan
    Participant

    My mouth is watering for more. Perhaps our fearless leader could encourage other attendees to blog along as well. The program for the conference looks great and us stay-at-home scholars would love to hear more.


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    25 Jul 2014 at 12:06 am #5686

    Rick Wallach
    Keymaster

    Turns out that there’s a lot less time than I thought there’d be to do this, so I will need to backfill some information when the conference actually concludes tonight. We’re outta the room at 8 AM and running till 9 PM, with a screening of Franco’s Child of God tonight following the closing wine and cheese reception. We’ve been blessed with beautiful weather so far – a bit overcast this morning but otherwise high blue skies, temperature in the 55-degree range most days, a breeze. All the papers have been very good, with one in particular I want to mention, by Julius Greve of the University of Cologne, meriting special mention at this point for some breakthrough research. He has established what we believe to be a hitherto unnoticed but very essential link between Judge Holden’s “naturalist” philosophy and the writing of early 19th century German philosopher Lorenz Oken – just the sort of thing McCarthy would slip us. I do think he’s opened a Pandora’s Box of goodies with this, demonstrating very convincingly that many of the judge’s pronouncements track Oken’s work too closely to be coincidental. A lot of eyebrows went up during his presentation. And, of course, Stacey Peebles and I immediately pounced on him for that paper for the Cormac McCarthy Journal, so you all will get a chance to see it eventually.

    Quick mention of last night’s plenary dinner before I dash back inside to absorb some more information. Great meal, copious Ozzian wine, and the ever obstreperous Jan Norby Gretlund warmed to his theme of Danny Kaye’s mispronunciation of “Copenhagen” (it’s supposed to be a long A, not “hahhhgen”) and Hans Christian Anderson’s compulsive masturbation and other assorted and affiliated personal peccadilloes. Dave Holloway, who was sitting next to me, was laughing so hard I was afraid he was going to swallow his tongue. I wasn’t far behind.

    Please add Switzerland and Germany to the list of represented countries here. What a delightful panoply of world Cormackiana. More later….


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    25 Jul 2014 at 4:56 pm #5689

    Rick Wallach
    Keymaster

    The conference wrapped last night with a screening of Franco’s Child of God film and a pizza orgy. Many of the other participants are being taken on a bus tour of the Blue Hills this morning but, since I’ve been to Oz multiple times before and been through the region already, I’m going to head home this afternoon and wish everyone else a great fun excursion through some beautiful country. As if to wish we off, there were a few gorgeous rainbow lorikeets outside my window this morning, splashing in a rainwater puddle by the university shuttle stop.

    Now as for the COG film: I’m just hedgehopping to this because I plan to write out my reviews of the many excellent papers en route home and paste them into this blog when I get back to my trusty desktop on Sunday morning. Dave Holloway told me yesterday that he thought this was the best conference, in terms of the overall high quality of papers and presentations, that he has been to so far. I would have to agree. I think the richly international character of this conference had much to do with it. The range and variety of approaches and the considerations of analogous authors, especially Australian, like Tim Winton, Randolph Stowe, David Foster Wallace and Patrick White – analytic comparisons which were quite new – figured in that assessment as well.

    Anyhow, as far as the Franco film, I found it disappointing. Scott Haze and Tim Blake Nelson gave terrific performances as Lester and the sheriff, and the supporting cast was just fine. The settings were stark and appropriate. There were a few scenes – the county fair and Lester winning the stuffed animals, some of the parked car scenes with the monoxide-killed lovers or the ones Lester murdered, were beautifully realized. Unfortunately, though, I found the narrative too linear, too simplistic. Whereas I usually don’t expect slavish devotion to the book by the film, in this particular case, leaving out the junkyard keeper’s daughters and skipping Lester’s voluntary return to the hospital after his escape from the caves imparted an unfleshed and unfinished feeling to the film. Even if I’d never read the novel, I think that the conclusion, with Lester walking away from the hole from which he had emerged through a farmyard, would have left me feeling profoundly unsatisfied – “is that <i>all</i>?”

    Somewhere in the middle of the screening Lou and Peter appeared from some local pizzeria with about two dozen pizzas of every conceivable description. There were a lot of vegetarians in attendance for this conference – I must say that I find it fascinating that Cormac McCarthy, of all authors, attracts vegetarians in such large numbers – so half the pizzas were vegetarian-only. I don’t know what I ate most of the time, except that I reject the current fad of putting pineapple on pizza and didn’t sample the ones that were festooned with it. Hell, why not put mayonnaise in your coffee while you’re at it? Otherwise, great stuff. And I must mention the daily luncheons of risottos, lentil and garbanzo pilafs with roasted or sauteed vegetables, or for those of us still wallowing in bestiality lamb, beef or chicken (I can attest that, having eaten kangaroo before, none of this was kangaroo, thank Buddha, because the stuff tastes like what rats must taste like), with a variety of oriental or middle eastern seasonings. These were accompanied by seasonal fruits – dates, apples, tangelos, the latter being the sweetest and juiciest ones ah ever et, with a variety of wonderful pastry concoctions like shortbreads, coconut scones, baklava and galaktabourika, banana cranberry muffins or carrot cake muffins during the inter-session breaks. I mention this not only as a foodie but just to give y’ll a sense of the what went on here. All good stuff. Sweetheart, I’ll be home tomorrow night – please hide the bathroom scale for a few days.

    My flight to LAX is about fourteen hours. I’ll try to post the first set of paper reviews when I get to LA, and the rest from home. I look forward to seeing what some of the other participants thought. Hard to imagine that anyone would have been unsatisfied. It was a great, great conference.


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    25 Jul 2014 at 9:34 pm #5690

    Rick Wallach
    Keymaster

    Well, turns out I have a little time to kill at Sydney Airport and some free wi-fi to kill it with, so…Stacey Peebles and I were able to harvest some papers for our respective publications; Stacey scored the aforementioned Lucius Greve paper on Lorenz Oken and the judge for the Journal, whereas I was able to solicit several very good papers on The Road for the forthcoming Road casebook, Carrying the Fire, and spend some time with Petra Mundik discussing the cover for her book A Bloody and Barbarous God , based on her excellent series of articles in Southwestern American Literature, which will be published by the Society this winter. It will be the first of our new series of single-author critical works, a nice complement to the Casebook series. Petra gave the assembled multitudes a taste of what’s in store for them in her book with an excellent presentation on the “alien god” of mystery religions and the essential pessimism of the gnostic view of the universe as inflected through McCarthy’s western novels. Thomas Wells of Georgetown University gave the final paper, on temporal sequencing in The Road (and closing the proceedings with The Road makes preeminent sense, doesn’t it?). Thomas’ paper was one of the two fine presentations that I hijacked for the casebook, so you’ll all have a chance to read it this winter.

    Unfortunately, I missed the post-luncheon afternoon session on Friday because I was repacking the few unsold books from the Society bookstore that I had lugged down to the conference for the benefit of our antipodean and Asian members who have been paying those usurious postal rates to get their hands on them in the past. But I expect Society president Steve Frye to chime in here at some point in the next few days and I ask him, or anyone else who attended and is feeling expansive, to add their impressions of the sessions and perhaps pick up the ones that I didn’t catch on Friday.

    Time to close up shop and prepare for the long slog to LA and thence homeward. I hope I’ve been able to convey a little of the flavor of this conference. I’ll be retooling all of my posts here over the next week or so, filling in details and compensating for jet lag. Hope those of you who had to miss this one will be able to join us at a conference in the future.


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    26 Jul 2014 at 10:19 am #5691

    Glass
    Member

    Sounds great. Looking forward to reading the papers. Meantime, will any of the presentations be available on video? Was the conference recorded?


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    26 Jul 2014 at 2:37 pm #5692

    Rick Wallach
    Keymaster

    Well, I just hauled my carcass off my 15-hour flight from Sydney to LAX and I’m waiting for my connecting flight back to Miami. Had a great nine days in Oz and will relate some particulars when my neural pathways reopen for business, but for the nonce, I had forgotten what a dump this airport is. Never mind the utter lack of laptop use facilities and the maybe one electrical outlet per gate for plugging in or recharging a laptop or cellphone. I mean the hamburgers. All I wanted was a nice jouissant hamburger. Nothing fancy. But the burger bar in the Terminal 4 concourse is one of them there yuppieburger places. You know – the basic burger comes with avocado, caramelized onion, arugula, something or other aoli. Sixteen bucks. So I say, can I just have a plain burger with lettuce, tomato and onion, and ketchup? The woman taking orders looks like she’s been slapped. I beg your pardon, she says, and I feel a Five Easy Pieces tuna sandwich scene coming up. A plain hamburger, say I. Lettuce, tomato and onion. Period. We charge two dollars extra for that, she says. Two dollars extra to leave all that yuppie crap off your burger? Yep. Skip it. I go next door to some cafe or other and have a grilled cheese sandwich. It was just OK. What can you do? A six hour slog home and a good night’s sleep, and I’ll feel more expansive in the morning.

    Hey Pete – a few presenters recorded themselves but otherwise, no.


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