Another week, another episode of Hugs and Kisses from Mr. Everett True, who recently moved from the UK to Australia and managed to piss off his new neighbors by insulting national treasures like Silverchair and the Vines within six months of living there. Australian Immigration officers can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
This week: Everett True Vs Australia, part 315
I got interviewed by a mid-morning TV chat show and had my musical taste called into question by a pair of U2 fans. I’ve been pilloried and praised with mind-numbing force. I’ve been accused of engineering the entire ruckus single-handedly as a way of forcing my name back into the headlines. I’ve been courted, cursed and championed. One of India’s newspapers (The New Delhi) has been moved to write, “What we need is an Everett True.”
At a recent Big Sound music business conference I had close on a hundred delegates shake my hand and exclaim, “You’re so honest”—like it’s somehow out-the-ordinary to behave in such a way in a country that prides itself on its straight-talking. (I “rewarded” some of my more ardent admirers here.)
What I hadn’t been offered among this bluster of comment and casual anti-English sentiment, however, was a right to reply…until a few days ago, when Rolling Stone Australia commissioned me to write an article explaining the fuss.
Among the further comments my investigations threw up, was this interview with former Triple J presenter and New Matilda columnist Helen Razer (a woman that Courtney Love once threatened to punch out from on stage, “like a fucking kangaroo”). Her original article on the matter can be found here. (Incidentally, with reference to Helen’s comments about how I was eclipsed by other writers in the UK music press: Julie Burchill’s and Tony Parsons’ heyday happened 15 years before my own.)
Did you read my original blog entry?
Yes. I’m in the daily habit of reading The Guardian and her scions.
Why such a strong reaction?
Your skills as a critical thinker notwithstanding: my own reaction was not strong. I mildly concur with much of what you had to say.
Is it because the criticisms are perceived to be unjustified?
Your criticisms are justified. By my reckoning, there can be little more than two dozen Australians who care passionately about street press. So I doubt your assailants were stirred by real love of the medium. I suspect they might just be a little thick.”
Is the fuss because I’m from the outside? Is it assumed that because I am from the outside I’m not able to understand the workings of the Australian media? Is it because I’m English?
Anyone, exogenous or not, who suggests that Australian works or mores are second rate will get an arse kicking. I would say that your particular arse’s nationality guaranteed it a greater measure of force. However, record intensity is reserved for ex-pats. Ask the great thinker Germaine Greer what happens when she writes about her homeland.
Is it because Australia is seeking international acclaim, but can’t take criticism, only praise—because it still judges itself on a national or even local setting, not international? (Does this then lead to any levels of plagiarism from other countries, because there’s no context within which to judge originality on an international scale?)
I don’t wish to diminish your argument. But I would say that a good bit of this wrath derived from the fact of a very slow news day. If, for example, Jennifer Hawkins was Dumped By a Love Rat, arrested or launching a new line of poly-blend thongs on the day a News Corp journalist found your blog, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Nonetheless, congratulations on making the papers and getting people cross. Critics rarely achieve either in this country.
To address your question more directly: when it comes to comparing ourselves with the rest of the Anglophone world, Australians suffer a weird fusion of self-loathing with swagger. Think of us, if you like, as a reckless adolescent with an untreated learning disorder. We yearn for adult approval but do not actively seek it. Instead, we sublimate our craving into sports (as you have noted) and bluster.
However: adolescents do tend to rock better than anyone.
Is it because Silverchair are seen as untouchables?
I can’t comment. I met Daniel’s mother, Mrs Johns, years ago and she seemed like such a dear person that I’d rather not impugn the oeuvre of her son.
Is it because critics can’t take criticism?
In order to remain employed, critics must receive and respond to criticism. But the frail young men who sought your counsel were hardly Harold Bloom, were they?
Is there a lack of decent criticism in Australia that goes across the entirearts spectrum? (And if so, why?) (And if not, why?)
Australia’s intellectual life is at a nadir. Many will, quite acceptably, invoke the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement as a catalyst for disaster. There are scant possibilities for locally produced works. Others might blame declining academic standards, the internet or trans fatty acids. Whatever the case, our public language has the taste of corporate blancmange; our critics let passably good chiaroscuro pictures of nudie teens become ‘great’ and, by the way, have you seen the middle manager who is our highest elected official? It’s all broken and wrong. Given these conditions, it’s unsurprising our best, most reckless critics are getting little work. They do exist, of course. The literate ruffian is a fact of our history. His future, however, ain’t certain.