Literature for everyone

Last night I went to the SLV to hear a panel of bookish folk talk about what it means to be a City of Literature. Everyone made warm, enthusiastic noises about why Melbourne is such a perfectly literary city and a contingent from Edinburgh, the first UNESCO City of Literature in the world, told the audience about how they expressed their literary pride.

It could have just been a warm and fuzzy sort of event but then Elliot Perlman, one of the members of the literary panel, took the michrophone. Perlman spoke movingly about the importance of books and ideas. He said literature, unlike our education system, is never elitist. As long as public schools remain underfunded and teachers underpaid and unappreciated, the joy of literature will be denied to far too many young people. In Elliot Perlman’s vision of Melbourne’s future, every child in the state of Victoria would visit the new Centre for Books and Ideas at least once in their schooling – if not more often. Perlman also said it was of primary importance that Melbourne, and Australia, celebrate their own literary culture before worrying too much about extending invitations to overseas literary megastars. Not everyone in the audience liked what he had to say but I loved it. Perlman is definitely on the side of the angels.

Kirsty is an Australian author of books for children and young adults.

“Books are windows into other ways of being.”

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