Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Australia tends to shun writers for its highest honours

Peter Rose, Editor of Australian Book Review, has some fine words to say about the way Australia honours -- or, rather, doesn't honour -- its writers with the Order of Australia:

"The proportion of literary recipients is small, and declining. Compare it with sporting figures or captains of industry, and one's spirit wilts. In recent years practically everyone cited for 'service to literature' has had another significant career (often one for which they are principally known) - e.g., a professor or emeritus professor, jurist, educationist, critic, publisher, editor. Very few full-time creative writers have been honoured: the novelists and poets and dramatists who eschew other careers and work in solitude, without tenure or salaries, and with minimal financial security and superannuation (emphasis mine - PW) ...

"Australians like to think of themselves as a classless people, but a close inspection of the 405 individuals who have received the highest honour, the AC, tells a different story. What a conservatively weighted cohort it is, with its preponderance of businessmen, multi-millionaires or billionaires, wealthy philanthropists, jurists, professors and vice-regents, and former politicians and public servants ..."

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