Falling Down

June 15, 2007 at 12:25 am (Uncategorized)

Don DeLillo’s new novel is his super-keenly anticipated response to 9/11, Falling Man. It’s getting a mixed bag of reviews: some are lauding it, and others are saying ah, damn, it doesn’t quite get there. Before it published in Australia, I approached both The Australian‘s Review section and The Sydney Morning Herald‘s Spectrum section about writing a review and/or DeLillo profile to coincide with the book’s release. As it happens, The Sydney Theatre Company is also staging a production of DeLillo’s last play, Love-Lies-Bleeding, next month, so I mentioned that as a possible hook too.

No one at Review even bothered to respond. I did eventually get an email back from Spectrum, who said they had already assigned the review. Them’s the breaks, no hard feelings. But then last weekend, I opened up my copy of Spectrum, and what did I find? A profile review of DeLillo and Falling Man, sure, but something about it was strangely familiar…

Oh yes. That’s right. I’d read it before. Quite a long time ago, in fact. Last weekend was June 9-10. Tim Adams’ DeLillo piece published in London’s The Observer newspaper on April 22. I read it online on or around that date. Here’s the link.

Why do Australian papers keep serving up stale leftovers from overseas newspapers? That piece was a month and a half old. It was second-hand. I’d certainly already read it online, and I seriously doubt I was alone. Most people I know in Sydney read overseas newspapers online on a daily basis. What irks me – okay, let’s spell it out with feeling – what absolutely SHITS me about this particular example is that I WROTE A PHD THESIS ON THIS GUY’S WORK.

I’m an Australian. I live in Sydney. I am a freelance writer who also happens to be one of the preeminent DeLillo scholars in this country. As completely counterintuitive as that sounds to me on one level, on another I know it to be true. Call me crazy, but I thought I’d have a reasonably good shot at being tapped for that review. How is the intellectual culture and profile of this country ever supposed to improve if we don’t utilise more of our own experts and include more of their voices across our media? DeLillo’s work is something I know. I know it better than just about anybody else in Australia. I’d wager I know it better than Tim Adams. I’ve read all the interviews with DeLillo, too. All the past profiles. I’m very familiar with those two files on DeLillo’s desk at the beginning of his career, one marked “Terror” and the other marked “Art.” That’s back in DeLillo kindergarten, right down alongside DeLillo’s version of potato prints and nap time: consumption and connection. Paranoia and secrecy. Adultery and space. I’m across it, trust me. But instead of looking for an Australian response, from an Australian writer, and for something original for their readers that was written especially for them, Spectrum just reprinted a story out of the UK six weeks late.

I guess they didn’t want to spend the money. I guess it was cheaper to just buy a story and rerun it than pay for something new. I guess that’s why I so often see items reprinted in Australian newspapers from other sources overseas. It’s disappointing. It’s frustrating. And the funny thing is, I would have done it for nothing. I just really wanted to do it.

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4 Comments

  1. Llew said,

    So I hope that is not all that you plan to do with this piece – nothing will change unless you shake the tree – media watch, letters to the editor etc. etc.

    Get the message out there. Don’t let us become a repository for used commentary.

  2. Mike said,

    “…the intellectual culture and profile of this country…” — HA! I think there are some sports heroes (sic) that can read — will that do?

    We’re headed down this path under the current watch, I’m afraid:

    Despite this being from the up-over kings of the world, I reckon it wouldn’t be too hard to create the same sort of thing in any suburban strip mall in this fair (sic) city.

    XX :þ

  3. doctordi said,

    Oh my God, Mike. That Chaser clip is absolutely terrifying. Have they done that here? They should do that here (be careful what I wish for…?). Staggering.

    And you’re right, Llew. I might start sending my angry rant to the people responsible for it.

    Australia: repository for the world’s used commentary one day, repository for the world’s nuclear waste the next.

  4. doctordi said,

    Okay, I’ve sent a copy of the post to Media Watch, and I’ve sent edited versions to the letters-to-the-editor section of both The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian in line with their word restrictions.

    I may never work in this town again, but I must say it was very cathartic.

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