An Interview with Anthony Macris
Anthony Macris is an Australian writer and Associate Professor of Creative Writing. His works include Capital: Volume One (UWAP), Great Western Highway (UWAP), When Horse Became Saw (Penguin), and Inexperience and other stories (UWAP). Anthony grew up in Brisbane, and now lives in Sydney.
We talked with Anthony about his most recent book, Inexperience and other stories. He gives us insight on the themes that dominate his works, the idea of authenticity, and how to become a better writer.
Your first three books, Capital: Volume One, Great Western Highway and When Horse Became Saw are all long forms of fiction and non-fiction. What made you decide to publish your most recent book, Inexperience and other stories as a collection of shorter works?
Different kinds of ideas fit into different story forms and word lengths. You get an idea, and then you see how far it runs. Sometimes you think it’s a novel, but it’s a short story, and vice versa. The stories in Inexperience come from a variety of periods, but I thought there was enough of a unifying theme to justify publishing them. At its most general, that theme would be people trying to find their place in a complex world. I did a fair few rewrites of stories that had been published some time ago, which was a really interesting process: I got to fix up things that made me cringe! The most fun part was being able to add to the title story a whole section set in Paris that had been nagging away at me for years.
Themes of masculinity, hyper-consumerism and the progression of capitalism are weaved through a lot of your stories. Was this an active decision to incorporate into your stories, or more of a direct consequence of your own experiences?
It’s always been a conscious decision to deal with the theme of market forces. I remember in the 1980s the great shift to the dominance of market forces in every aspect of our society. Globally it started with the Reagan/Thatcher era, and it’s been going on every since, with Australia following suit. Now we’ve got horrors like precarious work and climate change. I’m attracted to big picture themes, then situating the personal and the individual in that context. So the stories in Inexperience reflect how people have handled or been affected by the rise of neo-liberalism. The gender side of things is less conscious, probably more intuitive. I’ve always been attracted to the theme of the couple, in particular how men and women love each other, and how they can love very differently.
“I’ve always been attracted to the theme of the couple, in particular how men and women love each other, and how they can love very differently.“
“Inexperience” explores travelling with the idea of ‘authenticity’, which ties closely with the modern day view of travelling, which is: to travel is to uncover one’s authentic self. What role does ‘authenticity’ play in capitalism, and is there such thing as an ‘authentic self’?
That’s a big philosophical question! The main characters of the title story “Inexperience”, are a couple in their mid 20s. They both aspire to create an authentic self, but they do so under certain conditions. There’s an idea from classic existentialism that you form yourself through the set of decisions you make in response to life’s challenges, and that making yourself is on ongoing process. Now, what if the conditions of that self-making process take place within a world dominated by market forces? The decisions you make around finding happiness with others, making your life worthwhile, take place within that context. The couple in “Inexperience” are people who love arts and culture, they’re lively and sincere (at least I tried to make them so), and they want to experience everything Europe has to offer. But they’re constrained by money, mass tourism, their lack of experience in love, by confused and mismatched ideals that can’t be met.
As an Associate Professor of Creative Writing, how do you encourage young writers who are still new to the industry?
Read widely in general, and with depth in the areas that you connect with. I’m probably preaching to the converted here, but I worry that, with the rise of all kinds of digital platforms, reading can be fragmented and superficial. Now, I’m not anti-technology: I’ve kept up with every new wave (I teach in a university of technology, I have no choice!). But, there’s nothing like immersing yourself in rich reading experiences of depth and then, if you’re an aspiring writer yourself, trying to figure out how the writer did it. The second thing I’d say is to commit yourself long-term to creating a body of work that has some significance for an audience. To cut through, you need to have something to say. Sure, writers write for themselves, but they also need to connect with audiences. Developing this kind of double optic can be really energising: developing a conversation with whatever corner of the world you want to engage with.
“To cut through, you need to have something to say. Sure, writers write for themselves, but they also need to connect with audiences.”
Are you working on anything new at the moment?
I’m about two-thirds of the way through the third volume of my Capital novels. The book is set partly in Brisbane, where I grew up in my parents’ fish and chip shop, and half in Sydney, during the period I did my Arts degree at Sydney uni. It’s slow going!
Anthony Macris has an MA in writing from the University of Technology Sydney, an MA from Johns Hopkins University, and PhD from Western Sydney University. He is currently an Associate Professor of Creative Writing and Literary Theory at the University of Technology Sydney.
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