Michael Wilding (writer)
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Michael Wilding (born 5 January 1942 in Worcester, England) is a British writer and academic.
Michael Wilding, novelist and critic, was born in Worcester UK and read English at Oxford. He has taught English and Australian Literature and creative writing at the University of Sydney, where he is now emeritus professor, the University of Birmingham, the University of California at Santa Barbara, and the National University of Singapore. He has also been a milkman, postman, apple-picker, newspaper columnist, Cosmopolitan Bachelor of the Month, Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities, and Chair of the New South Wales Writers' Centre. He has been translated and published in some 20 countries. His papers and manuscripts are held in the Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW, Sydney. His correspondence with Christina Stead is in the National Library of Australia. There are portraits of him by Edgar Billingham and by Dimitri Lihachov in private collections. Central Independent Television UK made a documentary on his writing, Reading the Signs. For many years he was Australian editor of Stand, the UK quarterly edited by Jon Silkin and Lorna Tracy, introducing the work of Robert Adamson, Peter Carey, and Vicki Viidikas to the UK. Wilding was a founding editor of the University of Queensland Press's Asian & Pacific Writing series (20 volumes), the innovative short story magazine, Tabloid Story with Frank Moorhouse and Carmel Kelly, and of the publishers Wild & Woolley (with Pat Woolley), and Paperbark Press (with the poet Robert Adamson). A critical study of his work, Michael Wilding and the Fiction of Instant Experience by Don Graham, was published by Teneo Press, Amherst and New York, in 2013. In 2015 he received the Colin Roderick award and the Prime Minister's Literary award for non-fiction for his Wild Bleak Bohemia: Marcus Clarke, Adam Lindsay Gordon and Henry Kendall: a Documentary.
His fiction, essays and reviews have appeared in the New Yorker, Harpers, Review of Contemporary Fiction, London Magazine, Gangway, Granta, Stand, Bananas, Overland, Meanjin, Southerly, Quadrant, London Review of Books, San Francisco Review of Books, New Statesman, Essays in Criticism, Journal of Commonwealth Literature, Oxford Review, Modern Language Review, Griffith Review, Nation Review, National Times, the Australian, the Bulletin, the Sydney Morning Herald &c.
His first novel Living Together was described by David Marr in the Bulletin as 'a very funny book and a perfect picture of the people, the time, the place'. Jan Meek, wrote in "Vogue" Australia, 'He is so exhilaratingly adept with narrative you cannot put the book down... Wilding's pen is sharp as a rapier.' The San Francisco Review of Books hailed The Short Story Embassy, declaring Wilding was 'The best of the talent emerging from down under.' It was followed by Scenic Drive which was acclaimed in the USA: Dianna Pizza, wrote in the L. A. Star: ‘Takes you on a trip that shouldn’t be missed … I laughed until I cried. It’s rare that I enjoy a book as much as I enjoyed Scenic Drive – it’s a memorable book, sexy and funny. Once you read it, you’ll want to turn all of your friends on to it.’ And Dick Higgins commented in Newsart: ‘Wilding is fast becoming a well-known figure to the US underground … It’s first-rate fiction.’
After the pastoral political paradisal Pacific Highway Wilding published two documentary narratives, The Paraguayan Experiment, the story of the New Australia settlement, and Raising Spirits, Making Gold and Swapping Wives: The True Adventures of Dr John Dee & Sir Edward Kelly, which Peter Porter selected as one of The Economist Books of the Year: 'The story of Queen Elizabeth I's necromancer, John Dee, as transcribed from original documents interspersed with Michael Wilding's own words. A piece of esoterica designed to startle and delight the modern reader.' A third documentary, Wild Bleak Bohemia: Marcus Clarke, Adam Lindsay Gordon and Henry Kendall, won the 2015 Colin Roderick award and the Prime Minister's Award for non-fiction.
Two autobiographical novels of the literary life followed—Wildest Dreams, an Australian Book of the Year, which Adrian Caesar wrote, ‘deserves to be thought of as a contemporary classic’ and Wild Amazement. Bob Ellis wrote in Overland, ‘What I think absorbs the reader in the deeply revelatory un-memoir Wild Amazement is ... Michael’s clear, almost hyper-real remembrance, as if experienced on a guided tour of a radiant, countercultural Disneyland, of a way of life, and a gravely joyous bohemia now gone, of how it was, and what a time it was, it really was, in Sydney in the sixties and seventies, in the Newcastle and the Journos’ Club and the Push parties and the plans for a literary life.’ And in, Quadrant, Peter Corris wrote, ‘Anyone interested in how contemporary Australian writing came to be the way it is, with its strengths and follies, its cliques and patrons, and the challenges it faces, will benefit from reading Wilding’s sensitive, sometimes bitchy, often funny and always intelligent tracing of his life’s trajectory.’ The Italian translation of Wild Amazement appeared in 2009.
Between these two books Wilding wrote a best-selling campus novel Academia Nuts. Laurie Taylor wrote in the Times Higher Educational Supplement: 'A witty campus novel? In 2004? It seemed as likely as a holiday romance set amid the tropical delights of Guantanamo Bay. ... But it is very funny. So funny that I had to stop reading it in bed in case my roars of laughter were disturbing the neighbours: so funny that it deserves to be the final great campus novel. It is unlikely to be challenged. For what Wilding's aged unreconstructed dons are playing with such absurd brio is unmistakably the last waltz.' A sequel, Superfluous Men, appeared in 2009. National Treasure is a black comedy about the literary world. Christopher Bantick, wrote in the Weekend Australian that it was 'witty and genuinely funny... Wilding's zesty writing and sheer fun with his subject makes for a diverting read. But don't be conned. This is fiction with more truth than lies.' 'Thoroughly enjoyable, sometimes hilarious,’ wrote Brian Matthews in the Australian Book Review, adding, ‘but it is not lightweight: it is tough, well-calculated, smoothly witty satire.' And Kerryn Goldsworthy wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald: ‘By the end of the novel we’ve realised why Plant is called Plant and we’ve seen perhaps more than we wanted to of the secret life of the successful Australian writer. Like Academia Nuts it’s a fable about the relentless commercialisation of what used to be the life of the mind, at once very depressing and very funny.’
National Treasure is the pilot for the series of Plant private-eye novels, beginning with The Prisoner of Mount Warning. Peter Corris wrote: ‘If this was as much fun to write as it is to read, Michael Wilding must have enjoying writing The Prisoner of Mount Warning. A take on the secret world, mainstream and underground journalism, Writers’ Centres, the counter culture and much else, the book is a heady ride from Sydney to Byron Bay and the Gold Coast with Plant, resting writer, investigating something that might have happened but perhaps not. Wilding has created a world both funny and creepy for Plant and the reader.’ Emma Young wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald (26–27 November 2011) of The Magic Of It 'The truth in this fiction is at least as entertaining as what has been invented... and a protagonist who surely will be back' and Cameron Woodhead wrote in the same paper (14–15 December 2013) 'Asian Dawn is a fast-paced read with lots of seedy sex and compromising secrets, plus a few well-aimed jabs at the academic world'. Derek Turner wrote in the Spectator Australia (28 January 2017) of In the Valley of the Weed that it 'brings to light a convoluted sexual life, and a mass of contradictions and enigmas about ... modern academe, drug laws, the secret state, civil liberties, abuses of the internet, media bias, the literary world, and political correctness.'
Wilding’s first short story collection was Aspects of the Dying Process. He was hailed as 'one of the best writers of short stories in Australia today' by the Australian Book Review. 'The short story writer as sociologist, the short story writer as photo-realist,’ wrote the Times Literary Supplement, adding ‘Wilding can accurately pace a story and make a woman ironical and elusive in just a few sentences.' It was followed by the collections West Midland Underground, The Phallic Forest which Jean Bedford described in National Times as 'elegantly written and evocative... an undercurrent of sensitivity and searching for truths,' and of which the title story was filmed by Kit Guyatt, Reading the Signs and This is for You. Under Saturn is a collection of four novellas, including the cult classic ‘Campus Novel’.
There have been a number of selections from these volumes, including The Man of Slow Feeling, Book of the Reading and Great Climate, published in the USA as Her Most Bizarre Sexual Experience. This was described as 'Erotic, fiercely intelligent and mordantly funny,' by Janette Turner Hospital. Jim Crace wrote 'His stories subvert and transcend not only sexual and social conventions... but story-telling itself.' And J. P. Donleavy commented: '21st century writing for 21st-century people.' Of the selection Somewhere New, Don Graham wrote: 'What strikes one first, apart from the impressive merits of individual stories, is Wilding's keen sense of literary integrity. Without being self-important or pretentious, Wilding’s voice in these stories is always one to attend to: an ironic, witty, highly educated, and in its indirect way, passionate authorial persona who has believed in literature as a life of principle, has seen many of the bases of that belief assaulted by abstruse theory, trendy anti-realism, and sinecure-seeking cynicism, and yet still in the face of everything, is able to make the affirming act through the agency of fiction. ... No one in English writes better fiction about the process of writing than Wilding.' 'Essential reading,' wrote Robert Yeo, in the Singapore Straits Times.
Michael Wilding’s literary studies range from the seventeenth century to the present day. They include Dragons Teeth: Literature in the English Revolution, and a reading of Milton’s Paradise Lost; two volumes on the political novel—political fictions and Social Visions; a study of Marcus Clarke, a selection of Marcus Clarke's writings and a reissue of Clarke’s stories; and Studies in Classic Australian Fiction. He edited William Lane’s The Workingman’s Paradise and The Oxford Book of Australian Short Stories. He was made a Doctor of Letters by the University of Sydney for his writings on literature in its social and political context.
Co-edited books include Australians Abroad (with Charles Higham), The Radical Reader (with Stephen Knight), Air Mail from Down Under (with Rudi Krausmann), the three volumes of Best Stories Under the Sun (with David Myers), Cyril Hopkins' Marcus Clarke (with Laurie Hergenhan and Ken Stewart, Heart Matters (with Peter Corris)and an anthology of Australian fiction in Serbian translation (with Natasha Kampmark).
A festschrift in his honour, Running Wild: Essays, Fictions and Memoirs Presented to Michael Wilding, edited by David Brooks and Brian Kiernan, was published in 2004. It includes a number of essays on his fiction by Brian Kiernan, Laurie Hergenhan, Bruce Clunies Ross, Adrian Caesar and Robert Yeo. Other critical assessments include:
- Don Graham, "Michael Wilding and the Fiction of Instant Experience: Stories, Novels and Memoirs, 1963–2012", Teneo Press, Amherst and New York, 2013
- Simone Vauthier, 'Reading the Signs of Michael Wilding's "Knock Knock"' in Giovanna Capone, ed., European Perspectives: Contemporary Essays on Australian Literature, University of Queensland Press, St Lucia, 1991, 128–39.
- Igor Maver, 'Non-Australian Settings in Michael Wilding's Selected and New Short Stories Somewhere New,' in Igor Maver, Contemporary Australian Literature Between Europe and Australia, Sydney Studies in Society & Culture, Sydney; Shoestring Press, Nottingham, 1999, 17–41.
- Igor Maver, 'Michael Wilding's Selected and New Short Stories' in Mirko Jurak and Igor Maver, eds, Essays on Australian and Canadian Literature, Znanstveni institut Folozofske fakultete, Ljubljana, 2000, 71–85.
- Don Graham, 'Michael Wilding's "Lost Illusions"; The Balzacian Underpinnings of Wildest Dreams,' in Francis de Groen and Ken Stewart, ed., Australian Writing and the City, Association for the Study of Australian Literature, 2000, 138–43.
- Dieter Riemenschneider, 'The Triangle of Art and Life: Michael Wilding, Short Story Writer' in Jacqueline Bardolph, ed., Telling Stories: Post-Colonial Short Fiction in English, Rodopi, Amsterdam and Atlanta, 2001, 427–38.
- Ken Gelder and Paul Salzman, The New Diversity: Australian Fiction 1970–88, McPhee Gribble, Melbourne, 1989.
- Carl Harrison-Ford, Tim Thorne, Don Anderson, Andrew Riemer, Bill Ashcroft and Helen Daniel in Helen Daniel, ed., The Good Reading Guide, McPhee Gribble, Melbourne, 1989, 273–76.
- Contemporary Authors, Gale Research Co, Detroit: vol. 104, ed. Frances C. Loher, 1982, 519; vol. 24 New Revision series, ed. Deborah A. Straub, 1988, 476; vol. 49 New Revision series, ed. Pamela S. Dear, 1995, 440–42; vol. 106 New Revision series, 2002, 452–56.
- Bruce Bennett, 'Michael Wilding' in James Vinson, ed., Contemporary Novelists, 4th edition, Macmillan, London, 1987.
- Cantrell, Leon, 'The New Novel' in K. G. Hamilton, ed., Studies in the Recent Australian Novel, University of Queensland Press, St Lucia, 1978, 225–57.
- Ian Reid, 'The Social Semiotic of Narrative Exchange,' in Terry Threadgold, E. A. Grosz, G. Kress and M. A. K. Halliday, ed., Semiotics, Ideology, Language, Sydney Studies in Society & Culture, 3, 1986.
- Ken Goodwin, A History of Australian Literature, Macmillan, London, 1986, 254–58.
- Brian Kiernan, 'Literary Sydney' in Jill Roe ed., Twentieth Century Sydney, Hale & Iremonger, Sydney, reprinted in Brian Kiernan, Studies in Australian Literary History, Sydney Studies in Society & Culture, Sydney: Shoestring Press, Nottingham, 1998.
- Bruce Bennett, The Australian Short Story, University of Queensland Press, 2002.
- Don Anderson, Hot Copy: Reading & Writing Now, Penguin, Ringwood, 1986, 46–48.
- W. H. Wilde, Barry Andrews and Joy Hooton, ed., The Oxford Companion to Australian Literature, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1985; 2nd edition, 1994, 815–16.
- Carl Harrison-Ford, 'The Short Stories of Wilding and Moorhouse,' Southerly, 33 (1973) 167–78.
- Brian Kiernan, 'Recent Developments in Australian Writing with Particular Reference to Short Fiction,' Caliban, (Toulouse), XIV (1977) 123–34.
- Bruce Clunies Ross, 'Laszlo's Testament, or Structuring the Past and Sketching the Present in Contemporary Short Fiction,' Kunapipi, (Aarhus), I ii (1980) 110–23.
- Bruce Clunies Ross, 'A New Version of Pastoral: the Fiction of Michael Wilding,' Australian Literary Studies, XI (1983) 182–94.
- Ken Gelder, 'Uncertainty and Subversion in the Australian Novel,' Pacific (Moana) Quarterly, (Hamilton, New Zealand), IV (1979) 437–44.
- Ken Gelder, 'Character and Environment in Some Recent Australian Fiction,' Waves, (York University, Ontario), VII (1979) 98–104.
- G. M. Gillard, 'The New Writing: Whodunnit?' Meanjin XL (1981) 167–74.
- Don Graham, ‘The Rhetoric of Address in Michael Wilding’s Short Fiction,’ Antipodes, 2010.
- Hans Hauge, 'Post-Modernism and the Australian Literary Heritage,' Overland, 96 (1984) 50–51.
- Bruce Clunies Ross, 'Paradise, Politics and Fiction: The Writing of Michael Wilding,' Meanjin, 45 i (1986) 19–27.
- Simone Vauthier, 'Lost and Found: Narrative and Description in Michael Wilding's "What it was like, sometimes,"' Journal of the Short Story in English: Les Cahiers de la Nouvelle (University of Angers) 12 (1989) 63–76
- Don Graham, 'Koka Kola Culture; Reflections Upon Things American Down Under,' Southwest Review, (USA), 78 ii (Spring 1993) 231–44
- Frank Parigi, 'Frank Moorhouse and Michael Wilding – and Internationalism,' Antipodes, (Austin, Texas) 8 ii (June 1994) 15–20
- Pradeep Trikha, 'Michael Wilding's Short Stories with Magnitude,' The Literary Criterion, 30, i & ii, (1995) 141–44
- Ian Syson, 'Michael Wilding's Three Centres of Value,' Australian Literary Studies, (May 1998), 269–79
- Igor Maver, '"My Beloved Mississippi River": Michael Wilding's Somewhere New,' Antipodes, 12, ii (December 1998), 83–89
- Colin Symes, 'Revolting campuses,' Teaching in Higher Education, 9, No. 4, (October 2004)
- Stephen Conlon, 'The New Idea of the University as an Academic Theme Park: Academia Nuts,' Asian Journal of Literature, Culture and Society, 1, 1, (February 2007), 1–22
- Adrienne Sallay, ‘Virgin Sock-Washers and Tweed Jackets: The Short Story in the 1970s,’ Southerly 68, 2 (November 2008) 181-96
- Natasa Karanfilovic, ‘The Adventures of an Artful Dodger: On Writers and Writing in Contemporary Australia'
- Bruce Bennett, 'Home and Away: Australian Short Fiction of the 1970s – Moorhouse, Wilding, Viidikas,' in The Regenerative Spirit, volume 2, ed. S. Williams, D. Lonergan, R. Hosking, L. Deane and N. Bierbaum, Lythrum Press, Adelaide, 2004, 241–50; reprinted as ‘The Unsettled 70s – Moorhouse, Wilding, Viidikas,’ in Bruce Bennett, Homing In: Essays on Australian Literature and Selfhood, Network, Perth, 2006, 209–20.
- Bruce Bennett, The Spying Game: An Australian Angle, Australian Scholarly Publishing, Melbourne, 2012, 25–32
- Don Graham, ‘The Rhetoric of Personal Address in Michael Wilding's Short Fiction’, Antipodes, 26.1 (June 2012): 99-101
- Stephen Conlon, ‘Michael Wilding’s Wild Bleak Bohemia’, Asian Journal of Literature, Culture and Society, 7, 2 (2013) 49-62
- Don Graham, ‘Michael Wilding’s Texas Story’, Antipodes, 28: 2, December 2014, 426-35
- Aspects of the Dying Process, University of Queensland Press, St Lucia, 1972
- Living Together, University of Queensland Press, St Lucia, 1974
Serbo-Croatian translation by David Albahari, Decje Novine, Beograd, 1985
- The West Midland Underground, University of Queensland Press, St Lucia, 1975
- The Short Story Embassy, Wild & Woolley, Sydney, 1975
- Scenic Drive, Wild & Woolley, Sydney, 1976
- The Phallic Forest, Wild & Woolley, Sydney; John McIndoe, Dunedin, 1978
- Noc Na Orgiji [Night at the Orgy], stories selected and translated by David Albahari, Kultura, Beograd, 1982
- Pacific Highway, Hale & Iremonger, Sydney, 1982
- Reading the Signs, Hale & Iremonger, Sydney, 1984
- The Man of Slow Feeling: Selected Short Stories, Penguin, Melbourne, 1986
- Under Saturn, Black Swan, Sydney, 1988
- Great Climate, Faber & Faber, London, 1990
- Her Most Bizarre Sexual Experience, W. W. Norton, New York, 1991
- This is for You, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1994
- Book of the Reading, Paper Bark Press, Sydney, 1994
- Somewhere New: New & Selected Stories, Central Queensland University Press, Rockhampton; McBride's Books, Colwall, UK, 1996
Punjabi translation by Tejpal Singh, Kition Nawan, Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi, 2001
- Wildest Dreams, University of Queensland Press, St Lucia, 1998
- A Whisper from the Forest, selected stories in Japanese translation by Sokushin Ezawa, Seizansha, Tokyo, 1999
- Academia Nuts, Wild & Woolley, Sydney, 2002, 2nd edition 2003
- Wild Amazement, Central Queensland University Press, Rockhampton; Shoestring Press, Nottingham, UK, 2006
Italian translation by Aldo Magagnino, Con Folle Stupore, Edizioni Controluce, 2008
- National Treasure, Central Queensland University Press, Rockhampton, 2007
- Superfluous Men, Arcadia, Melbourne, 2009
- The Prisoner of Mount Warning, Press On / Arcadia, Melbourne, 2010
- The Magic Of It, Press On / Arcadia, Melbourne, 2011
- Asian Dawn, Press On / Arcadia, Melbourne, 2013
- In the Valley of the Weed, Arcadia, Melbourne, 2017
- The Paraguayan Experiment, Penguin, Melbourne & Harmondsworth, 1985
Bengali translation by Geeta Sen, Papyrus, Calcutta, 1995
- Raising Spirits, Making Gold, and Swapping Wives: The True Adventures of Dr John Dee and Sir Edward Kelly, Shoestring Press, Nottingham, UK; Abbott Bentley, Sydney, 1999
- Wild Bleak Bohemia: Marcus Clarke, Adam Lindsay Gordon and Henry Kendall: A Documentary, Australian Scholarly Publishing, Melbourne, 2014
- Milton's Paradise Lost, Sydney University Press, Sydney, 1969
- Cultural Policy in Great Britain (with Michael Green), Unesco, Paris, 1970
- Marcus Clarke, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1977
- Political Fictions, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1980; Hale & Iremonger, Sydney, 1984
- Dragons Teeth: Literature in the English Revolution, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1987
- The Radical Tradition: Lawson, Furphy, Stead, Foundation for Australian Literary Studies, Townsville, 1993
- Social Visions, Sydney Studies in Society & Culture, Sydney, 1993
- Studies in Classic Australian Fiction, Sydney Studies in Society & Culture, Sydney; Shoestring Press, Nottingham U. K., 1997
- Among Leavisites, privately printed, Sydney, 1999
- Wild & Woolley: A Publishing Memoir, Giramondo, Sydney, 2011
- Growing Wild (recollections), Australian Scholarly Publishing, Melbourne, 2016
- Three Tales by Henry James, Hicks Smith, Sydney, 1967
- Australians Abroad (with Charles Higham), F.W.Cheshire, Melbourne, 1967
- Marvell: Modern Judgements, Macmillan, London, 1969; Aurora, Nashville, 1970
- Julius Caesar and Marcus Brutus by John Sheffield, Cornmarket, London, 1970
- We Took Their Orders And Are Dead (with David Malouf, Shirley Cass and Ros Cheney), Ure Smith, Sydney, 1971
- Marcus Clarke, University of Queensland Press, St Lucia, 1976; 2nd edition, 1988
- The Radical Reader (with Stephen Knight), Wild & Woolley, Sydney, 1977
- The Tabloid Story Pocket Book, Wild & Woolley, Sydney, 1978
- The Workingman's Paradise by William Lane, Sydney University Press, 1980; 2nd edition, 2004
- Stories by Marcus Clarke, Hale & Iremonger, Sydney, 1983
- Air Mail from Down Under, (Australian Short Stories in German translation) (with Rudi Krausmann), Gangaroo, 1990
- The Oxford Book of Australian Short Stories, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, Oxford and New York, 1994, paperback, 1995
- History, Literature and Society: essays in honour of Soumyen Mukherjee, (with Mabel Lee), Sydney Studies in Society & Culture, Sydney; Manohar, New Delhi, 1997
- Best Stories Under the Sun, (with David Myers), Central Queensland University Press, Rockhampton, 2004
- Best Stories Under the Sun: 2: Travellers' Tales, (with David Myers), Central Queensland University Press, Rockhampton, 2005
- Confessions and Memoirs: Best Stories Under the Sun 3, (with David Myers), Central Queensland University Press, Rockhampton, 2006
- Cyril Hopkins’ Marcus Clarke (with Laurie Hergenhan and Ken Stewart), Australian Scholarly Publishing, Melbourne, 2009
- Heart Matters (with Peter Corris), Viking, Melbourne, 2010
- Price Iz Bezvremene Zemlje. Antologija savremene australikjske proze (with Natasa Kampmark), Agora, Novi Sad, 2012
- 'The story of a maverick,' Peter Pierce wrote in the Dictionary of Literary Biography.
- http://www.litere.uvt.ro/documente_pdf/bas/contents_no15.pdf Paper to BAS Conference, Romania, 2008.
- By Irina Dunn, Australian Writers’ Network.
- Bibliography posted by the author from his website.