Q: What do novelists do in their spare time?
A: They create iPhone applications, of course. Well, at least one Melbourne novelist has.
Narrelle M Harris, author of the rather fab vampire novel, The Opposite of Life, recently launched Melbourne Literary, an app for the iPhone. This app can be used to discover literary locations, local authors and books set in Melbourne. Even I get a mention!
Let me say here that I do not have an iPhone and I have no plans to get an iPhone in the near future. But if I did have an iPhone, this is exactly the sort of app that I’d get and use. So, I invited Narrelle to tell us how she went about putting together the information for this app.
Discovering literary history
By Narrelle M Harris
When you start a project, you never know what you’re going to learn in the research phase. I began the preliminary work on the Melbourne Literary iPhone application fairly confident that I knew a lot about Melbourne and its literary history. I ended up learning how much I didn’t know – but at least I filled in a few gaps.
The app was inspired by Melbourne’s status as the second UNESCO City of Literature (Edinburgh was the first). It achieved the honour for very excellent reasons. This town has a history of being intimately involved in writing, publishing and bookselling from the very early days of the colony in the 1830s. Melbourne has incubated great writers, including one of the first women to write detective fiction, Mary Fortune (who predates both Fergus Hume and Arthur Conan Doyle). It has been birthplace to, or adopted home of, many acclaimed writers. It’s a place where people love to read – at home, on the tram, in little cafes and on the State Library lawn (weather permitting).
I wanted to make the app as interesting and inclusive as possible. I wanted to surprise people with it – for them to discover things they hadn’t known about this town. I had my own little surprises along the way.
Did you know that there is a memorial to Henry Lawson in Footscray Park, overlooking the Maribyrnong River? Raised in 1960 and maintained by the Henry Lawson Society, also based in Footscray? Have you been to The Drunken Poet, an Irish bar near the Victoria Markets? Instead of a mounted TV set, they have dozens of pictures of poets gazing down upon the merrymakers, with regular poetry nights!
For years I’ve walked past a statue on a high column in Brunswick Street and wondered who that man was, with his hands spread so expansively as though in animated conversation with the universe. He proved to be Melbourne poet and raconteur, Adrian Rawlings, active in the poetry and jazz scene in the 60s and 70s.
I discovered new writers and books too, not all of them Victorian. Anita Heiss is an Indigenous writer from Sydney, and her breezy, fun book set in Melbourne Avoiding Mr Right is the second of her “indigenous chicklit” books. I learned about Adrian Hyland’s crime novels, Carole Wilkinson’s dragon books and Gabrielle Williams’ Beatle Meets Destiny, which was marked as a ‘notable book’ in the CBC Book of the Year awards.
Public art, cafes for book lovers, specialist publishers, architectural remnants of our literary past and Australia’s oldest Shakespeare Society (established in 1884) were all there, waiting for me to find them.
Whatever else this project of mine may achieve, I hope that everyone who uses it discovers at least one new thing. As readers and writers, these discoveries give us a rich tapestry from which to construct and experience the written word. Those words are, after all, the stories we tell about ourselves to the world, and it’s a long and colourful epic filled with courage, failure, love, struggle and triumph. It’s good to know as many chapters of it as we can.
Besides, it never hurts to discover a new café, or a new book to read while you’re there.
George’s bit at the end
Has anyone out there used the Melbourne Literary app? Does anyone know of any other literary apps? Leave a comment and share your experiences.
And tune in next time, when I’ll tell you about… something. Not sure what yet, but it’s bound to be interesting, thought-provoking and an absolutely essential read. 😉
Catch ya later, George
PS. Follow me on Twitter… even though I’m not cool enough to own an iPhone!