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Saturday, 23 May 2009

Seems Melbourne's monde literaire is in a flap about Ben Naparstek, who is 23, taking the reigns of The Monthly as editor. Yesterday I started to notice a large number of hits to my blog from Melbourne. This morning, The Australian and The Age (but NOT The Sydney Morning Herald) ran stories about the appointment.

Which just goes to show how right the critics are. The Monthly is supposed to be an Australian magazine but people have complained to me that it is Melbourne-centric, always running the same writers, notably Alice Pung.

Naparstek's appointment is certainly a surprise. I blogged about him in detail because, in June 2006, age 20, he published an interview with the reclusive Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami. I thought this was exceptional, as I'd never heard of Naparstek before. Now he's scored another coup, landing one of the most coveted literature jobs in the country.

Although it has a fairly small circulation compared to The New Yorker or The Atlantic, The Monthly is distinctly Australian and does a fairly good job - pace the dissatisfied readers mentioned earlier - at reflecting what is important in this country.

It will certainly be interesting to see what happens with the magazine over the coming months and years. Nevertheless, given the cloud under which the previous editor left - not acting in a sufficiently consensual manner vis a vis Melbourne academic and magazine chairman Robert Manne - it may be valid to claim that Naparstek was appointed because the magazine's publisher thought he would be more tractable.

We'll see. And given Naparstek's international credentials - not only interviewing famous writers at their home seats but studying in Baltimore - perhaps the magazine will become less Melbourne-centric and more representative of the whole of this great land of ours.

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