“Almost without exception,” says Nick Keys, “great writing emerges from a reading practice of sustained depth.” As far as he’s concerned, writers are reading addicts “with enough pretension to self-medicate by trying out writing themselves”. The problem, however, is when the dosage exceeds the ailment.
That’s where the Centre for Deep Reading comes in. Keys established the Centre as a playful institutional rubric for recuperating the art of reading as part of our collective creative and critical practice, for rediscovering that depth. Together with Ella Skilbeck-Porter, he runs events that combine daylong stretches of binge-reading with artistic presentations and responses to featured texts.
So far the Centre has profiled the works of Virginia Woolf—to mark the novelist’s 135th birthday—and Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector—an event that culminated in an improvised group vocal performance. “What I like most about the Centre,” says Skilbeck-Porter, “is that it’s a space for critical and creative responses as a way of reinvigorating texts and figures. And having personal responses to them.”
Next up is White Out, a two-day bender dedicated to the work of Australian novelist and playwright Patrick White. Why White? “He’s a huge figure in the Australian literary scene,” says Skilbeck-Porter, “except I found that lots of people of my generation hadn’t actually read him”. Keys agrees. “It’s a crime how many of us apparently literary people—myself included until a few weeks ago—have not read White.”
Building on the Centre’s previous events, White Out will include a day of deep reading and a day of interdisciplinary responses to White’s work by textile artists, dancers, writers and academics.
White Out is on Saturday June 24th and Sunday 25th at the Old School Building, University of Sydney, Darlington. More info at deep-reading.org. It’s a free event.
Patron saint reading cards and bookmarks by David Sater.