Good Reading : April 2018
GOOD READING NOVEMBER 2015 29 KNOCKING ON FUTURE’S DOOR GOOD READING APRIL 2018 29 for while Austen’s heroes are all wealthy men, Adam uses his inher ited wealth to further the cause of social justice. Hazel falls in love while doorknocking on behalf of the Australian Greens. Why did you incorporate politics in a romantic story? I see the two strands – the romantic and the political - in my novel as inseparable. I wanted to explore what it might mean to lead a ‘good’ life in both the personal and political spheres. What kinds of values do we affirm by our choice of a love object? What kind of values should we live by as members of a community? I’ve also linked the romantic and political plots by exploring the ethics of persuasion. When they go doorknocking, Hazel and Adam try to persuade people to reconsider their political views; in the romance plot, Adam tries to convince Hazel that, as an intelligent, politically committed woman, she has a duty to have a child. The roles are reversed at the end of the novel, when Hazel persuades Adam to change his mind about their relationship. In both the romantic and the political plots, the novel raises questions: what right do people have to try to change other people’s beliefs and values? Does a ‘good’ outcome justify the initial attempt to persuade? Is being author as entertainer or educator more important to you? I’m not interested in writing escapist entertainment or fiction for the mass market. That’s the goal of popular romance and pulp fiction: the kind of novel I make fun of in The Art of Persuasion. I write to be educative, to encourage readers to reflect on issues that matter to me, but I also understand that an educative novel mustn’t be didactic or preachy; it has to be a pleasure to read in order to be ‘persuasive’. I wanted to wr ite a novel that gave readers the intellectual pleasure of considering different sides of an argument, the pleasure of making them laugh, the emotional pleasure of pathos and tenderness. the pleasure of erotic deferral (how long will it take before Hazel and Adam finally have sex) and, crucially, the aesthetic pleasure of appreciating the novel’s use of language and the crafting of a story. Your novel is set in suburban Perth where you have lived most of your adult life. Why was it important to set your story here? The setting of Perth is partly political. Perth voters have a long history of conservatism, and I wanted to suggest more progressive ways of thinking. Perth also has a reputation for being laid-back, a great place to bring up children (as Hazel’s mother likes to remind a daughter who doesn’t want children). But as I point out in my novel, the laid-back nature of the city – the relatively low crime rate, lovely beaches and clean air that make it a kind of paradise on earth – can also lead to complacency and insularity. The fact that the setting is suburban is also important. It was a way of contesting the belief that ‘authentic’ Australian fiction is set in the outback and celebrates values such as stoicism and mateship. I wanted instead to present the realities of the highly urbanised nature of Australian society. The Art of Persuasion by Susan Midalia is published by Fremantle Press, rrp $24.99.