Melbourne by Sophie Cunningham

by |July 12, 2011

Sophie Cunningham writes a year in the city’s life, a year that takes us from the heatwave that culminated on Black Saturday when temperatures soared to 47 degrees to the destructive deluge of a hailstorm.

She walks through Melbourne’s oldest suburb to its largest market, she goes to the footy and to the comedy festival, she talks publishing and learns how to use a letterpress.

Along the way she journeys deep into her own recollections of the city she grew up in, and tells stories from its history: the theft of Picasso’s Weeping Woman, the Hoddle Street massacre, William Barak’s trek from Healesville, the Westgate Bridge Disaster, the high drama of the 1970 and 2009 AFL grand finals and the Market Murders of the sixties.

She strolls by Melbourne’s rivers and creeks while considering the history of the wetlands and river that sit at Melbourne’s heart. She clambers through the drains that lie beneath. For it is water the corralling of it, the excess of it, the squandering of it, the lack of it that defines Melbourne’s history, its present and its future.

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About the Author

Sophie Cunningham is a Melbourne-based writer and editor. She was publisher at McPhee Gribble/Penguin for two years and Trade Publisher at Allen & Unwin for ten, where she was known for innovative fiction and non-fiction.

In 2004, her own first novel, Geography, was published. In 2005 she was an Asialink resident in Sri Lanka, which provided research material for her novel Bird, which follows the life of a singer-actress who became a Buddhist nun. She’s working on her third novel, This Devastating Fever, about Leonard Woolf’s time as a colonial administrator in Ceylon. She has also written several pieces of journalism and travel writing.

In 2008 she became the editor of Meanjin and aims to make the literary magazine ‘lighter, more fun, but I don’t mean lightweight.” She also aims to establish a younger audience for the magazine.

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About the Contributor

While still in his twenties, John Purcell opened a second-hand bookshop in Mosman, Sydney, in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Since then he has written, under a pseudonym, a series of very successful novels, interviewed hundreds of writers about their work, appeared at writers’ festivals, on TV (most bizarrely in comedian Luke McGregor’s documentary Luke Warm Sex) and has been featured in prominent newspapers and magazines. ​Now, as the Director of Books at booktopia.com.au, Australia’s largest online bookseller, he supports Australian writing in all its forms. He lives in Sydney with his wife, two children, three dogs, five cats, unnumbered gold fish and his overlarge book collection.

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