Ben Brooker

In 2005, having abandoned plans to train as an actor, I attained a Bachelor of Arts from Flinders University, majoring in drama. I returned in 2010 to complete my honours; my thesis explored online theatre criticism. The following year, convinced that the immediate way forward was marked by the page rather than the stage, I finished an Advanced Diploma of Professional Writing at AC Arts in Adelaide.

I’m interested in the complete writer, the wordsmith who, like Camus, is able to turn their hand to a multitude of forms. Short stories, plays, essays, polemics and reviews are some of the things I’ve written. Everything I write seems to be an attempt to understand something of the nature of human suffering, but humour—or at least the stoic’s irony—always seems to find a way in. Perhaps vainly, I respond to similar qualities in other people’s work, but more generally like to ask Helen Garner’s question: “Does it give me energy, or take energy away?”

My work has been featured by Overland, New Matilda, New Internationalist, Australian Book Review, RealTime, The Lifted Brow, and Daily Review. In 2013 I was an Emerging Writer in Residence at the SA Writers’ Centre and was a featured playwright at the 2014 Emerging Writers’ Festival Adelaide Roadshow and the 2015 National Play Festival. My plays have been performed in Sydney and Adelaide, including by the award-winning Adelaide independent theatre company five.point.one. My most recently produced work for the stage was the dystopian triptych This Storm (2016 Adelaide Fringe Festival), which I also directed. I am a co-facilitator of Adelaide’s Quart Short literary reading salons and am, as of this writing, an inaugural Sydney Review of Books Emerging Critics Fellow.

www.marginalia-bb.blogspot.com.au

Exposé

I approach reviewing with this thought in my mind: art would exist without criticism, but criticism would not exist without art. The necessary humility should follow. Critics ought never to write out of a desire to belittle or to diminish, but simply because they believe art is too important to be allowed to get away with not being as fulfilled and fulfilling as it can be. In other words, criticism should always be closer to a kind of love than a kind of loathing. Plain speaking, rigour and unfettered engagement are the keys. Style is essential; objectivity, a myth. Critics should never sit on their hands, only their egos. Finally, A.B. Walkley guides me: “Critics proper… are consumers of one art, the art of drama, and producers of another art, the art of criticism.”

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