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Rory Barnes

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Rory Barnes

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Full Name: Keith Rory Barnes
Born: March 11, 1946
London, England, UK
Occupation: Writer
Nationality: Australian
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Biography

I was born in London in 1946 and was immediately shipped out to Northern Rhodesia where I learnt to walk and talk in a mud hut in a tribal village – the normal career path for the first born children of anthropologists. In 1956 my whole family moved to Sydney and I've been an Australian resident, and later national, ever since. I went to school in Sydney and Canberra and failed to distinguish myself in either place (this in large measure because I'm hopelessly dyslexic and couldn't spell ten words in a row to save my soul). However, I managed to matriculate and made my way to Monash University where I fell in with the likes of Damien Broderick, Jean Bedford and John Romeril – sharing various houses with them and a motley crew of other students. We did what students did in the sixties: drank some beer, had some sex, smoked some pot, engaged in a small amount of semi-violent protest and wrote a lot of essays. My main memory of that era, however, is of little dishes of wet soapy matches next to violently shuddering gas-fired water heaters.

I graduated with an honours degree in Philosophy and went to work for the Victorian Education Department, for whom I researched subject integration and student initiated learning. It seemed important at the time and was, and still is. Then I went travelling. I wandered around S.E. Asia and the Middle East and had many adventures during which I wrote a novel about politically active school teachers in the sixties. It failed initially to find a publisher.

Back in Melbourne I spent the early seventies as a teacher seconded to the Curriculum Advisory Board. I hung around a number schools. I worked with a lot of teachers and a lot of kids and I wrote a lot of stuff about what I'd seen and done and heard. Dull-eyed statisticians with their pre-tests and post-tests were not impressed with my work. I wasn't with theirs. When I was offered a lectureship at Melbourne University, I accepted like a shot, partly because the Education Department was starting to complain about my lack of formal qualifications I didn't have a Dip.Ed.

At Melbourne University I spent an utterly delightful couple of years teaching Dip. Ed. students.

Then, on the basis of my as-yet-unpublished novel about political chalkies, I won a fellowship to Stanford University's Creative Writing Center. I flew off to California and spent a year writing a novel about a mad photographer and a single mother. It didn't find a publisher either, but the ideas in the novel were good and years later I used them again with more success inThe Book of Revelation.

While I was in California, Damien Broderick had got hold of the manuscript of my first novel and pronounced it dull because it was set on Earth in the 1960s. The trick, Broderick said, was to move it forward a few thousand years and onto a more interesting planet. Well you have a go, I said, and he did. The result is our joint novel, Valencies. For the record: on this novel we hardly co-operated at all. I wrote the first version; Damien wrote the second. Things were different for our other joint novels. Zones, for example, was largely written on the one computer, with the authors looking over each others' shoulders.

In the late seventies I lived on a farm and became a hack writer. I wrote book reviews (for the The Weekend Australian and the National Times). I taught Creative Writing at the NSW Institute of Technology. I wrote a splendid novel about a girl who shoots her dad (The Bomb-Monger's Daughter).

In the eighties I wrote reports for my publisher on other people's manuscripts. I wrote stuff about the digital-analog interface. I wrote a prize winning entry in a building sciences competition (no mean feat, the building was twelve storeys high, but had no windows). I wrote about epigenetic cancer and blue-green algae. In short, I wrote anything I could get people to pay me to write (and still do, and will). I was awarded a Literature Board fellowship to write a novel about the Indonesian practice of transmagrasi. In pursuit of this, I went to Java with the Queensland architect James Birrell and pretended to be his associate as we pretended to seek affiliation with an Indonesian firm interested in relieving the World Bank of a few millions. Our joint novel, Water From The Moon, has been used as a textbook in university courses on the developing world, but has not found its way into the bookshops of Jakarta.

I fell in love and moved to South Australia because that's where Annie lives and holds down a respectable middle-class job. It's a good thing she does: with our two children and my pitiful hack writer's income, we need her respectable middle class salary.


Works in the WWEnd Database

 Non Series Works

 (1999)
 (1997)
 
 
 
 
 
 

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