Event / lit-bloggers

Author Talk with Hugh Mackay: Selling the Dream

By Angharad Lodwick

Everyone has their happy place, and mine is without a doubt an author talk. Like-minded people, interesting conversation, wine, snacks and the opportunity to get your book signed by the person who wrote it? Sheer bliss.

I’ve been going to author talks in Canberra for a while now, so it made sense that my first event for the ACT Literary Bloggers of the Future program would be an author talk.

Choose the event? Check.

Write it in my diary? Check.

Arrive early to buy a copy of the author’s latest book? Check.

The event in question was social researcher and author Hugh Mackay’s talk about his new book Selling the Dream. Although he is very well known, I haven’t read any books of his yet (not that that ever stops me). I was particularly intrigued about this talk because Mackay’s new book is a satirical take on the world of advertising—a field which I have always considered with a blend of admiration and horror.

Mackay was interviewed by former ABC Broadcaster Alex Sloan, and they started out by discussing Mackay’s recent move to Canberra. Mackay assured us that it wasn’t to babysit grandchildren, but after he read a passage from his novel in that warm, grandfatherly voice I have no doubt he’ll be roped in.

Like the flash of rainbow golfing socks below his otherwise plain outfit, Mackay’s deadpan delivery was belied by his cutting wit and sense of humour. He gave us some background about some of his characters like one who changed his name to Siimon for alphabetic advantage, and another who was a “strategic weeper”.

As the talk progressed, so did my understanding of the sheer depth and breadth of Mackay’s knowledge about the advertising industry. Mackay shared observations about the changing demographics of advertising, and noted that while most chief executives are still men, most new starters are now women. He explained that “advertising is a key element of capitalism” and while he doesn’t think it’s an evil in itself, he shared his concerns about the increasing role of advertising in political campaigns and likened electing Donald Trump to electing a can of Coca Cola.

Mackay also gave us some insight into the psychological elements at play, insisting that advertising isn’t “insidious manipulation” and that subliminal advertising is a fallacy, but that rather advertising is about reinforcing existing behaviours and encouraging people to stay the same.

One of the best aspects of author talks is that if you have a burning question, you get an opportunity at the end to ask it. The audience was a bit shy, so I took the floor with the first question and asked Hugh Mackay whether he thought advertising was a form of artwork. Mackay described advertising as a blend of art and science, and blew my mind when he told me that famous Australian artist Sidney Nolan in fact started out in advertising.

Once the talk was finished, we all filed downstairs for another great part of author talks: wine and snacks. It’s also a good time to chat to other people, find out what they thought of the talk and make new friends.

Like all good things, the event has to end and what better way to end it than to meet the author and get your book signed. I love to have that minute or two to thank the author for the talk and to have a lasting souvenir to take home and read later on.

I won’t just be going to author talks during the ACT Literary Bloggers of the Future program, but what can I say? They’re my happy place.


Angharad Lodwick has been book blogging in Canberra for the past two years at Tinted Edges where she waxes lyrical about every single book she reads. Angharad runs a book-themed podcast called Lost the Plot and has been published in a number of online journals such as Feminartsy.

Angharad has a lot to say, and enjoys writing both fiction and nonfiction pieces. She is a very familiar face at National Library of Australia author events and liveblogs them before lining up to get her books signed.

Angharad loves to get out and about in the Canberra community to chat to people about various book-related things like street libraries, the Lifeline Book Fair, book shops and book clubs. Her family also runs a book charity called Books for the World. Angharad recently upcycled books for an art project with Blemish Books at Noted Writers Festival 2017.


Author Talk with Hugh Mackay: Selling the Dream
6 June 2017, National Library of Australia
Event: https://www.nla.gov.au/event/author-talk-with-hugh-mackay

Angharad is participating in the 2017 ACT Lit-Bloggers of the Future program, which is an initiative of the ACT Writers Centre in collaboration with the National Library of Australia. Participants are mentored by Sue Terry of Whispering Gums.

8 thoughts on “Author Talk with Hugh Mackay: Selling the Dream

  1. Pingback: ACT Lit Bloggers of the Future: Hugh Mackay | Tinted Edges

  2. Pingback: Lost the Plot – Episode 16 | Tinted Edges

  3. Pingback: Monday musings on Australian literature: ACT Litbloggers under way | Whispering Gums

  4. Hi Angharad, I’m a gumnut, one of Sue’s followers. Unlike you I avoid author talks like the plague. I think the work is entirely separate from the author and feel sorry for all those people dragooned into public speaking just because they excell at hiding away and writing. Doesn’t apply to Hugh McKay I know.

    • Gumnut, I like it! I missed this when you posted it Bill because I was away. You sound like a fellow from one of my internet reading groups who had several rules, one of which was to never listen to an author about his/her work! I tend to think you add it to the inputs. BUT, I do agree that authors shouldn’t be dragooned into these events. Some chose writing because they don’t like speaking, I would expect.

  5. I am a Hobart blogger and recently went to a talk by Robert Dessaix. I said pretty much the same thing about enjoying author blogs. It is always good fun to have an evening out hearing about travels through the book world.

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