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Local author’s awaited debut

10 Jul 2018

Local author’s awaited debut Image

Meg Hill

James Cristina has just released his first novel – five years after an extract from it won the Lord Mayor’s Creative Writing Prize.

Antidote to a Curse is quintessentially Melbourne, its protagonists roam around – and its plot unfolds in – recognisable city spots, although taken back to their 1990s incarnations.

The Melbourne setting is infiltrated with swathes of Europe – immigrant characters, the tumultuous history of European nations and the intrinsic style of an author born in Malta.

On top of those layers, much of it was written in Southbank. Boyd Library is to James Cristina as the State Library was to Helen Garner – who spent enormous lengths of time rewriting her debut novel (and Melbourne classic) Monkey Grip in the reading room.

“I spent hours, days really, rewriting some of the novel at the Boyd Library. I think it’s a great addition to the area,” James said.

“I found working so close to home and at home convenient. Of course, whenever I felt like recharging my batteries I would go for a walk along the Yarra, the Botanical Gardens, etc. Various parts of the Arts Precinct also feature in the novel, though the characters don’t live in Southbank.”

James has lived in Southbank on and off for more than 12 years, while intermittently teaching English here and overseas. He said Southbank appealed specifically to writing.

“I chose to live in Southbank because I thought it was an excellent location for an aspiring writer and for experiencing some of the best Melbourne has to offer,” he said.

“I thought living in a high-rise apartment with an extensive view of Melbourne would be inspiring. I also very much like being located near the National Gallery of Victoria, Federation Square and the Arts Precinct in general.”

Having lived and taught in Malta, England, the US, Jordan, Bahrain, Switzerland, Belgium, South Korea and Oman, James is invested in maintaining a certain side of Southbank.

“Yes, even though Southbank is fast resembling an American and Asian high-rise city there are elements of Europe: the cafes, the NGV, the galleries. I hope this aspect of the suburb is protected and developed further.”

The official public launch of Antidote to a Curse is at Readings Carlton on July 12 at 6.30pm.

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