Forthcoming MWF highlights

The 2024 Melbourne Writers Festival will be held across Melbourne from 8 to 12 May. Picture: ON FILE

By Christine Yunn-Yu Sun

The 2024 Melbourne Writers Festival will take place at venues across Melbourne from 8-12 May.

The event features a diverse range of conversations, talks, workshops and panels under the theme of “Ghosts” – “from ghostly characters, ghosts in the machine and ghostwriters to those enduring stories that continue to haunt us,” as described by Readings, the official bookseller.

To start with, two Pulitzer Prize-winning authors will speak about their new books.

Michael Cunningham’s Day, “a pandemic novel that never says ‘pandemic’”, follows one family on the same day (5 April) across three years (2019, 2020 and 2021).

Meanwhile, Viet Thanh Nguyen’s “highly original, blistering, and unconventional” memoir A Man of Two Faces combines personal history

with the larger stories of refugeehood and colonisation.

Two authors from the 2023 Booker Prize will also talk about their books.

The first is Booker-winning Paul Lynch, whose Prophet Song, a dystopian novel imagining the Republic of Ireland slipping into totalitarianism, was Ireland’s bestselling book in 2023.

Meanwhile, Paul Murray’s Booker-shortlisted novel The Bee Sting features a well-to-do Irish family in financial, emotional and existential trouble.

Three past winners of Australia’s own Miles Franklin Literary Award will present their latest masterpieces, starting with Alexis Wright’s Praiseworthy, “an abundant odyssey that contains a formidable vision of Australia’s future”.

Meanwhile, Melissa Lucashenko will discuss Edenglassie, an “epic, heartrending and wryly humorous work”.

Finally, Shankari Chandran will shed light on Safe Haven, “a richly rendered portrait of displacement, refuge and the lengths people will go to for safety and love”.

And Grace Yee, winner of the 2024 Victorian Prize for Literature, will discuss her verse novel Chinese Fish, about “migration, patriarchy and racism”.

Furthermore, Debra Dank, whose 2022 book We Come With This Place won an unprecedented four prizes at the 2023 New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards, will appear at the panel “The Sands of Time”.

Also present will be Robyn Davison, whose new memoir Unfinished Woman tells the legacy of her mother that inspires her bestselling 1980 book Tracks.

Assuming you are feeling overwhelmed by the many dazzling prize-winners, let’s shift our focus to other inspiring books and ideas.

A highlight is Australia’s own world-leading artificial intelligence expert Toby Walsh, who will examine the possibilities and perils of emerging AI technologies, from ChatGPT to facial recognition and self-driving cars.

Finally, here are some of the books catching this reviewer’s eye, in no particular order:

• Pheasants Nest by Louise Milligan

• The Work by Bri Lee

• 36 Ways of Writing a Vietnamese Poem by Nam Le

• Always Will Be by Mykaela Saunders

• Gunflower by Laura Jean McKay

• Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason

• The Vaster Wilds by Lauren Geoff

• A Friend for Ruby by Sofie Laguna (illustrated by Marc McBride)

• Urban Legend Hunters by Joel McKerrow (illustrated by Wayne Bryant)

• The Economy of Algorithms by Marek Kowalkiewicz

• Who Owns the Moon? by A.C. Grayling

• Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi (translated by Geoffrey Trousselot)