Interview: Jeff Sparrow – 2023 Stella Prize Judge

Find out more about award-winning writer, editor, broadcaster, and 2023 Stella Prize Judge, Jeff Sparrow.

Jeff Sparrow

What excites you about judging the 2023 Stella Prize and awarding the next Stella Prize winner? 

I’m excited about devoting some serious time reading and discussing a big chunk of the fantastic new books being published in Australia. Like many people, writers have been doing it tough over for the last few years, and it’s terrific to play some role in awarding one of them a life-changing prize.

What do you look for in a great book?

A great book challenges you, shakes up your certainties and makes you see the world differently.

What impact has the Stella Prize had on you personally as both a writer and a reader?

It’s drawn my attention to books I might not have otherwise read, it’s stirred important debates in Australian literary culture, and it’s changed the publishing culture for the better.

What was the last book you read by an Australian woman or non-binary writer that you’d recommend? 

I enjoyed greatly Sylvia Martin’s Passionate Friends, a book first published in 2001 and reissued last year. An account of the entwined lives of Mary Fullerton, Mabel Singleton and Miles Franklin, it’s a great example of how a skilled biographer can help us see (and feel) the experience of the past.

2023 will be the second year that poetry collections are eligible for the Stella Prize. Who are some of your favourite poets, and do you have a particular poem or collection you often return to?

I like Auden and Brecht but I will always and forever recommend the Drusilla Modjeska edition of The Poems of Lesbia Harford.

“A great book challenges you, shakes up your certainties and makes you see the world differently.”

What’s your favourite independent bookstore, and what do you love most about it?

Since Bob Gould died, there’s no other place in Australia like the New International Bookshop in Melbourne’s Trades Hall.

When you’re not writing or reading books, how do you spend your spare time?

I teach at Melbourne Uni, I go bushwalking, I argue with people about stuff.

Jeff Sparrow is a writer, editor, broadcaster, and Walkley award-winning journalist. He is a columnist for The Guardian Australia, a former Breakfaster at Melbourne’s 3RRR, and a past editor of Overland literary journal. His most recent books are Provocations: New and Selected WritingCrimes against Nature: Capitalism and Global HeatingFascists Among Us: online hate and the Christchurch massacreTrigger Warnings: political correctness and the rise of the right; and No Way But This: in search of Paul Robeson. He lectures at the Centre for Advancing Journalism at the University of Melbourne.

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