By Cam Lucadou-Wells
Peter Polites’ soaring reputation is built on powerful prose and dark satire.
The Western Sydney author is visiting Dandenong as part of the Melbourne Writers Festival to discuss his new second novel The Pillars.
He describes it as a satire on gay aspirations, a critical look at how status, consumerism and ambition has become a driving motivation for many.
“I’m looking at gay men who are becoming very middle-brow.
“Their lives are oriented around the home and specifically objects that symbolize status.”
There’s the preoccupation with occupation. “They ask ‘What do you do?’ – that’s a question about status. What’s your job, what’s your income.
“It’s not what did you do today, what did you cook, who do you love, where do you come from.”
His book steeped with Greek community references also takes aim at the property market and its unaffordability for many – a tellingly topical theme.
As Polites finished writing about “cowboy” developers installing shoddy buildings, life soon imitated art.
In NSW, several new apartment buildings have been evacuated due to structural faults. Hapless residents are battling to get their deposits back, Polites said.
“Even though this novel is really topical, it’s an idea that’s been brewing in my mind for a long, long time.
“I wish our society was more compassionate and less status driven, and that we would reach for a model of housing affordability.”
Even as a highly-regarded novelist and playwright, he has to work in a bar to make ends meet. He says his novels aren’t the type to make money.
“I’ve noticed in my life that if I don’t do art, I get psychically ill. It’s a need to expunge trauma.
“It’s a mixture of catharsis and expressing ideas sliding around and occupying my mind.
“The intention is that they’re read by audience members and activated – and that they reform the world that they view.”
Peter Polites will talk at Dandenong Library on Saturday 31 August, 2.30pm.