As I Please: The Dear David Letter
There have been for these last nine days no respondents acclaiming or defending Nothing Personal. And this, surely, is the point.
I praised Don Parties On, and praised it in print, because I thought it good. I dispraised Nothing Personal because I thought it bad; and thought it, moreover, a minor scandal that the Ensemble had put it on when better plays were available.
You and Kristin however have said I panned it solely because I was a jealous of you, and a sad, sad man with a fameless, frustrated life. This would make some emotional sense if the play had any defenders, but there are none. Where are they? I ask you to drum up a hundred quickly lest your libellous claim that I had no motive but jealousy further enkindle the present, irritable situation.
I said one Williamson play was good, and, a year later, another Williamson play was bad because, what, I was jealous of you? and always have been? Please take some thought about this. An apology, appropriately worded, would be accepted.
In the meantime let us look at the revived Nation Review and your part in its extinction. When your lawyer's letter came in the printer/publisher Peter Isaacson said, 'I haven't budgeted for litigation!', cursed my 'love-hate relationship' with you, kicked a chair and soon closed down the paper for a 'six-week Christmas break' after only ten issues. It never came back; and the subsequent shrivelled careers of Hepworth, Mungo, Cook and Leunig then followed, and within two years, the death of its layout-creator and food writer Sam Orr (Richard Beckett) at 52.
To say you did not 'sue' the paper may be technically correct, but by God you did the pivotal thing, after only six issues, in extinguishing it.
And a lot of fine writing consequently never occurred. I remember Les Murray mournfully asking when it was coming back, since he had never been paid a dollar a word before.
A sad, sad business. And why? Because I had said you had stolen the phrase 'a long thin streak of pelican shit' from Alex Buzo who used it in Norm And Ahmed thirteen years before and grumbled to me about it. You correctly pointed out it was in the common tongue. And thus extinguished the great adventure, probably, of The Nation Review.
You do harm, David. You do harm you do not acknowledge to other writers' careers. Bryan Brown was shaping up as a good correspondent, Laurel McGowan, Tony Morphett, Lex Marinos, Peter Jensen, Fred Hollows. You pre-emptively stepped on the neck of a lot of good writing. But, heck, how little does that matter when compared with the derivation of 'pelican shit' as Australian invective? The pelican shit outweighs it all; outweighs Fred Hollows; everything. Follow the thread. Follow the thread.
Kristin's odd view that any critic of any of your plays must be sad, lonely, jealous or mad is very, very close in its reasoning to the longtime Soviet policy of gaoling dissidents in lunatic asylums and should, I suggest, be reconsidered before it is repeated. For it does raise the question, does it not, since she is so protective of your work, of how much she did of your work.
A lot of 'research', she implies, for Nothing Personal, whatever that means. How much research for what else? And how much dialogue? For Sons Of Cain, for instance, which seems to be based on her years at The National Times? Did you give her fair credit for this in the programme? What credit was that? Perhaps the two of you should answer this one separately.
It's entirely possible none of this would have happened if you had simply held tight to your millions and not compained too vividly when a play of yours was criticised; and if Kristin had been more truthful -- and less triumphalist -- in her memoir. Or if you had given her what she first wanted, an acting career. 'I wanted to be his Monica Vitti,' she told me once. And I think it is true.
As thus the whirligig of time, as the Earl of Oxford once said, brings in his revenges.
Over to you.
P.S. Anyone wanting to see more of this correspondence will find it under my piece Tall Poppies: David Williamson's Nothing Personal in these pages now, and, later, under 'December 2011'.
P.P.S. David replied to this under Tall Poppies, and I replied to him in the column now called The Williamson Moment, but my words all vanished in the computer. I will try to rewrite them in the next few hours.
P.P.P.S. They are now rewritten. For further correspondence, see the ever-augmenting As I Please below.