Some people think Van Morrison is cool. These people haven't met Van Ikin (right, although I recently spoke to Terry Dowling, the guy on the left, and I'll be damned if he weren't just as cool, and as kind as the above photo would suggest.)
How cool is Van Ikin? Well, take the considered approach of a Peter Carey novel, throw in the generosity of the Mother Theresa, and the patience of a monk, and you'll be halfway there. Plus, the man is funny. He gets irony, which is particularly helpful when you work in an academic setting.
When I told Van I'd been accepted into the Graduate Fiction workshop at Iowa, he said there was no way we could secure funding in our time frame. I then asked, ‘What if there was a way?' and we worked backward, forwards, sideways, anyways until finally, on the day I was due to fly out, my US visa came through.
Van is part of any student's supervisory dream-team, along with another gentleman, who, conveniently, I'm just about to discuss...
Tony Hughes D’Aeth
Tony is one of the deeper thinkers on campus but not in a combative, competitive way. If you're willing to think with him, together you can wade an ocean of thoughts and philosophy, coming out revitalised, invigorated, and ready to again dive into your Ph.D. project.
Good supervisors do this. They hear your aims and intentions, add their knowledge and, if necessary, illuminate blind spots. Great supervisors do something different, allowing themselves to be thinking, rather than to have thought, and so it’s a collaborative, rather than declarative process.
Tony taught me much about academic rigour, and in time took me in not as a former student but a fellow peer, a mark of respect I’ve always valued, and particularly so since pursuing my work outside of academia.
Amongst a swathe of kind words and compliments, Dr. O'Reilly made an interesting point while examining an earlier draft of You Belong Here. He said that while one could spot Winton or Carey's style within a paragraph of prose, my voice was not yet as distinctive. I know now why this was the case. While searching to be literary, I had forgotten to be human.
My rewrites on You Belong Here were fuelled partly by his comments, and partly by the publisher’s thoughts how to better balance the joy and the sadness within the manuscript. Whether by choice or by design, my writing until that point had been cast in shadows, or, as one student memorably put it, ‘A bit gritty.’
While Dr. O'Reilly has not yet read the finished book, I get the feeling he would approve of my more balanced tone, a style penned by my editor as pragmatic lyricism, or what I'd call happy-sad stories of love, loss, and resilience.