On the Couch with Lee Kofman

Lee Kofman Arts Review On the CouchWho is Lee Kofman?
I am a Russian-born Israeli-Australian author of the memoir The Dangerous Bride (Melbourne University Press 2014) and three fiction books. I am also co-editor of Rebellious Daughters (Ventura Press 2016), an anthology of memoir by prominent Australian women writers. My short works have been published worldwide including in Best Australian Stories, Best Australian Essays, Creative Nonfiction (USA), and Malahat Review (Canada). I also mentor writers and blog about writing. In 2014 my blog was a finalist for Best Australian Blogs.

What would you do differently to what you do now?
Nothing really, apart from learning to slow down and be better at that mysterious-to-me thing called work/life balance. But otherwise, professionally I finally live my dream life, because it completely revolves around writing, whether teaching it, blogging about it or actually, best of all, doing it. It hasn’t always been like that and only in my late thirties and with the support of my husband did I get the courage to focus full-time on what I really love.

Who inspires you and why?
I am inspired by gutsy writers who say what they really think even if this means going against the Zeitgeist. Some of my favorite authors who have done this are Mikhail Bulgakov, Hanif Kureishi, Geoff Dyer, Joan Didion, Salman Rushdi and, more locally, Robert Dessaix and Helen Garner.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
I teach courses on self-deprecation, on the art of not taking oneself too seriously. I think many of the world’s problems stem from self-importance that then metamorphoses into bloody conflicts. I believe irony is man’s best friend (although dogs are okay too).

Favourite holiday destination and why?
Definitely Bali. I lived there for three months in 2014 and was utterly taken by the beauty of the place, the colors, scents and flavors, and the people I met there. It is a place of flowers, papayas and monkeys, and I miss all that and more very much.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
Acland Street’s cafes. I generally see poetry in cafes, but these particular cafes with their lush displays of European cakes and their charming old-fashioned chic mean even more to me. They changed my life. When I first came to Melbourne as a tourist, 16 years ago, this was the first thing I was shown and just then, I swear, I decided I’m going to live here. Something about those cafes spoke to me of metropolitan culture and energy but also of, paradoxically, timelessness.  A month later I did it. I moved to Melbourne and I am still here. So on second thought, I’ll show this attraction only to those friends who I’d like to move here.

What are you currently reading?
An excellent biography of Peggy Guggenheim, The Life of an Art Addict by Anton Gill. Visual art and its history is one of my biggest interests and Peggy was a great champion of Surrealism, an art movement I particularly love.

What are you currently listening to?
Pina film’s soundtrack. I’ve been listening to it again and again over the past few months whenever I drive. Although the music pieces are all quite different from each other, there is a certain unity to their high level of drama. The intensity of this soundtrack makes me feel deeply alive.

Happiness is?
A weekend morning in bed with my three boys (I count my husband as one of them). The day’s first cup of coffee. That feeling you get when you know you broke the back of the piece you’re writing. The heavy sound of a strong, potent rain outside.

What does the future hold for you?
Rebellious Daughters, the anthology I co-edited with Maria Katsonis, will be out in early August and so there is so much to look forward to – the launch party, media, literary events, all that – usually short-lived – fun that usually follows months or years of hermit-like work of writing and editing. And right now I am very ready to be out there in the world again for a while. Until the itch of the next book will begin.

Lee Kofman is an award winning Russian-born Israeli-Australian author of four books, writing teacher and mentor. Her most recent book is The Dangerous Bride: Memoir of Love, Gods and Geography (Melbourne University Press, 2014), which has been included in Recommended Books lists at 2014 (The Age and Australian Book Review) and 2015 (The Age). Her short works have been published widely in Australia, Scotland, UK, USA and Canada, including in Best Australian Stories and Best Australian Essays, and her blog on the writing process was a finalist for Best Australian Blogs 2014.

Rebellious Daughters is published by Ventura Press and is now available from all leading book retailers. For more information, visit: www.venturapress.com.au for details.

Image: Lee Kofman

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