George Haddad dreams of Balearic beats on Mykonos

On the eve of launching his new novel Losing Face and an appearance at the Sydney Writers’ Festival, we caught up with the award-winning Sydney author, George Haddad.

Winner of the 2016 Viva la Novella Prize for Populate and Perish, George Haddad is no stranger to delving into the relationships people have with honesty. In his new work, Losing Face (slated for release in May), Haddad succinctly captures the voice of the nation with a thought-provoking novel about facing up to your family and your future.

A fan of performing poetry, and proudly owning his love of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, we took five with Sydney author George Haddad to discuss some of his favourite and not-so-favourite things in the inner-west hub of Stanmore.

George Haddad
Credit: UQP

HAPPY: Hey George, what are you up to today?

GEORGE: I spent the morning watching Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and I’m owning it. I’m just about to teach my undergrads about “The Self Imagined” — how we can best represent ourselves on the page. And a fancy dinner tonight because it’s mine and my partner’s sixth year anniversary.

HAPPY: Congrats! Tell us about your suburb, what do you love and not love about where you live?

GEORGE: I live in Stanmore in Sydney’s inner-west. It’s a very hodge-podge suburb. The building we live in is an old terrace mansion that’s been sliced up into apartments and the original facade has had a very basic brick extension tacked onto it. There’s a lot of that around and I love to read the architecture.

I also love how the suburb is divided by the railway and it forces you to take a side. If you have to get from one side to the other, it’s not very simple, but then you get to see more things. I do not love how loud our street is. And I don’t mean traffic — I mean someone is always using a leaf blower or a hedge trimmer. I also don’t love when neighbours put stuff out for free that’s actually just rubbish that needs to go in the bin and not end up strewn across the streets.

HAPPY: What’s happening in your average workday?

GEORGE: Lots of computer stuff bookended by exercise or Real Housewives, depending on the day.

HAPPY: What about your ultimate day?

GEORGE: I’m in Mykonos. I’ve paid eighty euros for a daybed on the shoreline at the beach. The bar is playing Balearic beats, but not too loud. I’ve ordered a club sandwich and I’ve got two drinks going: a frappe and a giant gin and soda.

HAPPY: If we paid you $500,000 for this interview what would you do with the money?

GEORGE: I’d buy some land somewhere and start a commune with my friends.

HAPPY: Do your parents still have some of your earlier writings from school?

GEORGE: They do! And I recently read a letter I wrote to myself twenty years ago and cried over how cute I was.

HAPPY: What did you read or watch on TV growing up that fuelled your passion for writing?

GEORGE: I used to stay up late and watch SBS when everyone had fallen asleep. I saw some hectic things that made me realise everything the TV played during normal hours was pretty crap. My sisters are older than me, so I kind of skipped the elementary stuff and went straight to Almodóvar films. Oh and music videos. Rage. We used to record the whole program every weekend and watch it over.

HAPPY: Which book did you last read that opened your eyes and mind to a new perspective?

GEORGE: Auē by Becky Manawatu. What a book. I had never read Kiwi literature. It’s rich!

HAPPY: In your recent review of Andrew Pippos’ Luckys, I liked your take on generalisations. What can you share about generalisations that others can learn from?

GEORGE: Generalisations very often come about because of some kind of truth, even if it was a fleeting one. They’re not always entirely harmful, sometimes they are actually quite harmonious and telling. And when they’re not operating in that way, it’s really important that we don’t perpetuate them.

HAPPY: If you had a first date book list, what would it be?

GEORGE: Monkey Grip by Helen Garner, An Imaginary Life by David Malouf, Loaded by Christos Tsiolkas. Tracker by Alexis Wright, Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, and The Twits by Roald Dahl.

George Haddad is a doctoral candidate and sessional tutor at the Writing and Society Research Centre, Western Sydney University. His new novel Losing Face will be available on May 3 via UQP.