Festival’s wordsmiths take to the streets to get their message across

Walter White, the central character from the hit television series Breaking Bad, might count among the few people to recognise the unique potential of a Sydney street-cleaning truck.
Nanjing Night Net

‘‘It would actually be a good place to have a mobile meth lab,’’ the show’s creator, Vince Gilligan, said.

‘‘If it smells a little funny because of the meth fumes that were coming out, people would probably just say ‘that’s the way they typically smell, the cleansing trucks.’‘‘

What White may see as a business opportunity – one Gilligan hastily advises anyone against trying – the Sydney Writer’s Festival is using as an unlikely literary device.

The City of Sydney’s cleansing trucks, bus shelters and street-display boards have been emblazoned with 17 extracts from the work of some the festival’s line-up of writers, including Gilligan, Christos Tsiolkas, Irvine Welsh and Amy Tan.

In Gilligan’s case, the Breaking Bad extract is not credited to the show’s writers but their creation: the high-school chemistry teacher who undergoes a Mr Chips-to-Scarface transformation to become a drug kingpin and one of the most compelling characters in television.

‘‘I am not in danger Skyler,’’ White says in a season four exchange with his wife – as well as, until May 24, on the side of a Sydney street-sweeping truck. ‘‘I am the danger.’’

Gilligan said White had taken on a life of his own.

“I love this idea that this creation of ours has a chance of living on past my lifetime,” he said. “That’s very exciting to me.”

The festival’s artistic director, Jemma Birrell, said she selected extracts that would make Sydneysiders pause, wonder – or head to hear some of the wordsmiths due to appear in person.

‘‘In contrast to the layers of advertising we’re hit with, I hope these quotes will offer a refreshing contrast,” Ms Birrell said.

Gilligan is in Sydney to discuss the journey from writing the Breaking Bad pilot, to winning an Emmy Award for Most Outstanding Drama, to delivering the show’s highly anticipated finale watched by 10.3 million people in the US alone.

Such was the ‘‘avalanche’’ of interest for Thursday’s Sydney Town Hall event, which is kicking off the festival, organisers added another session.

Most of the festival’s events are due to take place from May 19 to 25.

Gilligan said he was ‘‘so tickled’’ that television writing was now considered to be a ‘‘somewhat’’ literary endeavour.

‘‘We’re in a so-called new golden age of television and I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of it,’’ he said.

And he said White would get a kick out of seeing himself quoted on the side of a cleaning truck.

‘‘I think a lot of what he did on the show came down to his craving for power and his craving for self-esteem,’’ he said.

‘‘Any kind of fame or even infamy would be very pleasing for him.’’

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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