the wide-awake writer
Antonella Gambotto-Burke (née Antonella Gambotto, born 19 September 1965) is an Australian author and journalist.
Gambotto-Burke has written one novel, The Pure Weight of the Heart, two anthologies, Lunch of Blood and An Instinct for the Kill, and a memoir, The Eclipse: A Memoir of Suicide, which has been published in four languages. Her best known comic interview - with Warwick Capper, a retired Australian footballer, and his wife - is included in The Best Australian Profiles (Black Inc., 2004). "The best profiles lodge deep in the public mind, such as ... Antonella Gambotto's cheerfully dopey Warwick and Joanne Capper, which presaged by years the arrival of Kath & Kim", Matthew Ricketson wrote in 2005. The Sydney Morning Herald named her as a high-profile member of Mensa International. She is a teetotaler, has never owned a television, and has a bat tattoo on her right shoulder. "I was going to have the Harley Davidson logo, but [the tattooist] convinced me I'd regret it," she explained.
Lunch of Blood (Random House, 1994), her first book and first anthology, peaked at number six on the bestseller lists. The Newcastle Herald observed that Gambotto-Burke's "command of language is delicious to the point where one wonders which came first, her wish to display her ability or the desire to share her impressions." In 1997, An Instinct for the Kill, her second anthology, was published to mixed reviews by HarperCollins. (Age critic Katherine Wilson singled out the Capper interview as "laugh-out-loud" funny.)
The introduction to Gambotto-Burke's work in The Best Australian Profiles reads: "Gambotto is probably the closest Australia has come to having a profile writer who is a celebrity in their own right ... and from the early 1990s readers became as interested in Gambotto as they were in the people she profiled."
Edward De Bono, who wrote the foreword to An Instinct for the Kill, tells of her philosophical position: "Antonella is not afraid of words, ideas, her own opinions or the opinions of others. Perception is personal so truth is also personal. This is much more like Protagoras than like Plato. For Protagoras, perception was the only truth - but it was changeable. For Plato, the fascist, truth was what you had reached when you thought it was the absolute."
She was a contributor to the late Peter Blazey's anthology of short stories Love Cries: Cruel Passions, Strange Desires (1995); in The Sydney Morning Herald, Gail Cork described Gambotto's contribution as "outstanding" and in Who (magazine), Margaret Smith noted its "darkly sinister" overtones. "The Astronomer," a short story presaging many of the themes in her first novel, was published in 1989. Eight years later, Gambotto-Burke's first novel, The Pure Weight of the Heart (also featuring an astronomer), was published by Orion Publishing in London, and went to number six on the Sydney Morning Herald's bestseller list. It was also Tatler's book of the month. Author Matthew Condon elaborated in The Age: "Her razor eye for the architecture of pretension and her ability to record untidied dialogue, especially the way it can betray the human mind and soul, have made her an object of fear and derision. To have been 'Gambottoed' is to have had a vein opened."
After her brother Gianluca, a Macquarie Bank executive, committed suicide in 2001, Gambotto-Burke changed. She began reading obsessively on death and on suicide, "trying to make sense of the experience, trying to become big enough to let go of my brother. That's what bereavement is about – surrendering the memory, the relationship." To this end, she relocated to Byron Bay, where she wrote The Eclipse: A Memoir of Suicide, a book about her brother's suicide and her engagement to, and the death of, late British GQ editor Michael VerMeulen. In a November 2003 interview with a British magazine, she said: "I wanted to explain depression as a valid emotional response rather than as a disease ... I am not ashamed of my brother, and I do not see death as tragic - deliberate ignorance and fear are tragedies, not death."
Gambotto-Burke was commissioned to write the core love stories of artist David Bromley's series of films, I Could Be Me (narrated by Hugo Weaving), which premiered at the Adelaide Festival in 2008. In an essay, she noted that, "As scripts are founded on what Alan Alda calls the 'subsurface tectonics of emotion,' the result can sometimes be a psychic slam dunk." Director Bromley described the film as "like a kaleidoscope of images and it is run by my poetry and short stories by Antonella. And it has a large animation component."
marriage + motherhood
She was a regular contributor to My Child magazine. Her column, Raising Bethesda, concerned life with her husband, Alexander Gambotto-Burke, an arts and business journalist, and their baby. She wrote about his marriage proposal in the July 2008 issue of Vogue. Their daughter Bethesda Natalina was born in December 2005, and baptized in 2007 by Bishop John Shelby Spong.
Gambotto-Burke has in recent years changed her journalistic focus. Her writing about human trafficking has been syndicated around the world, and she has become a vocal opponent of cyber pornography and pornography as a whole. Blog critics describe her as shrilly denouncing pornography, but her work on pornography has been published internationally, most recently in Men's Style, The Weekend Australian and The South China Morning Post. Asked for her opinion on the literary vogue for callgirl memoirs, she noted: "Prostitutes are not sexual experts, but expert in profiting from dysfunctional sexuality. There is a very significant difference."
She is also a widely-published literary critic and essayist. Gambotto-Burke specializes in reviewing nonfiction - memoir, psychology, philosophy, and popular culture - and continues to address controversial topics such as paternal infanticide and mental illness in her essays. The Sydney Morning Herald critic Doug Anderson described her book reviews as having "the silken sting of iced nylons." In 2006, Gambotto-Burke told Vogue that "Language shapes consciousness and from consciousness, our world is shaped."
Her choice of interviewees remains eclectic. Recent interviewees include Marilyn Manson, Bette Midler, David Sedaris, Chelsea Handler, Sarah Silverman, and her interview with actor Eric Bana was the cover story for Live, The Mail on Sunday's weekend magazine. She has critiqued authors as disparate as American playwright David Mamet, Neil Gaiman, and Michael Chabon, and has written a number of lead news stories for The Australian's business pages, most recently about lawyers and legal issues.
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