The Pascall Prize for criticism was awarded this week to a man that has penned very few words until recently. Brisbane band the Go-Betweens was formed by Robert Forster many years ago and has since become recognised as one of Brisbane’s finest bands. Just last year Robert was approached by new magazine The Monthly to be their music critic. His writing credentials up until then had been one column on hair care that he wrote in the late 1980’s. Hardly the resume of a powerful force in critical writing.

Robert Forster
(Picture from

However, it turned out that Forster is a great critic and can turn a great phrase. He writes in pencil on unlined paper before committing the piece to his computer because “pencil doesn’t have permanence. When I write in ink it all looks a bit too important already.”

So take heart, any would-be writers out there. You can start from nowhere and achieve great things.

Forster had hardly written previously, but is now recognised as a leading writer. Someone who wrote very infrequently, yet had incredible impact was Henry VIII’s wife Catherine of Aragon. She wrote a three page letter in her own hand to her nephew Charles V. The letter can certainly be said to have had a part in changing English history. The letter was a plea to Charles for help in upholding her failing marriage to Henry. She wanted Charles to use his influence over the Pope to get some help and he did just that. Henry’s anger at this interference, his subsequent ignoring of the Pope’s edict and his marriage to Anne Boleyn led to the break with the Catholic Church. It’s a very important letter, moreso because it is written in Catherine’s own hand.

Why is it relevant now? The letter will appear at Sotheby’s in New York for auction and is expected to sell for between US$100,000 and US$150,000. Valuable words indeed.