'I received the invitation to speak at the Melbourne Writers' Festival on "The Notion of Excellence" at about the same time as I finished reading The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. The invitation suggested that, in exploring the chosen topic, I might like to address a number of questions which are of interest to literati in present-day Australia. Are there objective standards of excellence in writing and publishing? Who decides? Who wins? Who loses? Who cares? It struck me immediately that Ishiguro's fascinating novel, a recent winner of the Booker Prize and the work of someone from another place, was a way of discussing these issues freely.'