So who am I looking forward to seeing the most at the festival? Seeing is the key word there – yes, I’m interested in their books, but I’m also interested in how they look and sound otherwise I’d stay home and read them, not come to Auckland to see them. Lionel Shriver wrote the wonderful Orange prize-winning We need to talk about Kevin and recently hit Vogue with a story about how she is constantly taken for being years younger than she is. Just how young will she look? I’m also looking forward to just seeing Richard E. Grant’s handsome face, to seeing Tim Winton at all after years of rumours that he hated to fly and to Kate Grenville, the other Orange prize winner (2001, Shriver won in 2005).
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“Lives” is the theme of this year’s festival – as its creative directors Peter Wells and Stephanie Johnson say, “it is only the freakishness of our own nature which makes other peoples’ lives so fascinating.”
There is a strong emphasis on non fiction in this year’s lineup of sessions, and I am looking forward to delving into many of these:
- The Real Stuff: The explosion of NZ non fiction brings together local publishers to explore the growth of non fiction and to ask “Is it telling our tales better”?
- Talking the Talk features three writers uncovering the arcane world of art talk. Justin Paton has produced some interesting works on New Zealand art and contemporary artists like Julia Morison, and he is joined on a panel by British maverick Matthew Collings and Hamish Keith, who is creating a new TV series on NZ art.
- I enjoy getting lost in a good memoir, and the Bad Dads in Meltdown will tackle the problem of fathers. Richard E. Grant’s father was a man whose peace of mind was ruined by alcohol in post-colonial Africa (as demonstrated in the movie Wah Wah). Owen Scott’s memoir Deep Beyond the Reef also includes a colonial father addicted to the bottle. Neil Cross’s memoir Heartland depicts a stepfather who was a South African white supremacist, intent on converting his family to Mormonism.
- There will be a book launch for The Transit of Venus, the book of the popular lecture series originally broadcast on Radio New Zealand National.
- Collectomania looks like a fun session, exploring the obsessiveness of the inveterate collector. William Cottrell is a collector and restorer who lives at Gunyah, an Edwardian homestead near Darfield in Canterbury and Douglas Lloyd Jenkins was described by Wallpaper magazine as “one of the most influential design writers in the Southern Hemisphere”.
The guest who is top of my “must see” list is the fabulous Richard E. Grant, star of Withnail and I, Keep the Aspidistra Flying and writer and director of Wah-Wah.
Robyn and I have the great privilege of attending the festival on your behalf, so I hope we’ll be able to convey the excitement of being amongst writers, readers, publishers, librarians, poets, historians and bibliophiles – and living for four days in the world of books. Share your thoughts – and questions – with us as we live and breathe the festival over the coming days.
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