The head-scratching world of Colin McCahon

Kauri tree landscapeColin McCahon stands tall as one of New Zealand’s great individual artists. ‘Colossus’ was how he was introduced to the large audience – a very apt description. I’ve always admired the size and scope of his works, the torment and doubt, the way he used words in art, the way he used house paints becasue they made it easier for him to paint letters and words.

Tonight’s lecture, delivered by Peter Simpson, who some may know as the former MP for Lyttelton, was both educational and a visual feast. Simpson’s book The Titirangi Years focuses on about a sixth of McCahon’s career, when he first moved up from the South Island and also after his career-changing trip to the United States in 1958. The year after his trip he completed around 100 paintings. Continue reading

Windsor Knot

Eighty-eight years ago this week, the then Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII) visited Christchurch. At the time of his visit, Edward was still the popular and charismatic future king, yet to meet the infamous Mrs Simpson. Continue reading

Talking with Sarah Hall

Sarah HallWell as you can see, we are all relishing the chance to interview authors here at the Festival.

I was impressed by Sarah Hall. She’s young, smart, environmentally aware and in our interview we discussed her new novel, history, the writing process, libraries and IRA training.  With a dash of British sci fi.

My hour with Mo Hayder

RitualFirst day of the Auckland Writer and Readers festival and for me, was accompanied by my first ever author interview. Aahhhh! Scary yes, but did I ever strike it lucky, Oh yeah baby!! I got to interview Mo Hayder, an author famed for her horrifically, violent book titles but in person funny, friendly, self-effacing and incredibly tolerant of a certain librarian masquerading as a newshound.

Just off the plane after the hideous longhaul from the UK, Mo looked fresh as a daisy and while claiming jet lag was still infinitly smarter than your average bear. She talked in depth about women and the crime genre and her future plans for the Caffrey series but more of that later…

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Tessa Duder: Three cheers for cronehood

Our interview with Tessa Duder about her new book Is she still alive? is now live on the Christchurch City Libraries website. Although it was tagged ‘scintillating stories for women of a certain age’, which Duder wasn’t that keen on, I quite enjoyed it. It worried me slightly, as a man of 37, but Duder said she was very pleased – it shows that fiction can be a window to all manner of enlightenment!

Pretty Ugly Betty

If you’re anything like me then Sunday nights are when you indulge in a bit of brightly coloured escapist nonsense in the form of TV2 show Ugly Betty. Ugly Betty is based on the original Colombian telenovela So yoy Betty, la fea (I am Betty, the ugly one) and is co-produced by the decidedly non-ugly Salma Hayek (who also did a turn last season as a rival magazine head Sofia Reyes). Continue reading

Listen to our Daily Festival Wrap – Wednesday

Hear our very own Richard, Joyce and Donna sum up their thoughts on the first day of the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival in our first Daily Festival Wrap, for Wednesday. Duration 2 mins 45 secs. Listen on our Festival page, or go straight to the mp3 file. It’s great listening.

Fiona Farrell – an hour well spent

Stephanie Johnson chaired this hour with Fiona Farrell, well known to South Island readers.

An appreciative crowd listened to readings and explantions of how the works came about, where they were written, inspirations for characters and really got the chance to appreciate the many facets of Farrell’s writing plus a sneak preview of her next work. Continue reading


I raved elsewhere about the Shardlake novels of C. J. Sansom and was looking forward to a weekend of bliss when his latest Revelation appeared on my desk on Friday afternoon. 545 pages later, on Sunday evening I closed the book with sadness.

Partly this is due to knowing that it will be another year or so before there will be another epic, but also because there was the faintest sense of disappointment. Only the merest hint mind you. For the first time I guessed the killer.

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Festival Quick Fix: Thursday

Well, we’re all nicely warmed up now – courtesy of Dave Dobbyn and, apparently, Noelle McCarthy’s hot shoes – to get really stuck into the first full day of the Festival, and the official opening night tonight. The team had a hectic first day yesterday attending the first events, as well as talking to Simon Montefiore, Tessa Duder, Mo Hayder and Sarah Hall. Read Richard’s exclusive interview with Tessa Duder, and listen to the team’s end-of-the-day musings from last night in our Daily (audio) Festival Wrap.

Festival highlights today include:

  • Opening Night: Nobel prize-winner J.M. Coetzee, Sarah Hall, Junot Díaz and Witi Ihimaera join Kim Hill on stage as they share readings from and their thoughts about their work.
  • History and the Novel: Simon Montefiore, Luke Davies and Sarah Hall (she’s got a busy day) join Fiona Kidman to talk about the sometimes precarious blending of historical fact into fiction.

The library team are particularly looking forward to:

If you have any questions you’d like the team to ask a particular writer, post a comment for the team, and if you haven’t visited already, our festival webpage is a useful one-stop shop for event and writer links.

Bookman Beattie also reviewed yesterday’s events in his blog, and Linda Herrick looks forward to today’s in the Herald.