I don’t think Tuesday is too soon to whip myself up to a frenzy of anticipation about the writers I am really really looking forward to seeing this weekend. Vanessa Collingridge is topping the list at present. Her page in the Writers Festival programme manages to combine several things that are dear to my heart; Captain James Cook, red hair, and serendipitous finds involving Oxford libraries and dusty card catalogues.
Like Collingridge I have always regarded Captain Cook as something of a hero, but being terminally trivial my attitude to him is based on his association with Whitby, where the jet and the witches come from, the place where Dracula first set foot on English soil. Also the feather cloak and helmet given to Cook in Hawaii is one of the most beautiful things in Te Papa.
Triviality goes well with greed, so it stands to reason that my next most looked forward to event is More than a Pavlova Paradise, billed as a classic Kiwi lunch and featuring three very entertaining food writers. Richard Till is not afraid to eat a saveloy, David Veart owns over three hundred cookbooks and Kate Fraser writes about food and fashion with a touch as light as an Edmonds sponge cake, so they should be able to rustle up a decent feed. Not that I expect them to be slinging any hash personally, they’ll be consultants I imagine, but that’s a reassuring amount of expertise to call on in deciding the menu.
“It makes you think. Getting 50% of school leavers into university is a noble aspiration. But in some areas wouldn’t putting more money into public libraries and encouraging people to read get, if not a better, then a better rounded, product? You rarely love a work of literature you’ve been examined on. Or want to talk about it on planes. We tend to think that autodidacts have made it against the odds. And yet I bet that John Major (one of the more successful autodidacts of our time, if scarcely our most successful PM) is better read than Tony Blair. (What was Major’s favourite novel? Trollope’s superb The Way We Live Now.)
So, let’s hear it for the autodidact. And lets have more of them. Fifty per cent of the school-leaving population would be nice.”
The reviewer, John Sutherland, was inspired by Connery’s story of leaving school at 13 and gaining his education by reading, reading, reading. Actors have lots of down time and Sean made best use of that.
Librarians love all these affirming kind of statements – we are total suckers for a kind word and an inspirational story because we do believe and hope others do too.
Some recent interviews with authors on our library website have asked a library question and elicited some interesting answers. Junot Diaz said (Amongst other fabulous things) “For a poor kid a library to me was as like a miracle to me as if you discovered if you could sign your name and take out a whole wardrobe of Armani clothes. Every day. For the rest of your life. Thats what a library felt like.”
Joe Bennett says he loathes libraries. “I desparately want them to exist; I never use them because I cannot abide having a book in my hand that I know has to go back. It’s like owing money – I loathe owing money, I feel uncomfortable owing money I want to pay it now. Pay it now! Absolutely hate it and it’s exactly the same with library books. The date of its return is hanging over me … it’s something to do with duty or whatever … I can’t relax with it. I own my books. I used to keep every single book and read right through to the end – even if I didn’t like it. Now I give a book two pages – and it’s style not content that matters rto me know – if the writer doesn’t know their stuff I think stuff it – life’s too short.”
It is great to see a local book as stunning as the new Random House book, Rare wildlife of New Zealand by Rod Morris and Alison Ballance. Described as both ” a celebration and a call to arms”, the book highlights 100 species, from trees to flowers, bats and kiwis to tiny insects. The photographs throughout are terrific and quite remarkable in their clarity and their beauty.
One of the co-authors, Alison Ballance, is appearing at The Press Christchurch Writers Festival on Saturday in a session with Neville Peat and Brian Turner, chaired by photographer Craig Potton, called Can Words Save The World? Certainly a book like this does indicate that perhaps they can in that a passion for conservation informs work like this.