Francis Spufford meets Bill Nagelkerke

Bill and Francis
Bill and Francis

Philip: A good sized crowd turned up on the second floor of Central Library for a session with English writer Francis Spufford, author of “The child that books built”. A lot of library people there and many library customers we recognised.

Jane: At the end of the session Philip you asked me what I thought – I enjoyed listening to him but I gather you were a bit less enthusiastic?

Philip: Oh did you? What gave you that impression?

Jane: Well you just said that it was a bit tedious – I think that gave it away somehow.

Philip: Did I? Well, I didn’t really mean “tedious”, it was more that the focus was on the whole why and wherefore of reading and I tend to think of reading as a given that just is! I know this sounds utterly pathetic on my part and you can’t fault a speaker for talking about what he was there to talk about!

Jane: I think what I liked about that approach is that I too just read as well, and don’t think much about what I read for or why. He talked about a child’s horizons being generally chosen for them and that books can help you leap across this horizon and have a “miraculous escape”. He had a rather poetic way of expressing himself I thought.

Philip: Yes he did. I liked what he said about children having a life they haven’t chosen themselves whereas reading and all it entails they do choose. When he got on to the subject of age branding it got very interesting and it’s a shame we couldn’t have had a bit more of that. For the record, he’s dead against it and said it was more for the convenience of supermarket style bookselling which aims for easy packaging.

Jane: He was certainly quite philosophical and perhaps that is why you perked up when he got into something more concrete like age branding. I felt that Bill missed an opportunity for some interesting discussions when Francis Spufford tried to engage him by turning the question back on to him as a published writer. Bill didn’t really follow up on this.

Philip: What did you think about what he said about libraries here and in the U.K.?

Jane: Well of course the way to win over the hearts of people at these type of festivals is to praise the library, and he did a good job, especially comparing us most favourably to our English counterparts!

Philip: Very favourably. He said that British libraries in the last ten years or so are pretty crap and our library looked really wonderful. So full marks to him for his perceptiveness. And what are you looking forward to tomorrow?

Jane: I’m really looking forward to Playing God, an hour with Norman Doidge and Glenn Colquhoun. They are both doctors and poets who have kind faces and look like they would have a nice bedside manner.

Philip: I’m really looking forward to the hour with the three crime writers: South Island’s Vanda Symon, Britain’s Mark Billingham and Christchurch’s own crime writer/splattermeister Paul Cleave who is apparently nowhere near as scary as what he writes about.

2 thoughts on “Francis Spufford meets Bill Nagelkerke

  1. sam 4 September 2008 / 3:31 pm

    very droll – couldn’t keep a straight face while reading it – I bet you couldn’t when writing it!

  2. richard 4 September 2008 / 3:59 pm

    I really enjoyed the anti-age banding discussion – the idea that reading should be a gateway to all sorts of worlds and possibilities – and that good books can be discovered in all sorts of ways.

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