Festival fever

Auckland Writers and Readers Festival 2009Feverish anticipation best describes my feelings seven sleeps away from Auckland Writers & Readers ’09.  So who am I most looking forward to?

Lunch with Judith Thurman at Soul Bar & Restaurant at the Viaduct sounds pretty grand but there is the nagging worry of what to wear. Perhaps not my library 150th T-shirt (not that there’s anything wrong with that and not that I think I’m going to be close enough to Judith for her to notice) but the pressure is really on when you’re in the same room as a whole swag of Aucklanders and Zambesi’s Liz Findlay is introducing a woman who has written knowledgeably about Armani and  Balenciaga.

Three of the best Young Adult authors around in one session verges on the greedy but who am I to question the festival programmers? M.T. Anderson’s body of work is intriguingly wide-ranging –  From Burger Wuss, to Feed, to Thirsty to Octavian Nothing is quite a journey and he just keeps gettting better and better.   Mal Peet managed to make me enjoy a book that had a lot about soccer in it and Kate de Goldi just a great writer.

The New Yorker writers can make anything interesting and I mean anything; you find yourself at the end of a ten or fifteen page story about how ballet shoes are made or choosing a piano without quite knowing how you got there but knowing you’ve loved the journey.  I can’t believe I’m actually going to see James Surowiecki and Hendrik Hertzberg in the flesh – the men who make world finance and world politics  almost understandable. And the director of The New Yorker Festival,  the woman who puts together the most envy-inducing programme of any literary festival in the world.

David Veart was an engaging speaker at lunch at the Christchurch Writers festival last year (what is it about me and lunch? ) but there were three courses and three speakers so he was all too brief.  I’m looking forward to hearing more about the peculiarities of New Zealand food at the Wekas and Queen Cakes session he is sharing with Alexa Johnston. Baking can never be anything more than a spectator sport for me, I don’t suppose Johnston will be whipping up a fairy cake or two but she seems to know what she’s talking about so that should be entertaining as well.

I’ll be going to the launch of Kiwi Companeros, the first-ever account of New Zealanders who became involved in the Spanish Civil War. There are some amazing stories to be told of adventures in Spain and at home in New Zealand, during and after the war.

But my biggest shiver of anticipation is reserved for living treasure Don McGlashan, a man whose work with From Scratch, Blam Blam Blam , The Front Lawn and  The Mutton Birds has displayed all the characteristics of the very best writers and the very best New Zalanders over the last twenty years.

By way of a rest from considering the meaning of life and art I will also be attending the performance given by The Pussycat Dolls and Lady Gaga. Some may consider these gals less than literary but I believe the phrase “A dizzy twister dance/ Can’t find my drink or man/ Where are my keys, I lost my phone” sums up certain nights better than many a chapter in many a book.