Great Festival Expectations

I have never been to the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival before.  In fact I’ve never been to a literary festival of any kind so I’m not really sure what it holds in store for me.  I do know that I was unabashedly envious when I read and listened to the coverage of our erstwhile team of reporters last year so I feel tremendously excited and lucky to be making the literary trek north in 2009.

In a roughly chronological order this is what I’ll be looking forward to at this year’s festival –

  • Opening night – This should be a lovely sampler box of readings from a selection of chocolate coated authors whose work I am largely unfamiliar with.  My interest is piqued particularly by Monica Ali (quite a buzz about her) and Australian Christos Tsiolkas (whose photo in the programme just makes me think he’s a bit of a character).  I am also interested to see if the facial hair of opening night chair Mark Sainsbury is as impressive in person as it appears on the television.
  • An Hour with Ranginui Walker – I was lucky enough to hear Dr Walker speak at a library conference last year and he is intelligent, gentlemanly and very articulate.  A biography by Paul Spoonley has recently been published (it’s so new our library copies haven’t even arrived yet) and both men will discuss the process of recording Dr. Walker’s life for prosperity.  Biography is a tricky thing to get right (how do you get close to your subject without being obsequious?) so I think it will be interesting to hear about how they approached this.
  • Stevan Eldred-Grigg – Sunday sees this local author discussing his latest work, the salaciously titled Diggers, Hatters and Whores. Eldred-Grigg has a knack for weaving great stories out of historical New Zealand locales, sometimes in the services of fiction, other times not.  I’ll be chatting to him on Sunday so I might ask how he chooses which way he’s going to go.
  • The Next 100 years – This session sounds like a goody to me.  I’ve always been fascinated with futurology and crystal ball gazing and there’s definitely an impressive set of brains set the task of projecting possible future developments into the next century, including cosmologist Marcus Chown whose books are currently explaining some of the mysteries of sub-atomic particles to my feeble, non-scientific brain.
  • Songwriting with Don McGlashan and Jason Kerrison – Just in case anybody thought it was getting too cerebral rock stars come to the rescue.  Like Robyn I rate the lyrical skills of Mr McGlashan.  “Dominion Road” and “The beautiful things” being just two of his songs that reflect a truthful though offbeat perspective.  And it might not be cool to admit it but Kerrison’s song “One day” from those NZ Post ads nearly brings a tear to my eye.  Should be a good, um, note to end on.