Broadcasters and book groups

Well, I’ve now officially had a literary festival “experience” in the form of this evening’s NZ Listener opening night. Highlights for me must include “celeb-spotting” in the foyer beforehand which featured furtive whispers of “Look! Bill Ralston! And Janet McEntyre!” and “Oooh, it’s thingee, um, Peter Williams!”. Also spotted (and in fact spoken to) were recent library visitors Vanda Symon and David Geary who both took part in this year’s Words on Wheels event.

Each of the authors present gave a reading, answered questions posed by chair Mark Sainsbury (whose moustache, I can now confirm, is magnificent and casts its own shadow) before taking questions from the assembled crowd (who all looked very literary – there were several berets being sported, need I say more?).

Afterwards each author did some time at the signing desk and there was plenty of time for idle milling about and more attempts at celeb-stalking, though sadly no more excitement on those stakes but I did, at Richard’s urging, approach a group of laydees who were sitting quaffing coffee and chattering amongst themselves. Richard seemed to think that they had the look of a book group about them and when I nosily inquired if he might be correct in that assertion they confirmed that his journalistic (or literary) instincts were on the money.

Dang! I was hoping they were a clutch of literature loving biker chicks, or a hockey team or something but what a book group they were! They formed thirty years ago, originally through the WEA and with a core of members who knew each other but over the years they had accumulated other like-minded folk, and though they were from all different parts of Auckland mainly the readers in this group were from the eastern suburbs.  Furthermore one of them claimed to be an aunt of a Christchurch librarian! (Sarah, if you’re reading this your aunty Heather says “hi”).  The book that they’d just read “in group” had been The slap by Australian author Christos Tsiolkas so I think they had a lot to chat about in the wake of his absorbing reading, the first of the evening. With this in mind I slunk off and left them to their chat and their coffees.

Give ’em a taste of library

Give em a taste of library
Give 'em a taste of library

Following the popularity of the Library Detective podcasts, Christchurch City Libraries decided to use the New Zealand music month celebrations for its next foray into online and broadcast audio.

Two programmes have been created for broadcast on community radio station Plains FM during May, using the name Give ’em a taste of library. The programmes are available online.

A fresh episode will play on Wednesday 20 May, with a further repeat on the 27th.
Plains FM have just won a fourth consecutive New Zealand Radio award, a tremendous achievement for a community station.

Abstract psychedelic pop music hits Shirley Library

Adam Willetts
Adam Willetts performing live

I have to admit that I am a complete novice when it comes to abstract psychedelic pop music, but as a budding librarian my craving for knowledge about the unknown encouraged me to talk to Adam Willetts about his style of music. I was especially interested as Adam will be giving a live performance at Shirley Library (Sunday 24th May) as part of Christchurch City Libraries New Zealand Music Month .

I have discovered Christchurch has a thriving experimental music scene and Adam is an important part of this and performs regularly around New Zealand and internationally, featuring alongside artists such as Dan Deacon, High Places, The Dead C, Rafael Toral, and Akio Suzuki. He was recently part of Trambience, where a Christchurch tram carriage is transformed into a mobile music venue and both the audience and performers travel through the city streets.

Adam makes his own instruments and uses his homemade synthesisers and electronics ‘to create rich and immersive fields of sound with a fragile yet propulsive sense of momentum, carefully balancing elements of euphoric beauty with seething and unpredictable noise.’

Come along to Shirley Library on Sunday 24 May 12-1pm for a musical experience like never before.

Lunch with Judith Thurman

Having shared with the world my nervousness about what to wear to lunch in the same room as Judith Thurman I was reassured to find Ms Thurman, a self confessed ‘inveterate thrifter’, was in fact wearing something she had sourced at the Council of Jewish Women Thrift Store.

It was Saint Laurent however and she was wearing it well. Saint Laurent was something of a theme – in her student days Thurman spent an entire week’s wages on a Saint Laurent skirt she is sure is still out there in Thrift Store land, and she got to go to his farewell show in Paris, front row just down from Catherine Deneuve. Sigh.

Zambesi’s Liz Findlay did the introduction and asked all the questions I wanted to hear the answers to. Rei Kawakubo was not a big talker (two words was her being forthcoming) but they bonded over cats; Thurman has actually seen the Balenciaga archives and the curator turned the clothes inside out – New Zealand curators of shows featuring clothes take note.

Thurman believes that lots of these clothes and the prices that went with them belong to a world we have all just left, and that it will be interesting to see what happens next.

As for the history of fashion, go to the photographers like Penn and Avedon – they were the guys who chose what made it into the magazines.

And the unique institution that is The New Yorker is in good heart – it’s still a place where people stay ’til 2 a.m. moving commas around and while print magazines can still be moulded to the reader but screens demand the reader adapt to them it will be for a while yet.

A drum roll please…

As the excitement builds … We’ve been here a couple of hours and the anticipation is really starting to intensify. We met Ruth Todd – Christchurch’s tireless book enthusiast – at the airport, and Robyn has already been to lunch with Judith Thurman and is interviewing M. T. Anderson as we speak.
There was some bad news today with the cancellation of the Kirsty Gunn event – it looks like she was unexpectedly called back to Scotland.

Opening night promises a real mixture of authors and styles and a chance to experience all the buzz that goes with the opening of festivities. We’ll post an audio wrap up of our thoughts on the opening tomorrow morning, before splitting up to go our separate ways. Joyce will interview Monica Ali, Richard will interview Stefan Aust and Christos Tsiolkas and Moata will chat with Marcus Chown.

It promises to be an excellent evening with a full day tomorrow. Hope to have your company and please send in comments and questions. Remember also that photos will be posted on the library flickr site throughout the festival.

Recent necrology, 28 April – 8 May 2009

  • Ken Annakin, 1914-2009
    British director whose films included the family-adventure classic Swiss Family Robinson,the madcap comedy Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines and the World War II epic The Longest Day
  • Richard Arnell, 1917-2009
    Composer whose works were championed by Thomas Beecham, John Barbirolli and Leopold Stokowski, but whose refusal to embrace atonality meant that he suffered years of neglect by the musical establishment
  • Dom DeLuise, 1933-2009
    Actor with a passion for cooking and eating who became best known for his work with Mel Brooks
  • Nigel Fortune, 1924-2009 Musicologist, editor and scholar whose interests ranged from Purcell and Handel to the avant garde
  • Marilyn French, 1929-1009
    Novelist in the cause of feminism whose goal was to ‘change the entire structure of Western civilisation’