The last time I heard CK Stead was a few years ago at the Auckland Writers Festival. He was interviewed with his daughter Charlotte Grimshaw and they played off each other nicely. I didn’t really enjoy this latest session where C.K Stead was interviewed by Paul Millar, and in hindsight I was probably not the best person to be writing this blog, because a) I haven’t read the book Shelf Life b) I am not the most literary person c) I was not reading New Zealand literature in the 50s and 60s and d) I haven’t studied New Zealand Literature. If you fulfilled all or at least some of the above criteria then it was probably entertaining. I didn’t get the jokes and I didn’t always know who they were talking about.
Perhaps because Paul Millar has an academic background there was quite a lot of talk about the early days in the English Department at the Auckland University. All of our luminaries feature, all referred to by their last names – Gee, Shadbolt, Duggan. Fairburn, Baxter and Curnow.(As an aside I always find this last name things a bit odd – do we do it with women?) The North Shore seemed a hotbed of literary genius, and references were made to the odd feud and disagreement. It must have been intense. Curnow and Stead lived in the same street and over the years critiqued each others work via their respective letterboxes.
Things jumped around a bit, from University days to travel, opinions on food, (yes, likes it) euthanasia, (would be good to have a pill especially if dementia hit) how and when he writes, (keeps office hours) and favourite places, (Auckland then London). A question was asked about women writers as they didn’t exactly feature. Janet Frame was a good friend and he preferred Marilyn Duckworth to her sister Fleur Adcock, I’m unsure as to why.
It would be interesting to hear other opinions on this session. I found it bitsy and not particularly illuminating. I suspect others will have enjoyed it much more than me as they would have had more appreciation of the authors and characters of this important time of our literary history.
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