Madwomen and attics – WORD Christchurch Shifting Points of View

It was a dark, but not a stormy, night at the Arts Centre last Wednesday, when four mysterious black-clad ladies entered the room. With flickering candles held aloft, they took their places on the stage for an evening of great hair, literary tropes and another chapter in the ongoing battle between Team Rochester and Team Heathcliff (*).

There was no attempt at cool professionalism, as our panellists to a man woman unashamedly confessed their enduring love for that most passionate of genres, the Gothic novel. And the audience was right there with them – many of us had been present earlier in the evening for an outstanding performance of Jane Eyre by Rebecca Vaughan of Dyad Productions.

Rachael King, Rebecca Vaughan, Karen Healey, and Moata Tamaira

With chair Rachael King guiding the discussion, we heard from an actor, a novelist and a librarian as they each confessed to teenage years spent wafting about in nighties and imagining themselves in the arms of a dark and brooding hero of uncertain temperament. Rebecca Vaughan had of course literally just come from her performance as Jane Eyre, while Karen Healey and Rachael King have both written novels with a strong Gothic flavour themselves (if you have not read Karen Healey’s Guardian of the Dead, or Rachael King’s Magpie Hall, I beseech you most strongly to do so at once). And our very own Moata Tamaira has never been afraid to profess herself as a fan of all things Gothic.

Rachael King, Rebecca Vaughan, Karen Healey, and Moata Tamaira

The evening’s discussion ranged from the literary – Gothic tropes in literature and film; to the awesomely ridiculous – a slideshow quiz where every answer was Wuthering Heights. We contemplated the various forms of Heathcliff in multiple movie castings (Tom Hardy a clear winner here, although this possibly was rigged by chair Rachael); and slipped sideways into a robust conversation about whether Wide Sargasso Sea had altered anyone’s perceptions of Mr Rochester (is it a true prequel? an early form of fan-fic homage? a completely separate stand-alone story?). I was waiting for someone to mention my own personal fave Jane Eyre “character” Thursday Next, from the Eyre Affair series, but perhaps that’s making things a little too tangled even for this panel and audience.

Rachael King, Rebecca Vaughan, Karen Healey

Finishing with a glorious set of illustrations from pulp fiction novels of the ’60s and ’70s, featuring women with great hair running from Gothic houses (credit to this magnificent blog), we were then sent out into the moonlit surrounds of the oh-so-Gothic Arts Centre, I think each with a new commitment to go back and re-read ALL our favourite Gothic novels. Possibly while dressed in wafty white nighties and floating about on the nearest moor.

Christchurch Arts Centre

(* Of COURSE it’s Team Rochester, all the way)

 

Talking about race – Reni Eddo-Lodge and Victor Rodger: WORD Christchurch Shifting Points of View

In an engrossing event at Christchurch Art Gallery, Reni Eddo-Lodge was in conversation with playwright Victor Rodger. She talked us through her thought-provoking debut book Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race. This collection of essays seeks to unpick and challenge white dominant ideology.

Reni Eddo-Lodge and Victor Rodger
Reni Eddo-Lodge and Victor Rodger

The idea for the book grew out of a 2014 blog post in which Reni, a young British journalist of Nigerian heritage, wrote of her “frustration that discussions of race and racism were being led by those not affected by it,” and that when she tried to talk about these issues was told that there wasn’t actually a problem or accused her of being angry. The irony of marking this line in the sand was that suddenly lots of people wanted to listen to Reni’s point of view – including a full (mostly white) art gallery auditorium.

There are a number of themes in the book. One is history, and Reni is keen for black Britons to write themselves back into history. The British connection to slavery and to Africa is deep. I studied economic and social history 1750-1875 at A-level and slavery and colonialism was barely mentioned. I find this appalling because:

  • a) hello – where was the cotton for the cotton mills coming from?
  • and b) it has taken me until the last week or two to realise this.

It is this kind of oversight that Reni is trying to point out.

Reni Eddo-Lodge
Reni Eddo-Lodge

Whiteness isn’t the default. Whiteness isn’t neutral. There are other ways of doing things; there are other points of view. Which is actually quite liberating if you think about.

Reni was assured and matter of fact, and very easy to listen to. Another topic she highlights is feminism. What is the point of feminism that is only for white women and doesn’t have a space for black women and others? Issues don’t happen in isolation, and overlap and intersect all the time.

This truly was a session to make you think about and observe how you experience the world, to make you want to explore further by reading her book, and to shift your point of view.

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Shifting Points of View: Fail Safe Fail Better

The first session of WORD Christchurch’s Shifting Points of View sessions at the Christchurch Arts Festival is Fail Safe, Fail Better with Witi Ihimaera, Lianne Dalziel, Clementine Ford, Hana O’Regan, Glenn Colquhoun and Victor Rodger. It is on at the Great Hall in the Christchurch Arts Centre, this Friday 1 September, 7.30pm.

Failure. It’s a great theme. When children learn by it, we call it exploration.

Margaret Mahy once said that her publisher would ask her to rewrite her stories up to eleven times.

The panel will bare their souls; sharing their failures, successes and how the lessons they bring have shaped their lives.

Its okay to fail. Buddhism suggests we take the lesson, learn, and evolve towards a higher truth.

Try this for an exercise in freedom. Think you’re a failure at art? Take a piece of brown paper and screw it up into a ball. Freeing, or what? Tear out the rough shape of the leaf by hand. Decorate your leaf with a crayon. You can colour with dye and a paintbrush, or leave natural. Display your leaves around the room!

Come along to the Great Hall at Christchurch Arts Centre on Friday; reflect on life and how the struggle to survive can spark the creative mind.

WORD Christchurch tweets

Quick Questions with Witi Ihimaera – WORD Christchurch

We are asking quick questions of writers and thinkers coming to Shifting Points of View, WORD Christchurch’s suite of events at September’s Christchurch Arts Festival.
First up, it’s the wonderful New Zealand writer Witi Ihimaera.

Witi Ihimaera. Image supplied

What are you looking forward to doing in Christchurch?

Hanging with people who know how to party.

What do you think about libraries?

You can learn stuff there and take home new worlds and friends in the books you borrow.

What would be your “desert island book”?

Right now it would be Valley of the Cliffhangers by Jack Mathis.

Share a surprising fact about yourself.

 I love B Movies of the 1940s and 50s, the badder the better.

Witi Ihimaera appears in:

Witi Ihimaera is one of New Zealand’s most important writers. His book The Whale Rider was made into a successful feature film. His autobiography Māori Boy: A Memoir of Childhood won the General Non-Fiction Award at the 2016 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. His latest book is called Sleeps Standing: A Story for the Battle of Orakau (and it includes a Māori translation by Hemi Kelly). It is to be published in August.
Read his NZ Book Council profile for more information.

CoverCoverCover

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The outdoor art gallery

When I first moved to Christchurch, there were very few wall murals and the outdoor sculptures were just statues of monarchs or founding fathers. For my art fix, I headed off to the Robert McDougall Art Gallery, tucked in behind the museum in the Botanic Gardens. It was a lovely building, full of many wondrous works of art. It was too small and could only have a fraction of its collection on display. I was delighted to visit the new Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu in 2003. My favourite pieces were on display and there were galleries full of paintings I had never seen before.

When the earthquakes struck and the gallery was closed, I thought it would be years before I saw art in Christchurch. I was wrong. It seamed that every smooth wall and every spare space made way for art.

Container Love Close-Up

 

The road to Sumner became an art gallery when all the shipping containers got decorated. When I arrived in Sumner, almost every container, fence and wall had been pimped out.

Wongi Art on St Asaph Street, Flickr 2014-12-15-IMG_3940
Wongi Art on St Asaph Street, Flickr 2014-12-15-IMG_3940

New Brighton and Lyttelton were the next colourful destinations. What could have been depressing road trips became an adventure. I wanted to see what the locals had in store.

The ruined buildings in the central city became the canvas for many artists, and they made walking through town much more enjoyable that it could have been. The Justice Precinct has copies of works of art on the wall. Copies of paintings are on a wall on Moorhouse Avenue.

Everywhere I looked, there was a mural on a wall. Unfortunately, a mural on Barbadoes Street has almost disappeared because of the construction of a new building. I expect I’ll be waiting a long time to see it in all its glory again.

Re:START Mall is pretty colourful. I think I can count that as a work of art.

Gap Filler created works of art too. They really are almost sculptures. The spaces created were unexpected and made me smile.

Sound Garden on Peterborough Street

 

I have missed the Art Gallery and I am looking forward to wandering through its rooms again. However, when it was closed, I realised one important thing: Christchurch is an art gallery.

Sarah Waters at Shifting Points of View

Sarah Waters and Carole Beu at Shifting Points of ViewIt takes a lot to get me to go out after I’ve come home from work, but the chance to listen to Sarah Waters at Shifting Points of View definitely qualifies. The Paying Guests is one of my favourite books of the year – history, love, crime, and dilapidated houses – totally my jam! Here are some highlights.

Awards

Waters’ favourite was the Children of the Night Award by the Dracula Society, each trophy being a mini gravestone personalised to the winning book – check them out  (Fingersmith won in 2002).

The Paying Guests

“A bit of a bugger to write!” Epiphany came when agent described the novel as a crime story complicated by love, and Waters realised what she actually wanted was a love story complicated by a crime. She was initially inspired by reading about the trial of Edith Thompson and Frederick Bywaters and wondered what would happen if the affair was with a woman. It’s not all flappers and gaiety in the 1920s!

Sarah Waters

Sarah Waters Flickr 2015-09-07-IMG_9225

New book?

Currently in the research stages, probably set in the 1950s. Probably won’t be out for a while so if you want to read some other books in the same period I thoroughly recommend Eva Rice, particularly The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets, which as a bonus deals with a similar ‘genteel house falling into disrepair’ theme as Waters’ The Little Stranger and The Paying Guests. Decaying splendour, anyone?

Recommended reads

Jeanette Winterson, Emma Donoghue and Mary Renault. I already love the last two (and we’ve been getting some lovely new editions of Renault recently in the library) so Winterson will probably be my next read while I wait for Waters to finish writing.

Sarah Waters clarified that she won’t be writing about known historical personages anytime soon – “The thought makes me feel squeamish!” – so if you’d like to read about a fascinating real 19th century Yorkshire landowner who happened to have multiple lesbian affairs, place a reserve on The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister.

Cover of The Paying GuestsCover of The Little StrangerCover of The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne ListerCover of The Sealed Letter

Read more of our Shifting Points of View posts.

Sarah Waters: Mistress of the agonising twist

I was so excited when I heard the highly acclaimed UK author Sarah Waters, author of such novels as Tipping the Velvet, The Fingersmith and The Night Watch, was going to attend WORD Christchurch’s Shifting Points of View “mini-festival” during the Christchurch Arts Festival.

Cover of The Paying Guest Cover of Fingersmith Cover of The night watch Cover of Tipping the velvet

I had just finished her latest novel The Paying Guests, and have also read most of her other novels.

I decided to try a talking book version of The Paying Guests for a change and was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it.  Except that I found myself sitting in my car; thinking, just another minute, another minute, aggghhhh, damn I have to go, but I desperately want to know what happens next.

I haven’t decided if listening to the talking book is the best idea or not? I know usually I would have been up to the wee small hours reading, but instead was stuck waiting for my next chance to get in the car and hear what was happening.

If you enjoy amazing attention to historical accuracy, multi layered characters you love, loath,  are distressed by and empathise with, some love and captivating storylines I would recommend trying a novel by Sarah Waters. But beware the always agonising twist, just when I think “huh,” with an air of authority, “I know what’s going to happen next!” I am always wrong.

Oh those twists.

I am lucky enough to be attending Sarah’s talk Crimes of Passion session on Monday 7 September and looking forward to blogging about it after. Stay tuned!

Tania
Outreach Library Assistant

수선화가 피기시작한 2015년 겨울…

작가와의 만남은 그 책을 이해하는데 많은 도움을 주는것 같습니다. 지난 일요일  Christchurch Arts Festival의 일부인 WORD Christchurch 에서 “평양의 영어 선생님(Without you there is no us)” 의 작가 수키 킴의 강연을 들었습니다.  작가와의 만남 자체도 신기했지만, 많은 수의 참석자들 때문에 놀라기도 했습니다. 북한에 대한 관심 때문인지, 내가 미쳐 알지 못한 작가의 명성 때문인지는 정확히 알 수 없었습니다. 작가의 말도 안돼는 상황 설명에 웃는 다른 사람들과 달리들 웃지 못하고 눈물이 났던 까닭은 무슨 까닭이었을까요… 작가의 따뜻한 용기에 박수를 보내 드림니다

Cover of Without You, There Is No Us수키 김(Suki Kim)은 한국에서 태어나 13세 때 부모를 따라 미국으로 이민을 가 뉴욕의 컬럼비아 대학에서 영문학을 전공하고 영국 런던대학원에서 동양문학을 공부했답니다. 2003년 첫 장편소설 “통역사(The Interpreter)”로 펜 헤밍웨이 문학상 후보에 올랐고 미국 내에서 민족 다양성을 뛰어나게 표현한 문학작품에 수여하는 펜 경계문학상과 창조적인 인간을 구현한 작품에 수여하는 구스타브 마이어 우수도서상을 수상하기도 했습니다. 아울러 가장 명성이 높은 구겐하임, 풀브라이트, 그리고 조지소러스 재단 오픈소사이어티의 펠로십을 휩쓸었답니다.

Korean children's books, Flickr Sept-2015-Ch.jpg
Korean children’s books, Flickr Sept-2015-Ch.jpg

2011년 7월부터 같은 해 12월까지 6개월간 평양과학기술대학에서 학생들에게 영어를 가르치며 그녀가 진실로 원하는 것은 북한의 실상을 직접 보고 느끼고 그것을 글로 쓰는 것이었답니다. 그 경험을 토대로한 “평양의 영어 선생님(Without you there is no us)” 2014년에 펴냈습니다.

이 달에 새로이 소개할 책은 이호백 작가의 그림책 “도대체 그 동안 무슨일이 일어났을까?”입니다. 이책은 뉴욕타임스 2003년 최우수 그림책으로 선정되어 미국의에서 ”While We Were Out”이란 제목으로 번역·출간되었으며,일본어,불어로 출간되기도 했답니다. 아이들의 호기심을 이끌어내기에 아주 좋은 책입니다. 작가의 허락으로 책을 읽어 보았습니다. 아이들과 함께 들어 보세요.

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Pride and Perversion

You are a sexual deviant.

Talk about opening a book with a zinger! I’m looking forward to hearing Jesse Bering in person –  6pm on Sunday 30 August 2015, a WORD Christchurch event in the Shifting points of view section of the Christchurch Arts Festival. His topic? On Perversion. Get your tickets now yo. This is not a session for kids or the squeamish; it’s definitely adult in nature.

I’ve just read his book Perv: The sexual deviant in all of us. As a librarian, I’m an index checker and this is one that’d make your eyes water: sneeze fetishists, autoplushophiles, formicophilia, Miley Cyrus …

This is a book that asks some great questions:

We’ve become so focused as a society on the question of whether a given sexual behavior is evolutionarily “natural” or unnatural” that we’ve lost sight of the more important question: Is it harmful? (p.21)

Jesse takes us right back to the origins of the term:

For the longest time, in fact, to be a pervert wasn’t to be a sex deviant; it was to be an atheist … So if we applied this original definition to the present iconoclastic world of science, one of the world’s most recognizable perverts would be the famous evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. (p.9 /10)

The book is a journey into the world of “erotic outliers” (doesn’t that sound much better than pervert). It contains a good dollop of the personal, as well as science, politics, history, literature, and psychology – and, of course, the nature of sexual arousal. There are also plenty of interesting examples of behaviours; you’ll never look at the yoghurt in your office fridge the same way.

Jesse quotes the Roman philosopher Terence (p. 8):

I consider nothing that is human alien to me.

More understanding. Less judginess.

Cover of Perv Cover of Why is the penis shaped like that? Cover ot The God instinct

 

… and the peasants rejoiced…*

Dancers in redAnyone who has anything to do with professional dancing knows that it requires extraordinary levels of physical fitness, control and dedication to make it as graceful and seemingly effortless as they do.

I’ve loved the ballet ever since my Mum took me to a Southern Ballet production of Stravinsky’s The Firebird as a six year old and pestered her into lessons. It still grabs me in a way that no other live performance does, surely a combination of the setting, music and movement, so I’m thrilled to be going along to the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s production of Midsummer Night’s Dream later this week.

I know the story well enough of course, it being based on one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays, but I am not at all familiar with the music by Felix Mendelssohn. According to liner notes for one recording found in the libraries’ Classical Music Library eResource (see below) the music was composed to be incidental music for a performance of the play in 1843.

Find out more about this production via their twitter feed.

More Ballet resources

Where Snowflakes Dance and Swear


* blog title is a bad ’90s TV show reference for which I apologise.