Read it again! WORD Christchurch

Book cover of The Were-nanaThe youngest readers weren’t forgotten in the WORD Christchurch festivities. On Saturday afternoon Read It Again! let five picture-book authors share their creations with an eager audience of three to eight year olds. Sheila Sinclair of Christchurch-institution The Children’s Bookshop chaired the session.

Melinda Szymanik read the NZ Post Children’s Choice award winner for 2009, The were-nana. Little sisters in the audience were positively gleeful at the morality tale!

Gavin Bishop brought a special guest: Teddy one-eye, author of an upcoming autobiography. Teddy one-eye was a dishevelled but very accomplished bear who taught himself to read over schoolboy Gavin’s shoulder. Gavin also shared the story behind Teddy’s tragic eye loss: as a youngster he admitted to his Grandma “I’ve swallowed one of teddy’s eyes.” “You’ll probably die.” was the reasurring reply. Happily, he’s survived long enough to read Stay awake, Bear!  to an attentive audience.

Charisma Rangipunga shared a song she sings to her children about a witch who lives in their wardrobe and tries to tempt them out of bed with lollies. Unfortunately for naughty children, the lollies turn out to be worms and the children are then forced to work in her dirty sock factory.

Book cover of Teddy one-eyeKristin Hersh read a story inspired by her son’s dislike of touring: Toby Snax. By the end of the story, lots of the kids in the audience would’ve been eager to head off for international adventures of their own.

Damon Young concluded the session with a continuum of ninja-knowledge and a rowdy reading of My Nanna is a Ninja, which he described as a “celebration of the fun of grandparents, the verve, the energy!”

Capes and Tights – WORD Christchurch

Image of Capes and Tights Session WORD ChristchurchI always love panel events because it can be much more of an organic conversation between panellists, bringing up themes and topics that might not otherwise be heard. I was especially excited about Capes and Tights because, well, firstly it’s about comics, and secondly, the speakers are all excellent people. The session did not disappoint.

Discussion began with an exploration of each speaker’s initiation into comics (Tintin and Asterix being the main offenders), and then their first experience within the realm of the superhero.

Damon Young confessed being drawn as a teenager to the rage and violence of characters such as Ghost Rider, the Punisher and Batman, whereas Dylan Horrocks and Jonathan King were both fans of the fun and absurd superhero comics of the 60s. Karen Healey was a relative latecomer to superhero comics, becoming fascinated with comics such as Kingdom Come at university despite an initial difficulty breaking into the genre as a reader.

Dylan Horrocks asked the panel for their opinion of the “dark and gritty” reboot of many characters, and the fetishization of violence in the superhero canon (comics often being produced with sponsorship by or advertising for the US Army and Air Force). Comments ranged from an appreciation of the way in which physical violence can be paralleled by verbal argument, to the disappointing flattening of a character consumed only by darkness.

Karen Healey brought up the problematic trend of fridging female characters and bemoaned the lack of a Black Widow movie (seriously, when will it happen? We’re ready), which segued into a discussion on copyright and our collective ownership of these characters.

Superhero comics are basically fanfiction. The writers, the artists are all fans of these characters and are creating stories in response to that history, but they have no legal ownership of that material.

All agreed that it is time for DC and Marvel to let “their” creations fall into the public domain, to be used as modern myths (à la Robin Hood or King Arthur) without threat of legal action.

What superpower would you most like to have?

Damon Young:Cover of Batgirl/Robin Year One

The teenager inside me would say mind control, because that would just be incredibly useful, but I think I’d like physical invulnerability.

Karen Healey:

At first I thought telekinesis, but then time-travel because imagine how much time you’d save on research!

Jonathan King:

I’ve always dreamed of flying, so I think I’d have to go for that.

And Dylan Horrocks opted for invisibility.
Capes and tights session

Thinking in the Garden – WORD Christchurch

Cover of Philosophy in the GardenIn the last three and a half years I’ve spent more time reading books on gardens than I ever did when I owned one. I’ve done even more thinking about gardens since attending the Philosophy in the Gardens session at WORD, where philosopher Damon Young talked about authors and their gardens.

Highlights included Jane Austen – lover of apricots and syringas, although one cynic in the audience was moved to ask “was she a gardener or a pointer?” A gardener it seems, along with George Orwell, Emily Dickinson, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Nietzsche, Voltaire and Colette. Even Proust, a man who barely left his cork-lined room, owned a bonsai or three.

And is Young a gardener? Yes, but not a good one. He claimed he could recite a list of the plants he has killed in much the same way as the warriors in The Iliad who, preparatory to killing a man, recite a list of those they have killed before. Ah, the perfectly placed classical reference – one of the things you go to a book festival for.

Virginia Woolf’s Garden was on my For Later list before the session, but according to Young it was Leonard Woolf who won the prizes. Now it’s to be joined by Philosophy in the Garden.

WORD Christchurch:

How to think about exercise – WORD Christchurch

Cover of How to think about exerciseAt all the festivals I attend, I like to do a pin stab. That’s where I open the fold-out programme, close my eyes and make a jab at the page. Then I go to that event. No matter what. This year, my jab landed on Body and Mind – How to Think About Exercise which is the title of Damon Young’s latest book.

Well, let’s be frank here, I don’t usually have any problems thinking about exercise. But I had a sinking feeling this festival event would end up making me feel bad about not actually doing it. Still, a pact is a pact.

The audience was reassuringly normal looking. I had feared being sandwiched between gym jocks. Damon himself  looked suspiciously toned, but co-host Marcus Elliott had a suitably disarming presence. But thirty minutes into this one hour event Elliott was still introducing Damon and we were still nudging around the topic of Philosophy:

Philosophy has to make sense in the context of my life and there is a moral dimension to this. Debate about current moral issues is vital, but debate is not just talking about your prejudices.

So far so good, the word exercise hasn’t even been mentioned yet. Whew. But here it comes:

For too long we have broadly defined people as “bookish and ethereal”or “physical and dumb” This is plain bunkum in Damon’s opinion.This notion of dualism is in fact what stops us from flourishing. His book teases out the benefits of removing this duality and breaking down the insidious capture of the notion of fitness by the young and the beautiful (philosophically speaking, whatever beauty may be. But let’s not go there right now).

Put quite simply Damon encourages us to disentangle how we look from who we think we are – our character, in other words. Just find a form of exercise you like. And do it. Think about what you are doing and take pride in this enhancement of your sense of self.

At the end, I elbowed my way out of the room and to the front of the book selling queue. Down the steps and I was second in line at the book signing table. When I handed my little book across, I said to Damon: “I can’t believe I am buying a book on exercise and one with such an ugly cover as well!” He laughed and took the book and signed inside:

To Roberta,

May you not judge this book by its cover!

Damon.

 

WORD Christchurch: