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.