Philip Norman won a Montana for his biography of Douglas Lilburn so knows a bit about the art of biography. He also knows a lot about the art of chairing a session at a writers festival, demonstrated by his graceful, knowledgeable and witty performance with these three biographers.
Philip Norman (I will be using both his names because he is a composer and it is a convention when writing about composers to use both names if the subject is living and only the surname if they are dead – what’s the use of learning a fascinating fact like that if you can’t immediately show it off) began by stating that he was going to be an easy chair, in fact a la-z-boy. This set the tone for a model session with a relaxed panel who seemed to be enjoying themselves.
Perceptive questions elicted interesting answers – I particularly liked the “which work would you recommend?” question. Joanne Drayton thought Artists in crime, Colour scheme and Died in the wool of Ngaio Marsh’s 32 titles and yes she has read all 32, some two or three times.
Pat Unger subverted the impossibility of choosing just one of Bill Sutton’s works by choosing three series; the Threshold, Landscape Synthesis and Plantation series.
Forced to it, Jill Treveleyan recommended one of Rita Angus’ Goddess portraits and one of the watercolours (when the Angus show comes to Christchurch pay close attention to the watercolours – they are miraculous). Anyone who has been to Wellington lately can’t have missed the image on the cover of the biography – Rita’s the size of Te Papa on the side of Te Papa but Trevelyan didn’t exactly chose this image for the cover, it was chosen by marketing because …