Creativity and Craziness – Jeanette Winterson and Susie Orbach at the Auckland Writers Festival 2016

Creativity
Jeanette Winterson and Susie Orbach, Image supplied

This pop-up event, especially added to the programme because of the sell-out popularity of the original, had many points of departure from everything else I have thus far experienced at the fest.

In a dark cavernous room with a bean-bag strewn floor, somewhere down several flights of stairs at Aotea Centre, married couple Jeanette Winterson (of Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit fame) and Susie Orbach (of Fat Is A Feminist Issue fame) were going to “riff with each other and the audience on the subject of madness and creativity.” There was to be no presenter. May the best interrupter win!

Why be happy when you could be normalJeanette kicked off by asking the audience who thought they were creative. Up went the hands (mine too it must be added). Then, who thought they were crazy, another sea of waving arms (not me – I have no truck with this latest fetish for thinking one is somehow special because of being nuts. Most people are bog standard normal from what I can see). Then who thought they were both.

And we were off.

Here are some of the provocations flung our way (and backed up by reading and research I must add):

  • All children are born creative – Winterson
  • I don’t agree retaliated Orbach – the potential for creativity is always there, but for it to develop it requires the gap between the parents (caregivers) and the child to be filled with opportunity
  • Creative work is a lie-detector – it forces you to face your truths – Winterson
  • There is no one true self, there is an adaptive self with kernels of truth – Orbach
  • Therapy is the most creative act that I ever engage in, creativity is not only about making things, it is about the relationship with yourself – Orbach
  • It is a myth that you have to be crazy to create, creativity is actually on the side of mental health – Winterson
  • The internet has exploded the ease with which knowledge can be achieved – Orbach
  • The internet is the democratisation of shite – Winterson

All this happened conversationally with little relationship revelations: who dyes her hair, who can’t stand bright lights, who would never eat on stage. Even though they often disagreed, interrupted one another and are completely different people – there was a palpable respect, acknowledgement and pride in one another’s achievements. There was attraction, there was love.

Towards the end I found my mind returning to that phrase “riff with each other and the audience” and I pictured my darling husband and I up on that stage. I played around with that notion for a bit. Then I shut it right down. Bottom line truth and spoiler alert here:

I cannot abide being interrupted!

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Around the Book Groups: October

The All Girl Filling Stations Last ReunionIf September was a Goldilocks and the Three Bears reading month, October veered more towards Little Red Riding Hood. The Innocent Reader and the lurking Big Bad Wolf both played their part this month.

It all started innocently enough with Fannie Flagg’s The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion. Set in Alabama, Southern Belle Sookie (and her equally weirdly named daughters), seems set for a peaceful retirement. Then, out of the blue, she is hit by a life crisis of epic proportions. It’s not scary, more Sookie skipping through the forest with a basket of sweet nothings while WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots) planes pirouette overhead. If you are after a happy-ending holiday read, this may be the tickety-boo (as Sookie might say).

Black Rabbit HallBlack Rabbit Hall, on the other hand, is all about the setting. Not a forest in this case, but a building. The story starts ominously and just ratchets the tension up from there on in. Could a building possess a more dysfunctional presence is the big question? And why would anyone want to get married there? But Lorna does. And she wasn’t the only one to be lured in by this brooding ruin. Tragedy, ghosts, hidden secrets and an ominous atmosphere ticked all the boxes for one of my book groups this month.

Colorless Tsukuru TazakiBut my best book group read of the month – in fact now one of my best books of the year – is Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami. If you have so far run screaming through the woods away from  Murakami, this book (along with his novel Norwegian Wood) makes for a very accessible starting point. Imagine this – your four best friends suddenly dump you with no explanation when you are in your early twenties. Eventually, in order to save your sanity,  you decide to track them down to find out why this happened. It is a subtly tense read – absolutely gripping.

It was a month in which false identities “What big eyes you have grandma”, dark foreboding surroundings and lurking unease made up a terrific trio of book group reads. Whatever will November bring?