Quick Questions with Rebecca Vaughan – 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.

Today, it’s actor Rebecca Vaughan who is performing in Jane Eyre: An autobiography and also appearing in Madwomen in the attic:

An actor, a novelist and a librarian share their views, their favourite heroines, and improvise their own tales of women with great hair fleeing gothic houses. Rebecca is joined by Karen Healey and Moata Tamaira (librarian from our very own Christchurch City Libraries), in a session chaired by Rachael King.

Rebecca Vaughan. Photo by Ben Guest. Image supplied.

What are you looking forward to doing in Christchurch?

It’s my first time in Christchurch, so I’m really looking forward to having a good explore of the whole city!  I absolutely love just wandering the streets of a new city, and seeing where my instincts take me.  I also imagine I’ll take a visit to the Art Gallery (one of my passions!)

What do you think about libraries?

Libraries are a hugely important, and often underestimated part of forward thinking culture.  To allow free access to so much information: literature, history, reference books, geography, children’s literature, the list is endless, is vital to towns and cities.

And although we have so much information at our fingertips via the internet – libraries are places where communities can meet: storytelling for children, and reading groups for adults, just for starters!  An invaluable resource.

What would be your “desert island book”?

Gosh – that’s hard!  For fiction – it would probably be Jeanette Winterson’s Written on the Body – although I’d also love an unending supply of historical biographies – probably by Alison Weir!

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Share a surprising fact about yourself.

To the surprise even of myself, I became a vegan two years ago.  I thought I would miss cheese so much it would be impossible, but it’s amazed me how much of it was habit, and now I don’t miss it at all!  (Oh and I also performed for the Netherland’s Royal Family!)

Madwomen in the attic — Rebecca Vaughan, Karen Healey, Moata Tamaira, chaired by Rachael King
Great Hall, The Arts Centre, Wednesday 6 September, 8.30pm

Following a performance of Jane Eyre: An Autobiography with Rebecca Vaughan, sit back and enjoy dark tales of Gothic houses, damaged men, plucky heroines and secrets lurking in attics. What is the enduring appeal of the Gothic women of literature? Who are the forgotten women, and the doppelgangers? An actor, a novelist and a librarian share their views, their favourite heroines, and improvise their own tales of women with great hair fleeing Gothic houses. Rebecca is joined by Karen Healey and Moata Tamaira, chaired by Rachael King.

If you like women with great hair fleeing Gothic houses, follow the faaaabulous @PulpLibrarian on Twitter.

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Fight for your (women’s) rights – Clementine Ford – WORD Christchurch

CoverFight like a girl kicks off with an author’s note “I hope you enjoy it, and find it galvanising!” Well, this book is absolutely galvanising — and upsetting, eye-opening, rage-inducing. It comes down to this: Girls, women, trans women — it’s ok to be angry, in fact if you’re not, you should be:

If you are a woman living in this world and you’re not angry, you’re not paying enough attention. Not to your own life, not to the lives of other women and not to the lives of the women who’ll come after you. (p 281)

Clementine Ford. Image supplied.

Next month you can hear Clementine in person at a WORD Christchurch Shifting Points of View event, part of the Christchurch Arts Festival.

Fight like a girl — Clementine Ford
Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu, Saturday 2 September, 3pm

Join Australia’s online sensation, fearless feminist heroine and scourge of trolls and misogynists everywhere Clementine Ford as she outlines her essential manifesto for feminists new, old and soon-to-be, and exposes just how unequal the world continues to be for women. Introduced by journalist Beck Eleven.
Find out more and book your tickets.(one session has already sold out, soz)

Talk of feminism is always timely. Just look what our politicians Meritia Turei and Jacinda Ardern have been dealing with.

The book covers all the topics you’d expect: body issues, diets, sex, gaslighting, girl gangs, and references feminist pop culture touchpoints like Broad City, Parks and Recreation, and Jessica Jones.

Fight like a girl has enough personal backstory to make you understand the things that set Clementine on the path to righteous feminism, particularly in the area of reproductive rights and mental health. She also sets it straight about the online abuse she’s suffered for ten years.

But where I think this book comes out strongest is in its observations:

Why do some women come out against feminism (we’ve seen several high profile NZ examples of this)

… it all comes back to the same thing – women capitulating to the system in order to be given some notion of power within it. (p. 145)

What is privilege?

If you’re not forcing yourself to routinely interrogate the benefits you enjoy in society, it’s all too easy to tell yourself that other people are inventing their disadvantages. (p. 148)

Why do some women hate men? Because they have compelling reasons to. 

Instead of berating feminists for being misandrists, perhaps these men should start taking responsibility for the abominable, destructive and dehumanising treatment of women throughout all of history up to and including the present day. (p.159)

Clementine relates examples of rape culture: Brock Turner, Stephen Milne, the Four corners case, and more. The effect of the cumulative examples is to make you want to change EVERYTHING.


Follow Clementine Ford on Twitter.

If you want more New Zealand stories, I recommend the TVNZ On Demand series So this happened – “real stories of harassment verbal and physical as told by those who have experienced them”.

More feminist reading on our website

Quick Questions with Glenn Colquhoun – WORD Christchurch

Glenn Colquhoun. Image supplied.

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.
Today, it’s New Zealand doctor, poet, and writer Glenn Colquhoun.

What are you looking forward to doing in Christchurch?

I think just walking around the city again, taking it in. I haven’t been there for 3 years or so so it will be nice to scratch its back again.

What do you think about libraries?

I love them. I feel connected to the world when I’m in a library. And to a specific locality  at the same time. And I feel like I’m around people who love stories and books. Libraries are full of kindred spirits.

What would be your “desert island book”?

I’ve just bought Les Murray’s ‘Bunyah.’ So it would be a perfect chance to glory in it.

Share a surprising fact about yourself.

 I am made of 37 trillion cells that have no idea who I am.

Glenn Colquhoun appears in:

Glenn Colquhoun’s latest book is Late Love: Sometimes doctors need saving as much as their patients.
Read his NZ Book Council profile for more information.

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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.

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Sarah Waters and the joy of book-talks

Sarah Waters and Carole Beu
Sarah Waters and Carole Beu, Flickr 2015-09-07-IMG_9220

In an earlier post before I went to see author Sarah Waters speak as part of Shifting Points of View, I admitted that I’m often wrong about how I think her stories are going to play out – and I now know why Sarah’s novels always have such agonising twists!

She is even more intelligent than I expected.  Amazingly well read and educated. So she will always be one step ahead of me. Damn.

The whole book-talk thing was not what I expected, as there was a lot of dancing around what actually takes place in the novel, as some attendees haven’t read it yet. But I got a fascinating insight into how Sarah puts together her novels. She starts with around two months of research, although she said her latest book is taking a lot longer, perhaps up to four months.

Sarah Waters' books - UBS bookstand
Sarah Waters’ books – UBS bookstand, Flickr, 2015-09-07-IMG_9212

The first half of the book was a “bit of a bugger to write” with a lot writing, rewriting and editing. But the second part was easier, as she enjoyed seeing her characters grow.  It was interesting hearing her speak of characters in her latest novel The Paying Guests, Lillian, Leonard, and Frances as though they are real people, just showing how much thought is put into each one.

My favourite quote from the night was when she described The Paying Guest as “a love story complicated by a crime”. That sums up the novel perfectly.

I definitely recommend attending an author talk if you get the chance. I am looking forward to my next one.

Tania
Outreach Library Assistant

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.

On effective altruism – Peter Singer

Cover of The Most good you can doLast night, the WORD Christchurch Shifting Points of View at the Christchurch Arts Festival featured a discussion session with hugely influential author and thinker – Peter Singer. The discussion centered around a variety of topical ethical issues, but also those traversed in his most recent book The Most Good You Can Do – How Effective Altruism Is Changing Ideas About Living Ethically.

It was a stimulating and funny evening with the discussion lubricated cleverly by chair Eric Crampton (Head of Research at the New Zealand Initiative in Wellington), who also provided some interesting insights and witticisms. You can read Charlie Gates take in The Press: Top philosopher Peter Singer says take more Syrian refugees and help Lebanon.

Peter Singer is perhaps one of the most polarizing philosophers of our time. His radical views and ideas have provoked many with inflammatory pro-abortion remarks and animal rights activism. However, Professor Singer spends lots of time at Princeton University, where he works in the field of bioethics and “practical ethics”, which wrestle with the diverse ethical and moral implications of reproductive rights, animal rights, genetic engineering and other bio-medical advances. So he’s pretty brainy.

But being a utilitarian philosopher, he is generally guided by the classic utilitarian notion that “the morally right action is the action that produces the most good”. He acknowledges a perplexing problem –  how do us lowly citizens decide what produces the most good, in a world wracked with seemingly insurmountable problems?

That’s where Effective Altruism comes in. A movement Peter Singer promotes. Effective Altruism is an international social movement concerned with charitable works, and seeks to fuse “global empathy” with “critical thinking” so as to enable us citizens of the Earth to ascertain the most “effective ways to improve the world”, and therefore, enhance the way we give.

Mr Singer discussed the dilemmas we face as charitable givers, and how we are often emotionally compelled to favour certain charitable efforts over others (emotive advertising campaigns etc). This is despite the fact that some charities are arguably more deserving, or more productive than others. The questions of “how to give and who to give to” often stifles people who are prepared to help financially, for example, should we give to programmes abroad, or, does “charity start at home”? Is it better to directly help feed starving children in developing countries, or, do we give to biotech’ programmes which conduct research into crop enhancement, which could potentially feed and save millions?

Peter Singer - crowd

Peter Singer’s audience. Flickr 2015-09-07-IMG_9202

The discussion at the festival had a distinctly globalized feel, as most subjects traversed were generally pegged to a broader global context. This is reflected in his book, which tries to determine the areas of greatest need and deprivation in the world. Therefore, when we consider the world and all its problems in its entirety, it seems that as global citizens the greatest good we could do is probably in Africa and developing countries where things are the most dire. These notions of global giving are quite challenging in light of various domestic issues.

Interestingly, Singer concedes that the works of charitable organizations are tricky to measure because the services they provide might be preventative, therefore, it’s hard to prove a service prevented (or failed to prevent) something which “otherwise WOULD have happened”. It was also pointed out that determining the success (the greatest good) that non-governmental organisations achieve is almost impossible in certain environments where one would have to randomly visit, for example, 200 villages scattered across a region of continental Africa so as to gauge how well an NGO is doing on average. There are many cultural and political variables which determine outcome.

Ultimately, the guidance of Peter Singer, and the Effective Altruism movement is pretty awesome, as it’s easy to get emotionally coerced into supporting any old venture in our ever changing, needy world.
Peter Singer signs books
Peter Singer signs books, Flickr 2015-09-07-IMG_9208

Utilitarian links

Julia Markovits (Cornell University) gives an introduction to the moral theory of utilitarianism. Utilitarianism is the view that the right moral action is the one that maximizes happiness for all.

The History of Utilitarianism, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
You can catch up with our posts & pics:

Altruism and Passion

We had a ball at WORD Christchurch’s Shifting Points of View sessions on Sunday 30 August. Tonight – Monday 7 September – there are two more diversely fab events. One on altruism (sold out!), and one on passion.

There is still time to book for Sarah Waters. Tania is a big fan – calling her the mistress of the agonising twist.

Cover of The most good you can do6pm On Effective Altruism: Peter Singer, chaired by Eric Crampton

Effective altruism requires a rigorously unsentimental view of charitable giving, urging that a substantial proportion of our money or time should be donated to the organisations that will do the most good with those resources …

Find works in our catalogue by Peter Singer

8pm Crimes of Passion: Sarah Waters, chaired by Carole Beu

Sarah Waters’ hugely inventive novels usually have lesbian relationships at their heart, and are always set in the past, when remaining true to oneself came at great personal risk.

Find works in our catalogue by Sarah Waters

Cover of The Paying Guest Cover of Fingersmith Cover of The Little Stranger Cover of Tipping the velvet Cover of Affinity Cover of The Night watch

You can catch up with our posts & pics:

Imaginary Cities

Shifting points of view is WORD Christchurch’s season of brain-tickling talks at the Christchurch Arts Festival (Peter Singer and Sarah Waters on Monday 7 September yo!).

I arrived (just) in time on a nippy Sunday for Imaginary Cities. It featured the super-intelligent powers of authors Fiona Farrell, Anna Smaill, Hamish Clayton, and Christchurch City Council designer Hugh Nicholson, and a stellar chairperson in the form of Christchurch Art Gallery Senior Curator Lara Strongman.

The topic:

Taking the Christchurch blueprint as a starting point, this panel will look at ways in which we imagine cities, either in fiction, in history, or in contemporary life; whether as utopias or dystopias, cities imagined or reimagined.

The Imaginary Cities Panel
Imaginary Cities panel Flickr 2015-08-30-IMG_8942

Blimey. I can only hint at the brilliant barrage of words and ideas we were treated to.

Cover of The ChimesMan Booker Prize nominated Anna Smaill – author of The Chimes – complained of jetlag, but was like intellectual quicksilver. She spoke of cities as places of amassed energy, and how we have only a “narrow toehold” on civilisation.  In a city, the natural world is forever leaning over our shoulder.

Hamish talked about the city as a “morbid playground”, and a place that allows us to escape into anonymity. (Especially good for these introverted writerly types).

Designer Hugh Nicholson spoke about the imposition of the imaginary on the real:

Street patterns stay in the city for a very long time.

Cover of The Villa at the end of the empireFiona read The Flyover of Hope from her new book The Villa at the Edge of the Empire: One Hundred Ways to Read a City (read that extract, and Press writer Philip Matthew’s most excellent interview):

A couple spin by on a tandem, a white boy on the front, a brown girl behind, both pedalling unsteadily through green trees, both laughing with delight at the prospect of their opportunity. Earthquakes have destroyed their beautiful city, 70 per cent of its major buildings have been or are about to be demolished. But 106,000 of the city’s residents have risen to the call! They have submitted their vision for a new city and here is the synthesis of their dreams, a “flyover of their hopes”.

Fiona loved maps since reading Milly Molly Mandy as a kid. She spoke of Hippodamian grids – “a quick way of slapping down a city on a frontier” and the motivation to citybuild as encompassing politics, power, and the impulse to profit.

The one map we never see is where we are always coming ashore, looking for something.

How do fiction and memory fit into this?  The city is a time machine. Hamish sees fiction as an engagement with an imagined remembered place. And every NZ writer is dealing with a relationship to place. Anna said that in fiction, you are inheriting the physical remains and stitching them back into a narrative. Fiction can help us understand cities better, said Hugh. Fiona spoke of the power of the novel to comfort, and proposed that the humanities are well named.

Cover of The Pale NorthThe writers spoke about the city in their books. Hamish set The Pale North in a fictional Wellington, and had to think deeply about ethical engagement after Christchurch’s quakes.

Fiction is a hell of a machine when things go wrong.

Fiona read a lot – including Seneca on earthquakes, and used that research as “a rich mass of compost” on which to build. Her next book is a novel that will sit with The Villa as its fictional counterpart.

The dystopian London in Anna’s book The Chimes was born of sensory impressions, and one of the books she mentioned was Peter Ackroyd’s psychogeography about the Thames. The other great influence in her hybrid of fantasy and mythic elements was Russell Hoban’s Riddley Walker (an amazing book that).  She quoted Conrad:

“And this also,” said Marlow suddenly, “has been one of the dark places of the earth.” (Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad)

Fiona spoke of the new doco The Art of Recovery and how it showed little shoots of hope and energy:

A profound session then, and it ended with Lara asking for more “public imagination” in Christchurch.

Quotable quotes

Find works in our catalogue by:

More reading:

Jesse Bering: Science not morals

Cover of PervAfter reading a review of Perv in The Press’ Your Weekend magazine I was very intrigued. Jesse Bering is a science communication professor at Otago University so this book is looking at perversions from a scientific perspective – not a moral one.

Many thanks to Word Christchurch for giving me the opportunity to get out of my comfort zone and sit right up the front of the fascinated crowd. The topic is an uncomfortable one for even the most open-minded of us but he gave the talk with such grace and humility even when heckled by a couple of audience members.

Jesse Bering
Jesse Bering. Flickr 2015-08-30-IMG_9023

But surely this is what it’s all about: having the conversation. Looking at our own desires and the desires of others and seeing them as just that, without judgement.

Unfortunately I’m still on the holds list for this book but I hear he writes in a humorous way. Phew! That will make the subject a little more relaxed reading!