Wednesday, May 14, 2008



Steve Braunias had the somewhat daunting privilege of being the opening gig at this year's Auckland Festival which promises to be the best Festival yet.

And he didn't let the side down. Looking remarkably sartorial, and more than a little edgy, he quickly relaxed under the skilled chairmanship of fellow journo Finlay Macdonald who started off by saying that the introduction to Braunias' book being launched tonight, "Roosters I Have Known", (Awa Press), should be compulsory reading on all journalism courses. I am not competent to judge that claim but I do know, as I said on the blog yesterday, that the introduction is a highly entertaining read.

These two highly expereinced journalists entertained us with a genial and interesting conversation in which Braunias was often remarkably frank and self deprecating. He was also frequently extremely funny while at other times serious and thoughtful. I loved his off the cuff quote that the history of New Zealand journalism was a series of insults to the English language.

All too soon the hour was up and 300+ punters left the ASB Theatre feeling warm and humoured. And many lined up at the fine, well-stocked Festival Bookstore, (a joint venture between The Women's Bookshop & Unity Books), to buy Roosters I Have Known. It is fun.


This was the second event on the calendar following immediately after the above session and while it promised much I have to say it was a tad disappointing.

Three panellists all with TV arts/books programme experience - Hermione Lee, (from the UK and one of the star authors appearing at the Festival here in the first of her several appearances), arts writer Hamish Keith, of The Big Picture (Random House) book & TV series, and Colin Hogg, producer of The Book Show, ably chaired by the glamorous broadcaster & writer Noelle McCarthy, talked about the perception that books and Tv do not mix. Lee lamented the loss of Channel 4's wonderful book show, Keith argued passionately for public televison that cared about culture and not the bottom line, and Hogg saw light at the end of the long tunnel with TVNZ's Freeview channels.What they had to say individually was often interesting but in the end the discussion really went nowhere and I was pleased to retreat to the bar for a glass of fine Chardonnay.

The Aotea centre is looking great for the Festival, the bookstore is loaded to the gunwhales, there are actually two branches, one outside each of the theatres being used, publishers have their displays mounted, the bars are stocked with food and drink, it is all looking good for an exciting few days.

More from the Bookman tomorrow!


Chairpersons of sessions must insist that people asking questions from the audience MUST use the microphones provided as otherwise in this vast theatre their questions cannot be heard by other than those immediately adjacent to them.


Anonymous said...

Yeah I'm inclined to agree with the Bookman, Braunias was just like his writing - funny, frank, opionionated, naughty, annoying but always entertaining.
The TV panellists were all individually ok but collectively it went nowhere.
Now on to the first of the big days, bring it on.

Brian said...

I thought Braunias was brilliant actually, you got him well on your blog. I just had to buy his book afterwards. And I read it last night when I got home to Pukekohe, enjoyed it and will now pass on to Dad.
I can't be there today but hope you will be covering the Peter Ho Davies session.

Bookman Beattie said...

Yes Brian, I'll be at the Hour with Peter Ho Davies. Have you read his novel, The Welsh Girl?
I reviewed it on the blog last week. Warmly recommend it - See

Anonymous said...

Braunias was entertaining but I worry about the power of journalists like him who can use their own prejudices, political & otherwise, to damn people who cannot really defend themselves without appearing wimps.