Friday, May 16, 2008


What a line up ! One of the greatest of living writers in the English language, the very private J.M.Coetzee, left, (double Booker Prize winner, Nobel Prize winner), along with current worldwide favourite Junot Diaz, (Pulitzer Prize), Sarah Hall, (Commonwealth Prize), along with New Zealand favourite , the much awarded Witi Ihimaera. And of course chaired by the queen of the airwaves, Kim Hill.

Each author read from their work and was then quizzed by Hill, except for Coetzee who famously does not give interviews of any king, he only reads. Hill is our undisputed premier interviewer with her Saturday Morning show on Radio New Zealand having a huge following.

It was somewhat curious then to find her rather lose the plot last evening. The show was scheduled to last one hour fifteen minutes but Hill seemed to get bogged down with the first author, Sarah Hall. After Hall's quite long reading Hill put a long series of questions to her, the answers to which were interesting but half an hour into the event and we were still listening to the first author and still had to hear from the other three which led to the audience became decidedly restless and in the end several punters called out to remind the Chair that there were others we also wanted to hear from.

Witi Ihimaera was up next and delighted us, (understatement, he stole the show actually), with readings about his clearly much-loved Dad, Tom Smiler. Then came Junot Diaz who read a very funny piece from his sensational The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. And finally the master himself who entertained us with a superb piece of reading from Diary of a Bad Year and left us wanting more. Much more. I'm off to buy the book.

It was a great night, the ASB Theatre was bulging at the seams, and we went home with smiles on our faces.


Anonymous said...

Yeah what the hell was that all about. I reckon Sarah Hall had just over half the total time available which was a great shame considering who the other three were.
Kim Hill of all people, she is used to timing and the need to pay attention to it being a radio veteran.

Mary Mary said...

It was almost like she thought she was chairing a session called An Hour With Sarah Hall. It was of course a superb interview but entirely out of order. The Festival people should get John Campbell to do it next time.That will save an air fare too!

Nuff said...

Bring writers from all over NZ and all over the world by all means, we want that, but do we really need to import chairpersons? Surely there are plenty of people well qualified to chair sessions at these Festivals without flying them in from other parts of Aotearoa?

Anonymous said...

Hey come on, let's losen up a bit here. 30 mins of ANYONE with Kim Hill has more quirk and IQ than 4 hours from anyone else. How do we "know" she lost the plot? Is there a strict rule that each author gets 15 mins each? Surely the Auckland population can cope with a little Hill-idiosyncrasy? The AkW&RFest audiences go on like such a bunch of prefects about Hill's stage work I'm surprised she keeps accepting gigs with it.

Keri H said...

There is an *understood* rule -by all participants - that your reading time is 'number of readers divided by time" with an equivalent time for intros & audience questions. Kim Hill knows this. Sarah Hall apparently doesnt - and by this time in her professional appearance career, she bloody well should-

PJKM said...

I don't think it was Sarah's fault in any way: her reading wasn't over-long, and a chair could simply compensate for the extra minutes spent reading by asking fewer questions. Instead, Sarah was asked far too many questions - so many that we had only 35 minutes left with three readers still to come.

The "Auckland population" referred to in one of the comments can certainly cope with the idiosyncratic, but by the time Junot Diaz got up to read, there were just 16 minutes left on the clock (as he made a point of noting aloud); in that time, both he and Coetzee had to read and Diaz had to answer questions.

Anonymous said...

I thought Kim Hill's endless questioning of Sarah Hall (which I did actually enjoy) was especially odd because in her opening remarks she said, 'now we've only got an hour so we're going to have to be brisk', or words to that effect . . . If she didn't lose the plot she certainly lost track of time -- and it was only the more noticeable after her earlier comment.