Sunday, May 16, 2010


I have spent the last four days at Auckland's cavernous Aotea Centre home of the Auckland Writers & Readers Festival, have attended some 15 sessions during which I have been entertained and educated and generally had a most pleasant time. I didn't enjoy the Opening Night as I have already stated on my blog but everything else before and since has been excellent.

How appropriate then that my last session was an hour with Rick Gekoski who I see has been called "the Bill Bryson of the book world". For me though he reminded me of Peter Ustinov. He looks a lttle like him with his large frame and silver beard and luxuriant crop of hair. But most of all he reminded me of Ustinov because of his huge intellect, his encyclopedic knowledge of literature, and his stunning ability to tell a story.

Carey led the great man through a series of questions mainly based around his new book, Outside of a Dog, and so we had conversation on psychotherapy, philosophy, Oxford and Harvard, University of Pennsylvania, the Man Booker International Prize, (both gentlemen on the stage have been judges of that), the difficulty of judging work in translation, Paul Theroux,Gegoski's various earlier books, and much more besides. As chair Carey said he "looks at the world though an acute pair of eyes".

 I was moved when he talked about "reading with your finger, your eyes and your heart" something he learned while sitting on his parent's laps as they read to him Dr.Seuss' Horton Hears a Who. Then he wernt on to read a beautiful piece about his mother dying of liver cancer aged 56.
John Carey concluded the session by saying that Rick Gecoski had provided "an absolutely scintillating performance , one of the highlights of this Festival.
The Bookman says amen to that. What a way to finish a marvellous few days. Thanks Rick. Come back soon.

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