Former leading New Zealand publisher and bookseller, and widely experienced judge of both the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Montana New Zealand Book Awards, talks about what he is currently reading, what impresses him and what doesn't, along with chat about the international English language book scene, and links to sites of interest to booklovers.
Monday, May 22, 2017
Auckland Writers Festival Breaks All Records
Zealand’s largest literary Festival broke its own record this week, with more
than 70,000 seats filled across six days of story and ideas delivered by
inspirational local and international writers.
the Festival’s most ambitious yet, hosted over 200 novelists, playwrights, song
writers, scientists, historians, children’s writers, illustrators, journalists
and poets, including 40 internationals, introduced a new venue, took to the
streets, and hosted a glittering spoken word showcase.
Auckland Writers Festival director Anne
O’Brien (left) says the result is testament to people’s hunger for more substantive
conversations and deeper engagement with the world and each other.
“This has been an exhilarating six days with
remarkable people and conversations on stage and in the foyers.
“This Festival was the most diverse yet,
spanning continents and cultures and reflecting the interests of people across
all age groups. Audiences came from all over New Zealand and across the world,
and left inspired by stories of change and hope, and a deeper understanding of
the role they, as individuals, can play in the world.”
New Zealand’s much loved public
intellectual, Lloyd Geering, (left), received a sustained standing ovation as
did two inaugural Festival events Best of the Best: Spoken Word Showcase
and The Song of the Book. Ian Rankin brought his Inspector
Rebus books to life and revealed his love of The Mutton Birds. Gifted
raconteur, Roxane Gay’s straight talking broke new ground. Food critic
Jay ‘Acid’ Rayner delivered a witty show and a big thumbs down to our pineapple
lumps. Rupi Kaur, Caroline Brothers and Steve Sem-Sandberg
moved audience members to tears. Thomas Friedman, one of the world’s
foremost authorities on politics and foreign affairs, presented a powerful
vision of the future, as did New Zealand rising star Max Harris in the
2017 Michael King Memorial Lecture.. George Saunders’ warmth, humour and
outstanding writing won him thousands of new readers here in New Zealand. Susan
Faludi shared the story of her late father’s gender reassignment at age 76;
a story as ground breaking as her Pulitzer Prize-winning work, Backlash.
Mpho Tutu Van Furth’s grace and wisdom, demonstrated on a personal and
societal level, left us with much food for thought. We learnt a whole lot more
about why Trump won the US elections from such deep thinkers as John
Lanchester and Stan Grant. Chris Parker and Tom Sainsbury
brought the house down in their late night salon style soirees as did Professor
Frankie who had Harry Potter fans – adult and children alike – in stitches,
celebrating the magician’s 20th anniversary.
More than 5,700 students, from as far afield
as Christchurch, filled the Aotea Centre for inspiring sessions with writers
from Britain, US, Australia and New Zealand.
The cream of this country’s writers received
honours at the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards – New Zealand’s premiere
literary awards and the opening event in the Festival’s public programme. Catherine
Chidgey was presented with the inaugural $50,000 Acorn Foundation Fiction
Dame Fiona Kidman was honoured for
her life’s work in writing with a pounamu paper knife created by Coromandel
artist Chris Charteris as the Festival’s 2017 Honoured New Zealand Writer and
this year’s Sarah Broom Poetry Prize, judged by UK Poet Laureate Carol Ann
Duffy went to Hera Lindsay Bird.
Auckland Writers Festival Board Chairwoman,
Pip Muir, says it only remains for her to sincerely thank the many people who
made this year’s extraordinary outcome possible.
“I am enormously grateful to the authors for
their wisdom and discourse, to the audience for their warmth and engagement and
to the sponsors and patrons for their generosity and loyal support.
“We took some risks this year, investing in
a new venue – the Heartland Festival Room - and introducing a number of new
events. These initiatives have been enthusiastically received and it is thanks
to the tireless work of the Festival staff and volunteers, that the Festival
has been such a success,” says Ms Muir.
Writers Festival warmly thanks new Platinum Partner Heartland Bank; Gold
Partners The University of Auckland, Freemasons Foundation, Ockham, SPARK,
Creative New Zealand and ATEED; and all our Silver, Bronze and Supporting
Partners and Patrons.