Sessions recorded at Writers and Readers Festivals in New Zealand
"I'm wondering if… we will have a more balanced hedonism, a more balanced understanding of pleasure, of the art of living. I would hope that… economists might begin to envisage more sustainable, but less dynamically growing economies that privilege values other than economic strength, because we know these are the things we like living for - the pleasures of life, love and art, and creativity. " Sean Plunket chairs an industrial-strength panel of leading international authors considering different visions of the future: Hendrick Hertzberg, Mohammed Kanif, Richard Holloway, Marcus Chown, James Surowiecki, and George Friedman. The stimulating discussion ranges widely, from economics, science, technology and theology to international culture.
"Although this is not the truth, it's actual." Beginning with readings from the self-described "odd men out" of New Zealand literature, this session traces Greg McGee's writing of a TV mini-series on Erebus story, and Sam Mahon's new manuscript about a funeral. Their conversation entertainingly surveys the literary, political, and arts scene in New Zealand, The author David Geary is in the chair.
"When you've been fired and made redundant, you tend to lose faith in the people who employ you. And you think that you might like to employ yourself for a while, because you can guarantee that you won't fire, or make yourself redundant. And you can guarantee to give yourself more holidays, and have whatever chair you like." This breezy, informative session features two popular New Zealand writers talking about the business of writing with humour, irony and self-deprecation. The audience reaction is vocal and delighted, as the conversation takes flight. Jim Mora acts as the ringmaster for a very lively hour.
"Every fact in the New Yorker is checked. Every fact. Every name, every place, every price, every noun, every adjective… (even) the cartoons are checked." In a good-humoured and lively session, New Yorker staff Hendrik Hertzberg, James Surowiecki, Judith Thurman talk with Rhonda Sherman about the history of the leading USA magazine. They share anecdotes and reminiscences, exploring how the 85-year-old institution has changed in recent years. The difficulty of being positive, how President Obama is being covered, and the role of the magazine as a sophisticated guide to politics and culture is discussed. The issue of duration is also analysed, given the New Yorker tradition of very long-form stories. The writers also share their favourite piece of reading in the New Yorker.
"Some glittering, eventful lives are in fact, repetitive and depressing… It's the drama of individuation which gives a biography its suspense, and cuts through the trivia of life to its vital mystery." Judith Thurman presents the Michael King Memorial Lecture, talking about some of her deep experience as a biographer of figures as diverse as Colette and Isak Dinesen - who was the subject of the award-winning movie Out of Africa. The difference between capturing the lives of a woman who was largely uncharted by biography, and one who lived in the glare of the public eye, the subject of many biographical works, is explored with humour and insight. Thurman also walks the audience through the intriguing process of her writing and rewriting the opening to an essay on tofu. "I don't know how to write. I'm not being disingenuous when I say that. What I do know is what good writing is and when I'm not doing it."