Auckland Writers & Readers Festival - a bluffer's guide

by Guy Somerset / 08 May, 2012
It's homework time.
There's nothing worse than standing in the queue for the Aotea Centre bar and ... actually, there's nothing worse than standing in the queue for the Aotea Centre bar period. But it won't help matters if someone starts engaging you in conversation about Caroline Moorehead and all you can do is look back blankly, thinking "Caroline who?" It certainly won't help if Caroline Moorehead herself starts engaging you in conversation - a not-unheard-of phenomenon with authors at the Auckland Writers & Readers Festival, which gets fully into the swing of things on Thursday.

Here, then, is a handy last-minute crammer to help you avoid embarrassing yourself - all drawn from Listener reviews and interviews.

Caroline Moorehead? Easy.

Witi Ihimaera you will know - and if you don't then you probably shouldn't be at the festival in the first place. However, it won't hurt brushing up with this, this and - sorry - this.

Martin Edmond will be talking about Dark Night: Walking with McCahon, while Gregory O'Brien talks about A Micronaut in the Wide World: The Imaginative Life and Times of Graham Percy.

Greg McGee is there with his new novel, Love & Money (that review's by Iain Sharp, by the way). He'll be talking about his crime-writing alter-ego, Alix Bosco, too.

Don't miss Man Booker Prize-nominated Irish writer Sebastian Barry.

Irishmen abound. Along with Barry, there's: Eoin Colfer (or if you're short of time) and Roddy Doyle.

Dame Anne Salmond (or if you prefer) will be talking about Bligh: William Bligh in the South Seas.

Emily Perkins ... need I say more? If you must. And if you really must. (Here's a novel extract, too - and not from The Forrests. Whatever happened to this one, Emily?)

Listener editor Pamela Stirling will be introducing Stella Rimington.

Listener contributor David Larsen will probably be avoiding Geoff Dyer. (And not just because we seem to have called him Geo.) Jane Westaway should be all right, though, on the basis of this and this.

There will be Man Booker Prize-shortlisted AD Miller.

Peter Wells will be talking about The Hungry Heart: Journeys with William Colenso and Nicky Hager about Other People's Wars.

Oliver Jeffers and Jeffrey Eugenides are there.

So, too, are Paul Moon (or you could chew over this), Mal Peet and Jesmyn Ward.

Anthony McCarten (an interview erroneously bylined as being by David Larsen when it should be Michael Larsen) has not one, but two novels: In the Absence of Heroes and his reworked Brilliance (reviewed in this coming weekend's Listener).

Historians Jenny Carlyon and Diana Morrow will be talking about Remuera and environs.

Dame Fiona Kidman brings her latest short-story collection, The Trouble with Fire, but will doubtless touch on much more besides, given parts one and two of her memoirs.

It's not all the written word: there's The Orator director Tusi Tamasese and jazz musician Nathan Haines (with brother Joel).

Dick Frizzell is a painter, but one not averse to words, and author of All About the Image.

Various poets will be paying tribute to Hone Tuwhare via the contents of last year's Small Holes in the Silence: Collected Poems.

Good to see the locally undersung Brian Boyd there.

Listener sports columnist Paul Thomas will be wearing his crime-writing hat (a trilby?).

Joan Druett will be talking about Tupaia: The Remarkable Story of Captain Cook's Polynesian Navigator.

Doris De Pont will be painting everything Black.

Paula Morris talks about Rangatira and Stephanie Johnson about The Open World (you'll have to buy a copy of the current issue of the Listener for that one) - historical novels about ancestors, the both of them.

Blue Smoke author Chris Bourke (and here) is our guide to Auckland After Hours.

And then there is ... Maurice Gee. A rare sighting these days, and last encountered in the Listener here.

In the Listener this coming weekend, you'll find Barbara Arrowsmith-Young talking about her autobiography, The Woman Who Changed Her Brain.

But this should give you enough preparatory reading to be going on with.

Obviously, we haven't covered everyone (such slackers), and if you encounter, say, Lawrence Krauss or Chandran Nair in the queue for the bar you're on your own. If you encounter Kathy Lette, I shouldn't worry: you're unlikely to get a word in edgewise.

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