Maurice Gee reveals memoir plan at Auckland writers festival finale

by Toby Manhire / 13 May, 2012
Now with video: the festival's inaugural "honoured NZ writer" says that despite having given up novel writing, a memoir is in the works.

A standing ovation for Maurice Gee delivered a fitting climax to a successful Auckland Writers and Readers Festival at the Aotea Centre this evening.

In the course of a terrific session – described by one wise observer as “spellbinding” –  the novelist revealed that he had been working on a memoir of his early years.

Speaking to Geoff Walker, Gee said that while he had previously expressed no interest in penning an autobiography, in part because it felt to him like “a kind of imperialism”, he had recently embarked on “a little memoir”.

He had also completed a family history, which was for the eyes of relatives only. It wasn’t clear whether the memoir, which he suggested he had completed up to his adolescent years, would be published. My sense was that his arm could be twisted.

Rachel Barrowman is currently working on an official biography of Gee. Gee said he had completed a series of long interviews with Barrowman and was in regular email correspondence. “Sometimes she asks me questions, and I try to answer them, and sometimes I ask her questions,” he said (quoted from memory; he probably said it better).

Gee confirmed that he did not expect to write another novel.

“I can invent well enough, but I seem to be inventing the same old thing over and over. I think the thing that’s lacking ... is imagination. It’s just not coming alive.”

Was he at ease with that, Walker asked.

“Yes. I look back at the 30 or so novels and think, that’s OK.”

It was a rare appearance by Gee, who became the first of the festival’s first “honoured New Zealand writer”.

Gee had declined almost all public appearances for the last decade or so, but told Walker that he had felt it would be churlish to refuse such an invitation. He had avoided such events because he didn’t enjoy them, and got “horribly nervous” ahead of appearing.

Just as well he did this one, though. His readings and answers to questions had the audience leaning in. A perfect way to cap the festival.

The festival, of which the Listener is a sponsor, has achieved record sales, with more than 24,000 tickets shifted for events across the five days.


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