AWF19: Vincent O’Malley gives the Michael King Memorial Lecture

The New Zealand Wars | Ngā Pakanga o Aotearoa will be back in stock nationwide this week.

pp_vincent_omalley.jpgFriday lunchtime at the 2019 Auckland Writers’ Festival and the ASB Theatre was packed out to hear Vincent O’Malley talk about The New Zealand Wars. He challenged us from the very start. We are still a nation in shock from the Christchurch massacre, so you could feel the attention of the audience focus on the speaker when he said this wasn’t an unprecedented event. The change of mood was tangible. Māori lost their lives in a similar way. O’Malley’s message is a simple one. We need to grow up. We need to act like grown-ups and own our history, warts and all. In the past we have chosen to ignore the story, in the same way we tossed aside the Treaty of Waitangi for over a century. Now we must recognise the profound influence that The New Zealand Wars have had on us all.

O’Malley spoke eloquently for an hour, filling in the gaps in our knowledge, helping to educate his audience. Two of his recent books have been very influential in moving our understanding forwards, first the massive The Great War for New Zealand: Waikato 1800-2000 in which he states that our defining conflict did not take place on the Western Front or at Gallipoli, but in the Waikato from 1863-64. A war of conquest and invasion by the Crown. His latest book, The New Zealand Wars: Ngā Pakanga o Aotearoa, was launched just before the festival. At 270 pages against the almost 700 pages of the earlier book, this seeks to be a digestible guide, something that can be read and used in schools as a basic text book.

O’Malley’s talk was full of facts, many of them surprising. For example, two-thirds of the British army during the New Zealand Wars were Irish, and many became disillusioned with what they were doing. There were too many parallels with the treatment of Ireland. Many of the soldiers ended up marrying the Māori women from the iwi they had conquered. They had been fighting against people who had no standing army, people who were fighting for their lives and their lands.

In the 1850s there was a brief time of peace and prosperity. O’Malley reminded us that at that time Māori were driving the economy and the country’s exports. They were producing enough food to feed large cities like Auckland as well as themselves. It was in the 1860s that peace was shattered, war broke out in Taranaki and it appears that Governor Grey was determined to destroy the Kingitanga. ‘There was nothing noble about the massacres,’ O’Malley reminded us, and the execution of hundreds in Gisborne is ‘a stain on our history’.

We are still living with the consequences of that time of war today. Three million hectares of land were confiscated, and those confiscations were indiscriminate, with those who did not fight or sided with the crown also losing their land. 20% of Māori in Gisborne were killed, compared to the 5% of the population that were killed in the First World War.

O’Malley’s call to action is that we teach our own history in our schools and look after our battle sites. We must make sure our children know about this and we must get around the hang-ups that the Ministry of Education still has about the whole subject. Only by doing this will we break some of the intergenerational problems that have built up. We need to lobby both local and central government for more to be done. The sites that relate to our history are often neglected and hard to find. We need to make people aware and interested, create trails and history that we can follow on the ground.

The talk ended with rapturous applause for O’Malley and all he is trying to do.

Reviewed by Marcus Hobson

The New Zealand Wars | Ngā Pakanga o Aotearoa
by Vincent O’Malley
Published by Bridget Williams Books
ISBN: 9781988545998

Anne Michaels at the Auckland Writers’ Festival

Novelist, poet and Toronto Poet Laureate Anne Michaels’ books are translated into 50 languages; her latest includes All We Saw (poems) and Infinite Gradation (essays). Her Guardian Fiction, Orange Prize winning novel Fugitive Pieces was also adapted as a feature film.

ann_michaels.JPGI saw Anne Michaels twice at this year’s Auckland Writers’ Festival, first being interviewed by Michael Williams when she filled the ASB theatre, and second with others when she read from her novel The Winter Vault. Listening to her reading on both occasions I was struck by the melody of her voice, the deep richness that it brought to words that were slow, meticulous and measured. Her hour long interview was punctuated by pauses and silences, as she considered her choice of word. The audience leaned closer, waiting for the next word, wondering sometimes if it would ever come.

As Michaels said of her own writing, not a word should be wasted, whether you have four hundred or just four. She talked of the terror of even putting six letters on a page, such is her fear that the reader will not be able to hear them clearly. In a world which Michaels described as a place where we are ‘drowning in input’, she knows that she will never be able to outshout what is  around her. Her solution is to find the right tone. She is never looking to bring the reader into her own life, but instead she hopes to bring them into their own.

You understand very quickly, listening to Michaels, that you are dealing with a very private person. She did, however, give us a little about her relationship with the late writer and art crtitic John Berger. He was her ‘first reader’. I was fascinated to hear her say of him that he was just as you would imagine him from his books, a delight for me as someone who has enjoyed so many of his novels and stories. Living in the different time zones of France and Canada, she recalled Berger’s love of the fax machine, which he would use to send both writing and drawings. She smiled at the memory of waking to find a new message on her machine.

Michaels obviously has a strong passion for art. In a life that is relentlessly visual, she noted that an artist is working only with a singular moment. She talked about being drawn into the silences of paintings, since they reach us ‘without language’. It was one of those comments that inspires you to think differently. I’ve never heard anyone say of Renoir or Pissarro, ‘Oh he painted that in French’. We see the piece in our native tongue, not always the one of its creator. The appreciation transcends language.

It was great to see many of the Friday morning attendees clutching old, well-read copies of Michaels’ award winning 1996 novel Fugitive Pieces. In the long snaking line to get books signed, there were more old copies of the novel than newly purchased ones. I took that as a good sign, a novel that has been treasured and re-read, not consigned to the pile for the charity shop. Sales of her latest poetry collection All We Saw were also brisk.

In her reading on Sunday morning, Michaels followed a theme of wartime memories and responses to the holocaust. Vincent O’Sullivan read from All This by Chance, selecting a modern day reaction to visiting a much changed synagogue in Poland. Michaels selected three passages from her second novel The Winter Vault, in which she took us back to war-torn Warsaw where a flower shop was the first business to emerge from the ruins, enabling the living to remember the lost, the people and the homes reduced to rubble. I had thought that The Winter Vault was about the building of the Aswan Dam in Egypt, but now I have a copy of the book, a quick glace tells me that it is another wide ranging novel, moving from Egypt to England, through Europe and across the Atlantic to Canada. Michaels had talked about her meticulous research, always wanting to proceed from fact, so I can imagine this novel would have involved much travel as well as writing.

In her interview Michaels said ‘Memory is our mechanism for going forward’, and pointed out that as many of us no longer live in the place where we were born, we have lost a sense of belonging somewhere. She asked a fascinating question about where it is that we really belong. If it is no longer the place in which we were born, could it just as well be the place in which we fell in love or the one in which we will die? And so we circled back to the description of Michaels as ‘a poet of loss’. Her collection of poems All We Saw carries a list of seven names, friends and family, whom Michaels has lost over the space of four years.

Reviewed by Marcus Hobson

Marcus Hobson is a writer and book reviewer. He reviews regularly for www.NZBooklovers.co.nz and was a judge for their first annual fiction prize in March 2109. He is an avid book collector and writes about books, art and history for www.ARTbop.co.nz a local online arts magazine. Marcus lives with his wife and daughters on the slopes of the Kaimai Range, close to Katikati, where he competes with a huge variety of birds in his garden for the fruit off his trees.

LitCrawl Starling Residencies & Bad Diaries Salon, Saturday, 10 November 2018

Tara Black spun her magic with words and illustrations on Saturday, 10 November at LitCrawl, checking out Starling: Meet The Residents, then going on to the Bad Diaries Salon.

Starling Residents 2

The featured authors at The Starling event at LitCrawl were: Rebecca Hawkes, Isabelle McNeur, Eleanor Merton, Aimee-Jane Anderson-O’Connor, essa may ranapiri, and Ruby Solly.

Bad Diaries Salon

Tara has covered the Bad Diaries Salon without details, as requested by the rules of the event. I like the way she has given the background of invisible notes. I also like the escaping sharks.

All notes and illustrations were done by Tara Black, and all rights to use the images are reserved. Please check out Tara’s website if you’d like to communicate with her.

LitCrawl 2018 website.

LitCrawl Extended: Saturday 10 November, KidsCrawl & More

Tara Black spun her magic with words and illustrations on Saturday, 10 November at LitCrawl Extended. Here are the sessions she covered, with a small note from Sarah about the KidsCrawl, which she also attended!

kidscrawl

Notes from Sarah: KidsCrawl featured Bill Manhire, David Larsen, Giselle Clarkson, Michael Petherington, Susan Paris, Kate De Goldi, Gavin Mouldey, Kate Camp and Iona McNaughton. I attended with my 8-year-old and his friend Zach, and it was a lot of madcap fun. The elements of a story were presented in an exciting way, with cool words made of Scrabble tiles, a very awesome character set up by Kate Camp and her helper, and Giselle’s drawing of another key character. I was a bit starstruck when we reached Bill Manhire, but none of the kids knew who he was. We ended up with Gavin Mouldey who helped us write a story with a temple, some glistening brows & a carton with a rare herb in it. It was hilarious, and inventive, and creative. Please do it again, LitCrawl!

Zoya Patel

More information on Zoya Patel can be found here, and you can purchase her books from VicBooks, the sponsoring bookshop for the ‘Crawl. Kiran Dass is a bookseller and reviewer, and co-hosts the podcast Papercuts.

Writing outsiders

Writing Outsiders featured Anna Smaill, Fiona Kidman, Rob Doyle, and Amy Head. 

Anxiety Understood

Riki Gooch, Danyl McLauchlan, Kirsten McDougall and Anthony Byrt are all published in Headlands: New Stories of Anxiety, released last month through VUP, and edited by Naomi Arnold, who chaired this session. The book is available from all good bookshops.

All notes and illustrations were done by Tara Black, and all rights to use the images are reserved. Please check out Tara’s website if you’d like to communicate with her.

LitCrawl 2018 website.

LitCrawl Extended: Kaveh Akbar with Kim Hill

LitCrawl Extended: Kaveh Akbar with Kim Hill 

Tara Black attended the first event in LitCrawl Extended 2018 last night.

‘I”m not interested in the politics of exoneration, I’m interested in when I was a dick.’ Kaveh Akbar.

Kaveh Akbar with Kim Hill 1

Notes reproduced with permission of Tara Black, copyright Tara Black

LitCrawl Extended: Kaveh Akbar and Kim Hill
Thursday, 8 November 2018, Meow Bar
LitCrawl Extended runs until Sunday, 11 November

 

Manawatu Writers’ Festival: Dylan Horrocks and Sarah Laing

Tara Black recorded this at the Manawatu Writers’ Festival this past weekend. Copyright Tara Black, all rights reserved.

Dylan Horrocks and Sarah Laing at the Manawatu Writers' festival by Tara Black

Dylan Horrocks and Sarah Laing at the Manawatu Writers’ festival by Tara Black

Manawatu Writers’ Festival, 7-11 September

Please check out Tara’s other work on her website. 

NZF Writers & Readers: Charlie Jane Anders – Beautiful Fantasy

Tara Black reviews Charlie Jane Anders – Beautiful Fantasy, and below that – Elizabeth Heritage also reviews it, with lots more words! They both did beautifully!

NWF18 Charlie Jane Anders

A small but devoted crowd turned out this morning in the festival tent to hear Christchurch spec fic writer AJ Fitzwater interview Charlie Jane Anders. Anders is a transgender speculative fiction writer and organiser from the US: ‘willing to be a bad influence for a good cause’. It was very pleasing to see two women on stage each with pink hair (I may be a little biased).

Negotiating stereotypes and tropes is a topic that often comes up in conversations about spec fic, and that’s where we started. Anders talked about how the stereotype is that science fiction is masculine, and fantasy is feminine. Often a fantasy character will say to a sci fi character, “this is something you can’t possibly understand” – ‘for a man to say that to a woman just bugs the hell out of me’. In Anders’ novel All the Birds in the Sky, Laurence, the male character who is a computer scientist, ‘cries early and often’. He’s less sexist than many techy guys and ‘that made me like him more – and I really wanted to like him.’

All the Birds in the Sky follows the two central characters from when they are children. Anders said she wanted to honour that teens are often more introspective and noodly than adults. ‘I was much more articulate at the age of 13 than I am now. I talked like a college professor because my parents were college professors. 13 was the age that nearly wiped me off the face of the earth.’

Anders was learning disabled as a child: ‘I couldn’t make words on paper’. She was helped by a teaching assistant with whom she is still friends. https://www.buzzfeed.com/charliejane/how-being-a-special-ed-student-turned-me-into-a-lifelong-wri?utm_term=.wsgWWE3rRB#.kjrJJlDyBZ She said if she writes disabled characters she will always take care to do so mindfully.

Anders and Fitzwater had a great rapport on stage, which always makes a difference: at one point Anders commented ‘these are the best questions ever!’ One of her questions was in relation to the late, great Ursula K. Le Guin – what do we owe Le Guin to do now?

Anders said her next novel that comes out in January 2019 is Le Guin fan-fiction, and she’s sad she’ll never get to show it to her. What we owe Le Guin to do now is to approach gender in books mindfully, and to think about the ways in which societies are not just mechanistic. Cultures are made up of more than just what’s on the surface: historical accidents, folklore, deep history.

Fitzwater asked about Anders’ short story “Don’t Press Charges and I Won’t Sue”, a terrifying dystopian tale of forced de-transition. Anders said: ‘I tweeted out a trigger warning for that story, which I don’t usually do. The story came out of just sheer terror. I wrote it around the time of the [US presidential] inauguration, and I was freaking out. You could already see the wave coming.’ It was published in the Boston Review. Anders said she wanted to get that story into a fancy literary magazine because she wanted nice, well-meaning cis-gender people to face the terror of violent transphobia and have a moment of sitting with that.

‘I wanted to grab cis people by the lapels and make them listen to my fear.’ Trans people are not ‘some monstrous creature from your id coming into your bathroom scaring your kids’. She has had feedback from readers that it has been opening some people’s minds.

Discussion turned to the theme of climate change. Anders said: ‘If you’re writing about the future and you’re not including climate change then you’re shirking your duty.’ She said you have to face up to the scale of the problem without getting defeatist.

‘Environmentalism can get a bit puritanical, like humans are just bad.’ But that isn’t helpful: you need to focus on solutions. ‘How the hell are we going to get rid of cars and bitcoin?’ She recommended that spec fic writers talk to scientists to help get it right.

The City in the Middle of the Night, the sequel to All the Birds in the Sky, comes out in January 2019.

Picture by Tara Black, words by Elizabeth Heritage