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


WORD Christchurch – 125 Years: Are we there yet?

WORD Christchurch 2018 – 125 Years: Are We There Yet?

An anthropologist, a human rights activist, a journalist, an academic, a musician and a broadcaster all walk into a concert hall to discuss the question ‘Are we there yet?’. At this sold-out session commemorating 125 years of women’s suffrage, the collective response was as to be expected: no. The talk was more centred around– as the whip-smart Kim Hill had suggested in her introduction – where ‘there’ actually is. After all, she added, ‘Feminism is like housework – every few years we need to do it all again.’

125-Years-SuffrageKeeping the house tidy last night were a range of feminists, spanning years and backgrounds, who came at the ‘no’ from different directions. Dame Anne Salmond took a wide view and covered the ground lost in an unequal system. After time overseas, she had returned to New Zealand some thirty years ago to find a country reshaping its institutions to the benefit of individuals. This ‘hyper individualism’ rippled out into society, where individual achievement was equated with fulfilment. Women had new freedoms but it had cost a lot: ‘Workplaces became more ruthless and transactional’; our capacity to care for others was endangered.

Trailblazer Georgina Bayer traced the momentum of the last 125 years, highlighting moments of quick transition and great traction, exemplified by the time when women held the five top constitutional positions in the country. This spoke to the importance of the visibility of women in power and petitioned us to think about Georgina’s own lived experience – to consider the role of bold individuals who have forged these paths.

At this point Kim skilfully steered the conversation by positing a problem: we have had the top positions, but we are still not there yet. So, what do we need to do? Attributing the following quote to Gloria Steinem, she suggested that it was ‘not a question of having a bigger slice of the cake, but that we have to remake the cake altogether’.

Part of this, perhaps, is changing the ingredients – moving beyond binary arguments, which is how journalist Paula Penfold began. She brought some stats and facts to the table via a listicle, where for every positive, a negative emerged too. The good news: at Stuff, the CEO is a woman, as is 50% of senior executive, but out of 143 CEOs in Aotearoa, only 4% are women. In terms of gender pay equity things are progressing but a recent report on pay parity states that we are unlikely to achieve this until 2044. Kim suggested there would be little chance for pay equity until private companies are transparent with what they pay people. Problems remain while they are hidden.

Next was the impressive, fluid and cohesive response from Sacha McMeeking. She acknowledged all those women who had gone before, who made it possible for her to be born into the ‘girls can do anything’ time. She was inspired to be one of those who forged human rights, but no longer believes that these alone can change the world. The time for grand normative debates has passed; we need to focus on creating social habits. Sacha pointed to economic injustice and violence: both are embedded issues that are not solely produced by gender – rather they result from our economic, justice, education and mental health systems, which need an overhaul.

Finally, Lizzie Marvelly – musician, columnist and the youngest on stage – took the mic. Her account of her experiences provided a depressing reality check of where we are at now. She had many ‘amazing opportunities’, many tainted by blatant sexism. Lizzie also pointed to inequalities in the stories women tell about women – we all know Kate Sheppard, but few of the Māori women who have laid the groundwork for us today.

Before handing over to questions from the (mostly female) audience, Kim asked about choice. Is everything a feminist act if choice is involved? Lizzie responded that if the choice isn’t about equality, then it isn’t feminist. Privilege, the need for care and how to allow for agency were all touched on in question time. But common to all panelists was the belief that we need more than rights; we need to address the structures; we need outcomes. ‘Multivariate problems call for a variety of solutions’. The cake must be remade.

Reviewed by Emma Johnson

Georgina Beyer appears in the session ‘Comfortable in Your Skin’ tonight

That F Word
by Lizzie Marvelly
published by HarperCollins NZ
ISBN 9781775541127Li

NZF Writers & Readers: Patricia Lockwood – Midwest Memoir

Tara Black reviews Patricia Lockwood – Midwest Memoir, chaired by Kim Hill.

‘American writer Patricia Lockwood has been called “the poet laureate of Twitter.” Her memoir Priestdaddy centres on her father’s conversion to Catholicism and priesthood.’

NWF18 Kim and Patricia.jpeg

Writers & Readers Festival: Women Changing the World

Drawn by, and copyright of Tara Black

Featuring New Zealand Poet Laureate Selina Tusitala Marsh, broadcaster Kim Hill, novelist Charlotte Wood, fantasy champion Charlie Jane Anders, poet and memoirist Patricia Lockwood, poet and games maker Harry Giles, free-range celebrity cook Annabel Langbein, poets Anahera Gildea and Maraea Rakuraku, poets Jenny Bornholdt, Louise Wallace and Tayi Tibble, activist and author Marianne Elliott, and playwright, novelist and memoirist Renée, introduced by Performer, broadcaster and author Michèle A’Court. NWF18 Women changing the world(1)NWF18 Women changing the world 2(1)

Go to the Writers & Readers Festival! Three days of scintillating conversation live on stage: Be There!

Neurosurgeon Henry Marsh: Do No Harm, Tuesday 8 March


pp_henry_marshHappy International Women’s Day, everybody! I began Writers Week 2016 with Kim Hill interviewing Henry Marsh at the Michael Fowler Centre.

Marsh is a neurosurgeon whose memoir Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery has been very successful. I was looking forward to this session because fellow surgeon/author Atul Gawande was one of my highlights of the Auckland Writers Festival last year. But whereas Gawande was full of energy, charm and passion, Marsh seemed shy and tired. He does have a beautiful voice, though: one of those lovely posh British voices that make the speaker seem automatically authoritative and trustworthy.

cv_do_no_harmOne of the issues with writers festival sessions focussed on a non-fiction author is that the content of the talk is often exactly the same material that makes up the book: a discussion of the facts that have already been related. Although I haven’t read Do No Harm, I prepared for this session by reading Joshua Rotham’s piece in The New Yorker, and Hill’s questions followed almost exactly the same ground. This had the unfortunate effect of making the whole interview feel a bit like a retread.

Nonetheless, Marsh is an interesting person with a lot to say. He related how he has kept a diary since the age of 12 – full of “morbid adolescent self-interest” – which he then destroyed at age 22, and how his book is a “refashioning” of this diary, written to himself. He spoke of the importance of remembering mistakes, since we learn so much more from them than from successes. He thinks that brain surgery is best performed with colleagues – “the age of great Beethoven-like figures working alone is past” – partly because others are better at seeing our mistakes than we are. He spoke of the importance of openness and honesty, “even though neurosurgeons aren’t shary sort of people”.

On the topic of brain surgery, Marsh said that the operating is the easy bit: the difficulty is in all the decision making, where it’s a question of judgement, not of fact or technical skill. You have to come to terms with the fact that you’re going to have to harm a small number of patients for the greater good of most people. He quoted French doctor René Leriche: “Every surgeon carries within himself a small cemetery, where from time to time he goes to pray.” Marsh describes his own ‘internal cemetery’ as “huge”. His memoir is an examination of this. As Rotham says, “Marsh isn’t interested in the usefulness of error. He is the Knausgaard of neurosurgery: he writes about his errors because he wants to confess them, and because he’s interested in his inner life and how it’s been changed, over time, by the making of mistakes.”

Marsh has spent a lot of time in the Ukraine, helping build neurosurgery capacity in their medical system. There’s even been a documentary made about him: The English Surgeon Although it seems that his relationship with Igor Kurilets has now broken down, he also does pro-bono work in Nepal and Albania (despite having ‘retired’ from medicine last year). His parents helped set up Amnesty International, and Marsh says he’s always had a strong sense of social duty.

The term ‘brain surgery’ always reminds me of That Mitchell and Webb Look sketch:

Near the end of the session Marsh said that the idea that brain surgery is technically more difficult than other forms of surgery is no longer true. Quick as a whip, Hill jumped in with “well it’s not exactly rocket science, is it”. Best line of Writers Week so far.

Attended and reviewed by Elizabeth Heritage

Henry Marsh: Do No Harm
Michael Fowler Centre, NZ Writer’s Week, Tuesday 8 March 2016

Book: Do No Harm
Published by Weidenfield & Nicolson
ISBN 9781780225920


Email digest: Tuesday 6 August 2013

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Book reviews

(From Bite the Book) The Bookshop Strikes Back, by Ann Patchett…

FRIDAY BOOK CLUB: Danyl McLauchlan and Sarah Laing’s latest books reviewed. Plus a bit of what’s on in Palmy-bookland


Love live storytelling? Book now for True Stories Told Live the XX factor! 7pm, August 15 in Auckland

Book News

Auckland bookseller moves business to Dunedin – book, stock and barrel

Amie said it was a great ceremony…congrats to the winners of the LIANZA awards

The ‘Not the Booker Prize’ shortlist – Fancy a vote?


Win a Mo Willems take on Goldilocks and the Three…

Enter the L’affare competition to win some of the great books nominated for #lianzacba

Awards News

Did you know the #nzpba have a festival attached this year? Join us in celebrating our finalist book

Add your #nzpba People’s Choice vote to the mix & be in to win $1000 of book tokens…how many books is that?

From around the internet

Weird libraries…these are cool.

40 books you need to read before turning 40

Kate De Goldi and Kim Hill talked chapter books last Saturday. Here’s the podcast