James Griffin

James Griffin writes The Final Word column in canvas magazine

James Griffin: Auckland Writers Festival

Add a comment
Novelist Irvine Welsh. Photo / Kaveh Kazemi
Novelist Irvine Welsh. Photo / Kaveh Kazemi

Unlike the winter on Game of Thrones, which is taking an eternity (or four series, in human terms) to come, there is an actual winter coming our way very soon. I know this for a fact not just because, in calendar terms, winter happens every year at around this time, but also because now is the time for the annual Auckland Writers Festival and the only thing that says winter more than curling up with a good book by the fire, is venturing out in the rain to join the throng down at the Aotea Centre to hear about books instead.

Irvine Welsh will be there - unless the same people at Immigration New Zealand who banned that American rap group Odd Future have read Irvine's novels and ban him too, on the grounds that he might undermine the morality of middle New Zealand.

Part of me hopes, for the sake of the organisers of the Writers Festival, that Irvine is nothing like any of the characters in his books, and that he is scrupulously polite and drinks nothing stronger than tea. On the other hand, to have a Scottish madman on the loose among the very nice ladies who dominate the Festival attendees would be excellent, especially if as his reading he chooses the "Traditional Sunday Breakfast" chapter of Trainspotting where Davie wakes up in sheets soiled with "skittery shite, thin alcohol sick, and vile pish".

Adam Johnson will be there. Adam is the writer of The Orphan Master's Son, one of the most enjoyable novels I have read in a long time. The Orphan Master's Son is set in North Korea, and I would be very interested in hearing his views on the political similarities between that country and New Zealand, because sometimes when I think of John Key I also think of Kim Jong-un, and not just because of the John/Jong mash-up.

Given the current state of insanity and persecution in New Zealand politics, I suspect we might be uncomfortably closer to North Korea than we'd want to admit.

Camilla Lackberg will be there, waving the black flag of Scandinavian noir. If you believe the current wave of crime fiction from Nordic climes, then everyone who lives north of Germany is a secret psychopath, who harbours even darker secret in the basement of their soul, along with Odin knows what in their actual basements. I think the time is long overdue for a worldwide wave of Kiwi noir, where we take all that is beautiful and desirable about our country and ruthlessly expose our dark, fetid underbelly for all the world to see. New Zealand cinema has been trying to do this for ages but no one wanted to see those films. So now it must be the turn of our fiction writers to take up the mantle of trashing our reputation as a place where everything is fluffy and beautiful. I think Judith Collins would make an excellent character in a Kiwi noir novel.

Our very own literary wunderkind, Eleanor Catton, will be there. I would love it if someone had the 'nads to ask Eleanor what percentage, of all the thousands of people who bought The Luminaries, she thinks have actually read it. I also think it would be fun if the Writers Festival organisers held a competition in Aotea Square to see who could shot-put the novel the farthest.

The incredibly prolific Alexander McCall Smith will be at the Writers Festival. Mr McCall Smith is most famous for the No.1 Ladies Detective Agency series of novels, but in between writing those and playing the bassoon he has also found time to write something in the region of two million other books. So prolific is Alexander that it is widely touted he will complete another novel, first word to last, whilst seated at the signing table at the Writers Festival, signing copies of his other novels, including the one he finished at breakfast that morning.

There are those who feel that talking about books rather defeats the purpose of the book itself, which is to be read, preferably in silence. I don't know who, exactly, those people might be, but they clearly have never been to the Auckland Writers Festival where, through listening to the talking, you can be inspired to buy books about everything from the history of the Chinese Revolution to the nine greatest enigmas in science to the beautiful shape-shifting vixens of Mirrorworld.

And then, just to complete the whole Writers Festival experience, you get to take all the books you've bought home and leave them in a pile on your bedside table where they will taunt you and remain unread and threaten to crush you in your sleep until next year's Writers Festival. Or, at least, that's what I've heard can happen.

- NZ Herald

Have your say

We aim to have healthy debate. But we won't publish comments that abuse others. View commenting guidelines.

1200 characters left

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a5 at 23 Jul 2014 21:16:12 Processing Time: 272ms