Journalist Adam Dudding figured he had about 'two million words' of letters, manuscripts and other memorabilia to sift through in the process of writing My Father's Island, a memoir about his father. The result of his archival research, interviews with family and with members of New Zealand's literary community, is a warmly told story, taking a 'warts and all' approach but also forming a moving tribute.

It won Best First Book of General Non-fiction at the 2017 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. Adam Dudding will speak about the writing of this book in a session on Sunday, October 8, as part of this year's Whanganui Literary Festival.

Adam's father Robin Dudding was a literary editor, succeeding Charles Brash as editor of Landfall, New Zealand's longest-running and most prestigious literary journal. Before editing Landfall, he ran the small journal Mate, which published James K Baxter, Frank Sargeson and Janet Frame, amongst others. A dispute with management at the Caxton Press, which published Landfall, saw Robin return to Auckland with his family, where he founded a new journal, Islands. Over its 15-year lifespan, this journal also published many important New Zealand literary figures.

Robin and Lois Dudding had six children - five girls and one boy, Adam. The family lived a somewhat bohemian existence in Redwood, Christchurch, and in Torbay on Auckland's North Shore. Robin grew the family's vegetables, Lois made bread by hand, they kept poultry, and managed to make ends meet throughout Islands' turbulent financial existence. The Dudding home was a gathering point for the arts community, and the book features many reminiscences by writers who visited at various times. For all his geniality, Robin could also be a difficult character; something of a disgruntled patriarch.
My Father's Island is as much a portrait of a father and family man as it is the story of a literary figure, and one that acknowledges his humanity and complexity.

Advertisement

Adam's festival session will be chaired by Whanganui local Cass Alexander, who co-created the Revisited podcast series on tales from Whanganui history.

My Father's Island - Writing Memory
11.30am-12.30pm
Sunday, October 8
Concert Chamber, War Memorial Hall, Watt St
Bookings: Royal Wanganui Opera House
Admission: $15 (Friends of the Whanganui Literary Festival $12)