I'm a gypsy so I don't actually own my own bookshelf. But this year I'm the writer in residence at Victoria University so I've taken full advantage of the floor-to-ceiling bookshelf here. I have a few of my favourites on the shelves: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf by Edward Albee, The Road by Cormac McCarthy and Beloved by Toni Morrison.
The book I loved the most as a kid was Struwwelpeter, a collection of morality tales written in the 19th century that featured a lot of death and dismemberment. My favourite was the one where three little racists taunt a black kid and then a socially-conscious giant dips them in ink.
I had an awful epiphany a few years ago in Paris outside the Shakespeare and Company bookshop: that I'm not going to get to read all the books I want to in my lifetime. These days, if I don't immediately fall into the world of a book I don't persevere; life's too short.
Earlier this year I had to do a talk at the Dunedin Writers Festival about the book that changed me. I selected Another Country by James Baldwin. I was struggling with being both gay and Samoan when I read it at high school and that book came along at the exact right time. I'm really looking forward to seeing the upcoming, documentary about Baldwin, I Am Not Your Negro, at the New Zealand International Film Festival.
My favourite history book? I'm going to cheat and say A Pictorial History of the Talkies. It's a movie book, filled with pictures of films and film stars and I pored over it again and again as a kid. I remember being intrigued by some of the then-exotic names like Fellini, Jodorowsky and Bertolucci and trying to make sense of some of the stills from films I hadn't seen at that stage: Why does Susannah York looks so sad in They Shoot Horses Don't They? Why does Sandy Dennis have her hands over her ears in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
I don't come from a family who pass books down from generation to generation but roughly 30 years ago I borrowed by father's copy of Mau: Samoa's Struggle For Freedom by Michael Field. Dad wrote his name on it because he wanted it back but I never did return it ...
This year I've been reading a lot of old classics: 1984, which I think has the bleakest ending I've ever read; On The Beach, which I thought was terrific; and I'm currently re-reading A Confederacy of Dunces, a book which makes me laugh out loud but also makes me sad since the writer, Johnny Kennedy Toole, killed himself and never got to see his book win the Pulitzer. Up next: re-reading The Handmaid's Tale after binge watching the TV series.
I wrote the beginning of a novel last year when I was the Robert Burns Fellow in Dunedin and that was recently included in Black Marks on the White page, edited by Witi Ihimaera and Tina Makeriti. Earlier this year I wrote the end of that novel. Now I just need to write the middle! But I've also written a few short pieces of fiction and developed a play called Uma Lava, which is due a public reading in September.
What: Ranterstantrum by Victor Rodger
Where & when: Basement Theatre, August 1-12