As Booker Prize winner Marlon James walked onto the Aotea Centre stage, resplendent in a purple, Prince-esque bandana, we knew this was going to be a special session.

James spoke infectiously about his polyphonic, wide-reaching tome A Brief History of Seven Killings. Even in his youth, the Jamaican writer knew that the attempted assassination of Bob Marley 1976 was a defining event where sinister forces in Jamaica had gone too far.

"You have to risk pornography," is one of James' many quotable lines, riffing into an explanation of the explicit sex scenes involving One of Killings' key voices, Weeper, who can only experience intimacy through sex.

James then segued into a critique of America's Republicans; he brilliantly noted how he believes they can't empathise with anything unless they've experienced it themselves. James had perceptive comments on his influences and inspirations, from William Faulkner and Anton Chekhov to Marguerite Duras and Prince.


Peter Garrett's session was inspirational: the Midnight Oil frontman and former Australian Education and Environment Minister still rocks.

In conversation, he has the same winning sincerity and charisma as in his gorgeously written new memoir Big Blue Sky. "I don't think in binary terms," he gently challenged interviewer Russel Norman. Unlike some environmentalists, Garrett is a fun, optimistic humanist and believes we can prevail against climate change's existential threat. "There's much that we can be proud of in human history."

History highlights Garrett's magnificent, pioneering indigenous rights anthem 'Beds Are Burning'. He still has a powerful way with words.

Like Garrett, Omar Musa's life sweats and bleeds onto the page. The rapper/performance poet and author of Here Come The Dogs was another lively, compelling guest. This diverse, uplifting weekend celebrated literacy's vibrancy.