Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Writers without Borders

[Update - Friday, 2nd August:]

So here are some photos from our most entertaining excursion to Waikato University yesterday (courtesy of Bronwyn). Unfortunately there are none of her, as she was holding the camera the whole time:

[Original post:]

So, if any of you should happen to find yourselves in Hamilton on Thursday, 1st August, towards evening, why not make your way to Waikato University to enjoy this event?

Writers Without Borders

1st Aug 2013 6:30pm

Acclaimed writers Catherine Chidgey, Tracey Slaughter and Jack Ross are joined by visiting US author, Lynn Bloom, for a lively exchange about writing. The writers will read from their work in progress and exchange views on fiction and non-fiction writing. Drinks and nibbles from 6pm, event begins at 6.30pm

Jack Ross

This event funded by the University of Waikato Cultural Committee

Tickets: Gold coin donation appreciated

Venue: Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts
Gate 2B, Knighton Rd, University of Waikato, Hamilton

There's a nice article promoting the event on the Yahoo! NZ News site where you can find out more about it. These are the principal details:

Lynn Z Bloom: The Essay Connection (10th edition: 2012)

Join us at the Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts for a lounge style conversation with four accomplished writers who will be discussing their current work.

Lynn Z. Bloom learned the essentials of writing from books such as Dr. Seuss, (fun); Strunk and E.B. White, (elegant simplicity). She holds the AETNA Chair of Writing at the University of Connecticut and has just received a Fulbright Specialist grant to lecture on Creative Non-fiction in New Zealand. Her latest book, Hot Genres: Alluring nonfiction, is due for publication in 2014.

Catherine Chidgey’s first novel, In a Fishbone Church, won Best First Book at the New Zealand Book Awards, the Betty Trask Award in the UK and Best First Book at the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. Among numerous awards, she has held the Katherine Mansfield Fellowship to Menton, France. She has been Writer in Residence at Canterbury, Otago and Waikato & the Wallace Art Centre in Auckland.

Jack Ross is a New Zealand poet and fiction-writer. His publications include four full-length books of poems, numerous poetry chapbooks, three novels, a novella, and two books of short stories. He lectures in English and Creative Writing at Massey University’s Auckland Campus.

Tracey Slaughter’s first collection of poems and short stories, Her Body Rises, was published by Random House in 2005. Her short stories have been widely anthologized and have received numerous awards including BNZ Katherine Mansfield Premier Award in 2004. In 2010 Tracey received the Louis Johnson New Writer’s Bursary. She currently teaches creative writing at Waikato University.

When: Thursday 1 August, 6.30pm
Venue: Te Whare, Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts, University of Waikato
Light refreshments will be provided from 6.00pm

Catherine Chidgey: In a Fishbone Church (1998)

My original suggestion for a name for this event was "Three chords and the truth" - Tracey was pretty happy with being the truth, but I fear the others thought it might sound a bit flippant. We're all planning to have a good time, I can assure you. Whether or not the audience will is more debatable, but I'm sure we'll all do our best to be entertaining ...

Jack Ross: Kingdom of Alt (2010)

Lynn Bloom's visiting New Zealand on a Fulbright scholarship and I'm glad to say that she'll be giving a guest lecture in my Travel Writing course at Massey Albany on the 12th August.

Tracey Slaughter: Her body rises (2005)

Catherine Chidgey and my good friend Dr. Tracey Slaughter are too well known for me to need further introduction here. I am (of course) hugely looking forward to being on the same platform as them!

Paul Theroux: Doctor Slaughter (1985)

Thursday, July 04, 2013

The Mysteries of Albany: Gabriel White's Oracle Drive

Gabriel White: Oracle Drive (2013)

I'm very glad to report that my good friend Gabriel White's latest film will be included in the 2013 New Zealand International Film Festival, screening in the Academy Cinema on Monday 22nd July at 6.30 pm (or, alternatively, on Tuesday 23rd July at 1.00 pm). As well as having been in it - briefly, till the scenes I was in hit the cutting-room floor - I was also offered the privilege of a sneak preview. The piece I wrote in response (included below) might be interestingly contrasted with the more neutral prose of the festival programme. One thing we're all agreed on, though: "there’s beauty and eerie immanence lurking in the guarded blandness of Albany."

Go on, treat yourself! I think this film is at risk of becoming as defining for the far reaches of the haut North Shore as The Third Man was for post-war Vienna ...

Oracle Drive (NZ, 2013)

Filmed in 2012, North Shore Auckland
Length: 62 min
Director: Gabriel White
Producer: Amelia Harris
Post-production, art and effects: Markus Hofko
Music: Chris O’Connor
Oracle Drive Song: lyrics by Richard von Sturmer
Performers: Gabriel White, Richard von Sturmer, Alexa Wilson, Tessa Mitchell,
Nicholas Butler, Karin Hofko, John Radford

Funded in part by Creative New Zealand, Media Arts, Quick Response

“Is everything left to the imagination, or is nothing left to the imagination?” muses the protagonist of Gabriel White’s new film, as he claws his way up a grassy knoll towards a huge concrete bunker labelled sexyland.

At first sight, nothing could look less sexy: the windswept industrial wasteland, the brute force of the cyclopean walls … and yet, as we continue to watch this small, black-clad figure wander through the strange suburbs and subdivisions of Auckland’s North Shore, the essentially mystical nature of his quest comes more and more into focus.

There are the same images of ubiquitous traffic, tawdry signage, and twee, half-hearted, corporate ornamentation familiar to viewers of Gabriel’s previous cityscapes: Tongdo Fantasia, Aucklantis, The Unplanned Masterpiece. This time, however, a new element has entered the picture: the oracular.

This is, in a sense, if not a religious movie, at least a movie about faith. The strange, brightly clad dancers emerging from portaloos, the hands groping from culverts, the levitating cars and ghostly buses seem entirely in keeping with the network of streetnames he has discovered: Atlantis, Isis, Oak, Nile, Tempo Place – Oracle Drive itself.

I must have driven past some of these spaces a thousand times, and yet Gabriel’s camera has found details that almost make sense of the sheer weirdness of this globalised Edge City, this suburbanised Industrial Area from hell. It isn’t hell, says Gabriel – rather, a new type of purgatory: a testing-ground for the spirit.

As his car glides on, with the droning monotony of the “Drive, Drive, Drive, down Oracle Drive” song insinuating itself ever deeper into our neural pathways, I think we start to realise this is where we live. We’d better start taking Gabriel’s tree-alphabets and Honda pyramids more seriously – like his Phoenix Palm mobile-network towers, it won’t be long before they’re the only vestige of the numinous remaining to us.

“God created Arrakis to train the faithful,” say the desert Fremen in Frank Herbert’s Dune. The same, it is now apparent, must be said of the marshy fields and desert wastes of Albany’s Megacentre.


See me there on the left of the shot? No? Well, to hell with you then ...


There have now been quite a few reactions in the press to Gabriel's film (mostly extremely positive):