Posted by: Lisa Hill | May 19, 2019

Auckland Writers Festival: Andrew Sean Greer and David Chariadry

Today was the last day of the Auckland Writers Festival, and just as well because having been to 15 events, I am tired out!

My last two sessions featured authors I haven’t yet read, but now surely will.  Andrew Sean Greer is the Pulitzer Prize winning author of Less, which is about a mid-list author who makes a living going to writers’ festivals until he unexpectedly wins the Pulitzer prize.  Greer’s story about how he learned that he himself had won it was hilarious, especially when he suddenly received about 100 Tweets featuring bottles of champagne, balloons and applause, but he didn’t know why because the Pulitzer people announce it at an event he hadn’t attended.  I had initially thought that I wouldn’t bother with this book because I am a bit ‘over’ books about authors writing books, but I have changed my mind about this one!

The session with David Chariandy was more sombre.  Chariandy’s parents were migrants to Canada in the period before it opened up to become the multicultural country it is today, and he spoke movingly about their experiences of hard work to give their children the opportunities they’d never had, and how he and his brother never told them about the racism they experienced at school.  His book Meaning to Tell You is a letter to his daughter, to try to prepare her for the future, while at the same time he is so proud of the way she has the courage to push back that he never had himself.

I found myself wondering what he thought about being the only Person of Colour in the entire room.

The AWF has been a beaut festival and I’ll take the opportunity here to thank the organisers and the army of volunteers who were unfailingly friendly and helpful, and without whom, of course, the festival could not function.

PS Those of you who are devoted fans of Amber, guest reviewer of Smoky the Brave back in June 2018, may have been wondering about her welfare while we’ve been gadding about in NZ.  She has been on holidays herself, at Aunty Gloreea’s over the road, and has, we have learned from the texts she occasionally sends us, been spoilt rotten for the entire time.  She may not want to come home when we get back to Australia tomorrow!




  1. Fifteen events! Sounds great, interesting stuff 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Next time, south island, either Dunedin or Christchurch Litfests!

      Liked by 1 person

    • You definitely should read “Less”; it is such a joyful book and I defy anyone to read it and not laugh out loud. I saw Andrew Greer speak about his book in Melbourne and he is just as colourful and funny as his character, Arthur Less. It is so refreshing to read a novel about/by a gay man that is not mired in misery.


      • You’ll be pleased to hear that he plans to write more comic novels!


  2. Reblogged this on Travels with Tim and Lisa and commented:

    Sorry to bombard you with all these posts about the festival, I forgot to post them one by one!


  3. Greer is engaging isn’t he. Sounds like a great festival, and a good event on which to end it. Thanks for sharing it all with us. I’ve enjoyed all your posts – festival ones and travel ones!


    • I’ve really enjoyed it, Sue. It’s been a great trip and finishing off with the festival meant that we could settle in one hotel for the second week which is always more relaxing than going from place to place. Thank you for keeping me on task with your encouraging comments!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, I agree that it’s lovely being in one hotel for a while. It looked like a well planned trip – and that takes time I know.


  4. I got Less for Christmas and am looking forward to it, if I can ever fit it in!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. You’ve commented a couple of times about the whiteness of the room. Are we excluding others do you think? I know that is impossible to say of your reading and reviewing, but is it possible that Lit has become a purely white middle class pursuit. I’m currently reading Nam Le but maybe he (and Tsialkos and maybe even Kim Scott and Alexis Wright) write for us and not for their own communities.


    • Look, I can’t really comment about the NZ scene, except for what I observed for myself. We stayed in a hotel almost opposite the Aotea Centre, which is in their arts precinct. Just up the road from us was a university, and the streets were alive with people and languages from all over the world. So on the street, in the city, on the ferry to Devonport, Auckland was just like multi-ethnic Melbourne.
      And then when we went into the arts centre it was a sea of white faces and grey hair. Hardly anybody under forty, (and usually festivals like this attract young wannabe authors looking for inspiration and advice, and also the audience that likes YA authors) and with only a couple of exceptions, the Maori who were there were staff not audience.
      I don’t know why this might be. Maybe the tickets are too expensive for students. Maybe it was just the events I went to. Maybe the YA events were held somewhere else and that’s where all the young people were. Maybe the programming doesn’t attract a young multi-ethnic audience. (Though there was lively diversity among the presenters, including different ethnic groups and Maoris on panels). Maybe the NZ Lit scene is cliquey? I really don’t know, but it definitely felt awkward because I’m just not used to monoculture.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. […] with long memories may recall that I heard Andrew Sean Greer speak at the Auckland Writers Festival in May and decided there and then that I would read his Pulitzer prize winning book.  I didn’t buy […]


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