Ideas Need Words–and a Festival
Tracey Barnett © May 2010

If you do nothing else besides go to work, home, and maybe fit in a Comedy Festival show in the next couple of weeks, do this:  Take the amount you would have spent on a flash dinner and plunk it down on a 10-session ticket to the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival May 12-16th, “Ideas Need Words”.
No, their public relations person hasn’t sold me her next newborn child. No, please God, don’t swamp me with press releases because you see I’ve done a bald-faced ad for the first time in the history of this column.
Just plunk down the dosh and try it.  Like other mere mortals, you probably haven’t read one-eighth of the books they’re talking about—let alone heard of half of them—and you probably won’t have time to once the circus has left town anyway.   None of that matters.  In fact, it may be to your advantage.
What is important for me is this: There are a few days a year where I can walk into the Aotea Centre, sit down in a darkened theatre and climb into someone else’s brain for an hour, just to hear what interesting minds think.  Multiple times. It is one of those rare windows in life when you can simultaneously feel incredibly stupid and smart in parallel.  You listen to what were undoubtedly years of that author’s consuming passion wrap itself around what’s summarized for you in an hour.  What a grand cheat.
It’s a like a Bar Mitzvah for generalists, one annual weekend for intellectual adolescents growing into the subject of someone else’s life’s work.   This year: a perspective on Iraq, editors and writers of Granta and The Economist, speakers on the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, discussions on what religion is good for and what goes on behind the scenes of the art world.  That’s ignoring the fiction writers.
Don’t just try what you know.  Close your eyes and book the first five random sessions your finger hits in the catalogue.  Then, with eyes wide open, consciously choose the next five.  Inevitably the sessions I like best are the ones I never would have thought to attend in the first place.
I confess I have an ulterior motive.  I come from a town in the US that had an amazingly popular speaker’s forum that featured some of the best minds in the country and beyond.  Though the city was smaller in size than Auckland, subscription to its half dozen sessions scattered throughout the winter months would often sell out.  I have always hoped support for this kind of wide-ranging energy of ideas would grow well beyond one weekend in Auckland.   This is your opportunity to vote with your feet.
Programme and ticket info at:  There are over a half dozen free events too.]

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