It is always a delight to hold events for expat authors when they are back in the country – it’s even more exciting when we have two of them at once. So we at Unity were understandably thrilled to have Kirsty Gunn and Martin Edmond visit us on Thursday 9 October. Guided in conversation by their BWB Texts publisher Tom Rennie, Kirsty and Martin discussed their books, their processes and their general experiences as writers.
Kirsty was first to read an excerpt from her BWB Text (Thorndon: Wellington & Home: My Katherine Mansfield Project), relating the passage to a quote from Vincent O’Sullivan in his introduction to a collection of Mansfield’s stories – ‘Real became a word Katherine Mansfield liked to use’, before elaborating that ‘writing Thorndon taught me that the “real” is the concentrate … the thing of the thing, as the modernists might have it’.
Martin’s introduction drew laughter from the audience. ‘This little book [Barefoot Years] is mostly concerned with a little town called Ōhakune, where I grew up. This is a description of the CBD.’ These small passages from small books packed quite the punch, with both authors being clearly practiced at presenting their craft to an audience.
Kirsty and Martin had already taken part in events together earlier in the week in Auckland, and as a result they had a great rapport as speakers. It also meant that between the three of them, there were already particularly interesting tidbits of relevant conversation that had been established earlier that the Wellington audience were able to hear the detailed and unpacked version of. The discussion ranged from perceived intent and effort behind fiction vs. non-fiction to the rather inflammatory comments from Nobel judge Horace Engdahl that creative writing programmes are ‘killing’ literature. Anecdotes peppered the conversation, from Martin’s past experience as a taxi driver (relevant to Engdahl’s comments) to Kirsty’s self-confessed difficulties with writing non-fiction.
After nearly an hour of conversation and questions from the audience, the formalities were wrapped up, but Kirsty and Martin stayed to sign books and to chat with inquiring friends, family and fans. Nibbles were nibbled, wine was sipped and everyone left feeling a little more enlightened about these particular tiny but powerful books – and the authors behind them.
THORNDON: WELLINGTON & HOME IS AVAILABLE IN STORE AND FROM OUR ONLINE SHOP HERE.