Interviews
April 16, 2019 posted by John Duke

Diane Comer

Diane Comer

Diane has mentioned many fine authors and books in response to our questionnaire, including Jeanette Winterson and Jim Harrison. Please join us 6-7:30pm Thursday 2nd May to celebrate the launch of Diane’s new book, The Braided River: Migration and the Personal Essay (Otago University Press). All welcome.


ABOUT THE BOOK

A migrant lives in the space between self and other. The personal essay expresses this sense of location – and dislocation – the way no other genre does.

The Braided River explores contemporary migration to New Zealand through an examination of 200 personal essays written by 37 migrants from 20 different countries, spanning all ages and life stages.
The first book to examine migration through the lens of the personal essay, The Braided River presents migration as a lifelong experience that affects everything from language, home, work, family and friendship to finances, citizenship and social benefits.

Like migrants themselves, The Braided River crosses boundaries, working at the intersections of literature, history, philosophy and sociology to discuss questions of identity and belonging. Throughout, Diane Comer, both migrant and essayist herself, demonstrates the versatility of the personal essay as a means to analyse and understand migration, an issue with increasing relevance worldwide.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Diane Comer was born in Italy and grew up in the Dominican Republic, Belgium and the United States. She studied non-fiction writing at the University of Iowa and received her PhD from the University of Canterbury. Her essays have been published in AGNI, The Georgia Review, Fourth Genre and elsewhere, and were noted in the Best American Essays series. Diane lived in the US and Sweden before migrating with her husband and two children to New Zealand in 2007. She teaches at Victoria University of Wellington.


WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING AND HOW DID YOU DISCOVER THE BOOK(S)?

Melmoth by Sarah Perry, faced out in Unity, and I liked The Essex Serpent. The Other by Ryszard Kapuscinski, a gift from a friend, after a conversation about why self/other is one of the dominant paradigms of this or any time. The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen, my husband has an unerring ability to intuit books I will want to read and loads them onto my iPad.

WHO ARE YOUR FAVOURITE WRITERS AND WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT THEM?

Michael Ondaatje, Jim Harrison, Anne Michaels all have a deep humanity and a poet’s sense of language and image. Alice Munro, her stories are whole worlds, even as Patrick White’s novels are. Rainer Maria Rilke because he teaches me how to live the questions. Hélène Cixous, my intellectual godmother—she proves the argument can be a lyric form. Jeanette Winterson, philosophy meets fiction. Merwin, Galway Kinnell, Sharon Olds, Rumi, and too many other poets to name because how can we live well without poetry?

WHAT BOOKS ARE ON YOUR BEDSIDE TABLE?

John Banville Time Pieces: A Dublin Memoir, Therese Lloyd The Facts, Thich Nhat Hahn Peace is Every Step, and Deep Song and Other Prose, by Federico Garcia Lorca

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE BOOK-TO-FILM ADAPTATION?

The Wings of the Dove, Henry James unbound.

WHAT BOOK HAVE YOU RE-READ THE MOST AND WHY?

Letters to a Young Poet, by Rainer Maria Rilke, he gets at what is unsayable in both art and life. I’ve been reading and rereading it since I was seventeen.

WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE LITERARY CHARACTER?

Michel de Montaigne, for recognizing that his own self was a character he could use over and over again in essay after essay.

WHAT BOOK HAVE YOU ALWAYS BEEN MEANING TO READ BUT STILL HAVEN’T GOTTEN AROUND TO?

 War and Peace, by Tolstoy

WHICH THREE WRITERS WOULD YOU HAVE OVER FOR DINNER?

Jim Harrison, Hélène Cixous, and Shakespeare

WHAT WOULD YOU COOK THEM?

Cioppino

HOW ARE YOUR BOOKS SHELVED AND ORGANISED AT HOME?

Occasionally by genre, but these borders are fluid and the books migrate.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE LITERARY QUOTE?

Who could possibly be limited to one? But “What you risk reveals what you value” (Jeanette Winterson) altered the course and heading of my life twenty years ago.

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