Circa 2, Circa Theatre
Saturday, March 10
The reason for the talk was Stead’s latest novel, Necessary Angel; reviewed well, largely, received well, Braunias joked in his intro that it should be boring, shouldn’t work but somehow it does.
The rapport between Stead and Braunias was strong, a contributing factor to the success of this chat, also Stead – often painted as the Grumpy Old Man of New Zealand Letters – was very giving, engaged, interesting – funny.
Braunias drew him out on other New Zealand literary heroes. Stead was around to know Janet Frame, Allen Curnow and Frank Sargeson and in thoughtful moments he discussed those three – Braunias prompting him for stories. One memorable encounter was when Stead’s first novel, Smith’s Dream, was turned into the movie Sleeping Dogs (interestingly he never referred to it by its cinematic title). He remembers taking Frank Sargeson to see it – the older writer simply baffled, largely uninterested.
There was talk too of craft, of dedication to the writing life, of motivations and endurance.
Braunias got his digs in here and there – calling Tim Corbalis “un-fucking-readable” for example. But he did a great job (which he seemed sure of himself) of keeping Stead on topic and there was gentle ribbing, but mostly a lovely conversation – almost like a live version of your very best and favourite podcast; I guess, at their best that’s exactly what these author-talks are, a sort of antecedent in fact.
I haven’t read a lot of Stead’s work – I’ve had an idea of him as slightly out of touch if anything. Here it was great to see and hear him speak, and if anything I came away with a renewed interest in tackling his work. The new book sounds fine enough too but it has me off to the library for the back-catalogue first.
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