May 30, 2017

"A personal take" with Adam Dudding & Sarah Laing at AWF17

Louise from our Collections team went along to hear Sarah Laing and Adam Dudding (whose book featured on our Auckland Libraries Top 100 of 2016) talk with Geoff Walker about their personal takes on the personal take. Here's Louise's personal take on the session:

Dudding and Laing were brought together for this event because they both wrote memoirs, but memoirs of completely different styles. I’ll admit I was 100% there for Sarah Laing, whose book I adored, but Dudding and Laing together were a great combo. Adam Dudding wrote My Father's Island, a biography of his father, formidable literary editor and journalist Robin Dudding who founded the influential literary journal Islands. Laing wrote a graphic novel memoir of herself and legendary short story writer Katherine Mansfield, Mansfield and Me.

Laing spoke passionately and personally. She wore a vintage dress and had a sort of old fashioned Mansfield-y hair style. I personally love it when a writer really looks the part. (I apologise, I have no memory of what Dudding wore.) Laing’s connection to Katherine Mansfield was not a contrived one. She was drawn to Mansfield’s writing from an early age, but Laing hadn’t always thought of herself as an aspiring writer. Her graphic novel described her journey as a reader and artist, a woman living in Wellington, and other parallels with her life and that of Mansfield’s.

Laing reflected on moments of her youth to assemble a story of how she moved towards becoming a “real” writer. Laing said Mansfield was a “taunting trickster spirit” for her, a mentor and constant presence. Both Mansfield and Laing grappled with idea of “only” writing short stories or “only” writing comics and both wanted to do serious work.

Dudding talked about his initial writing process: it was encouraging to hear a writer say that to figure out how to tell the story of his father he literally googled books about fathers and read a lot. He discussed his struggle with a long format, and partly because of this difficulty, his book was not written chronologically. He describes within the book the things he got wrong, comparing people’s conflicting memories of his father. He said he found wrestling with the uncertainties really interesting. Robin Dudding was revered in the New Zealand literary scene but privately he could be severe, a perfectionist, a man of kindness but also of darkness.

There was a general discussion of what to include and also what to leave out of a memoir. Laing wanted a visual understanding of Mansfield’s physical life: the food she ate, the house she lived in, her clothes and furniture, details that are often omitted from written biographies but necessary in a visual one. Dudding said how horrible things are really interesting, which the audience appreciated. Laing said as a memoirist you have to be hard on yourself and Dudding spoke of a moral contract: you have to forgive yourself for betraying others. You reveal yourself in the memoir but only as much as you want. You don’t ask permission from a dead person – ultimately it is your words, your ideas and your truth as a writer or artist.

Ditulis Oleh : Karen Craig // 12:45


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