Perth Writers’ Festival 2012

A great gig at the Perth Writers’ Festival: a one-on-one with the writer and biographer, Selina Hastings, who’s a fabulous lady and an excellent writer. I was a fan even before Daniella Benda, the PWF Programme Manager, asked if I was up for the gig, having already read Selina’s bios of both Evelyn Waugh and Somerset Maugham, though I had to admit during the hour we enjoyed together in front of about 250 people in Hackett Hall on the UWA campus, that I hadn’t read either of Selina’s other two bios; those of Nancy Mitford and Rosamond Lehmann. I had always thought Mitford a fascist aristocrat, and from what little I knew of Lehmann, believed her to be a raving narcissist. Not entirely true, Selina told me: Mitford, though high-born, was a parlour socialist and Lehnman lost her young daughter to polio and retreated into spiritualism.  Both, according to Selina, were fine writers: Mitford herself was a biographer and I remember reading ‘The Sun King’ and ‘Frederick the Great’ in my twenties.   Waugh and Maugham I had read a decade earlier; in my teens at school when I couldn’t get enough of them. They were both hugely influential on me as writers, perhaps because they were both tagged as ‘readable’ which meant in the argot of the day, popular – a tag Maugham particularly disliked.  Anyway, forty minutes of listening to Selina went by in about forty seconds and then it was time for questions from the audience, a few of which were especially penetrating and ones I wished I had asked myself and all of which enabled Selina to round out the hour with even more detail about the personalities of her four writers. It was a knock-out sixty minutes in the company of a wonderful writer… and to think they pay me for this.  I would have done it for nothing – but for god’s sake don’t tell them that.