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.
I attended this session John, and thoroughly enjoyed it. As Chair of the session, thank you for leading Selina in such an interesting direction. Her insights about such great writers (and characters) as Waugh, Maugham, Lehmann and Mitford were as revealing as they were humorous which made for a particularly lively session I thought. To hold a discussion like this together so seamlessly takes a seasoned and professional hand. You did it so well, and you should definitely continue to be paid!
As you have requested, I’d like to add that I’ve written a “Snapshot” of the discussion over at my blog Zigazag. The link is http://www.zigazag.com
I attended this session John and thoroughly enjoyed it. Thank you for ‘chairing’ the discussion in such a seamless way that we could be inspired and entertained by Selina’s insider insights about four great writers. It was a lively and humorous session, and such fun to see a highly respected author and journalist let her hair down so comfortably in front of so many people. I think it was the personal insights between biographer and subject that you wouldn’t necessarily find in the books which made the session so entertaining. It’s no mean feat to be able to chair a session like this so professionally and smoothly – you deserve to continue to be paid!! As you have asked, I also wrote a ‘Snapshot’ of the discussion over at my Blog, Zigazag. I believe the website should show up on this Reply for anyone who might be interested.
[…] session) and John Harman’s blog post about the session with Selina Hastings at his blog Quester John’s AuthorWrite) I have tried to stay as close to the spoken word as possible but apologise if I have misguidedly […]